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Alter Nature Tom Coles , October 25th, 2019 08:23

For a weirdo record, BATS' Alter Nature certainly has plenty of fun to it, finds Tom Coles

Off-kilter weirdos BATS inhabit the same noisy space as the Melvins and Cardiacs, creating wild music with the intent to bewilder. More specifically: BATS are loud and confusing and chaotic, riffy and mercurial and atonal, a tightly-wound coil underpinned by a heavy pulse, knitted together by crisp, even production.

BATS are an exhausting listen, and though they're clearly writing in a well-established avant-garde rock tradition, they sit well alongside modern noisy bands like Three Trapped Tigers. Their approach to experimentation is mercifully free of excess, producing peppy, condensed tracks, with the bass and percussion forming a steady throb which anchors the wilder vocal and guitar meanderings, particularly evident on this album’s fourth track, ‘Old Hitler’. This pulse is a commanding psych trope re-packaged neatly to excellent effect.

Blissfully, the record is put together in such a way that ideas bloom gradually and are allowed to wither, with the effect that their wild tangents are easy to sift through, stopping the procession from dissolving into the soup it so easily could have been. The record, despite everything, favours pop-ish structures, keeping them from veering into psych self-indulgence, and when they do finally show these influences on late track ‘Dyson Sphere’, the digression feels well-earned.

It's one thing to sound chaotic, but there are several elements that make this special. The clean sound is a blank slate from which they can shift effortlessly into being otherworldly (‘The Call of Cthulhu’), playful (‘Old Hitler’) or extremely horrible (‘Christian Science’). It's this energy which keeps things fresh, switching between moods while keeping their strange, deadpan vocal aesthetic. Perhaps the most compelling example of this is how they're as comfortable using this to channel Rudimentary Peni as they are King Crimson.

Despite the loud noises and the chaos it would be a stretch to claim this under the metal banner, though metal fans will find a lot to love. Certainly the sudden shift into Lovecraftian wailing is a winner; they're clearly singing from the same hymn sheet. Crucially though, fans of The Body and Full Of Hell will find plenty to go wild for here, as will fans of noisy, angular Converge-y stuff.

So: lots to pick through, but rewarding at even a cursory glance. It's rare to find a weirdo record so ambitious, yet totally danceable.