In the depths of the most creative and bonkers music, Steven Battelle has always resided – from his very oldest projects, to fronting one of the most unique bands to have ever existed (LostAlone, who to much sadness called it a day at the end of 2014) the Derby songwriter has definitely been worth watching. Now, as he aptly says in his self-titled track ‘welcome to my second act, I’ve never left but I’m coming back’, Battelle has returned with a musical journey set out over 12 songs on his debut album – titled ‘Exit Brain Left’.
Its often difficult to put into words that will do the brainchildren of Battelle justice, whether that was in LostAlone or this solo record, but this release sees a journey of experimentation and exploration in sound. Its as if Battelle is clearly showing us that he has been let off the genre leash LostAlone held (who were much more in the alt/rock side), and has openly created a release that ventures from the techno to the groovy sides of music recording. This reflects the wonderful genius that he has always been – presenting his debut with totally unique song titles like ‘Police and Thank You’, and the infamous ‘Steven Battelle’. Not many would go as far to title a song after themselves, but of course, Steven would – and it surprisingly works, as through the upbeat melodies of the track, it is actually about himself.
The release itself opens with one of the highlights of the album, ‘Powers of Denial’, which sets the sound of the album perfectly, as its not balanced too much on the guitar or the electronic. The chorus of this track also makes it evidently clear that he’s never giving up on his ability to make impressive harmonies – as well bringing out a couple of recognisable guitar riffs, thus making it the perfect introductory track to the world of Battelle.
It may be odd to say within a critique, but its widely known that Battelle is a big Disney fan – and it feels like the influence of this is present in a few tracks. For example, ‘The Ocean Chorus’ definitely has a very gentle, cheerful vibe – complete with ‘wooo’s, ‘bababa’s and soft vocals that make for a very dream-like and relaxing melody. It probably wouldn’t be unreasonable to label it ‘child friendly’, as its imaginable that a track like ‘The Ocean Chorus’ could be playing whilst wandering around a Disney store. The same with ‘Nine Miles of Light’, which has a very adventure-like feel to the track, yet isn’t too heavy on the guitar, and similarly offers a magical-sounding chorus – with a soft hint of a triangle in the background.
One specific track that must be commented on specifically is ‘Violent Voices’, truly working as a standout piece. The subtle drum beat keeping the melody going, alongside the guitar that gently kicks in halfway compliments both the rhythm and tune of the track – and the layering of voice in the chorus just works excellently. Though slow paced and the second-to-last of the album, this track is definitely needed to contrast the much faster ones on the album. Battelle suitably closes his album appropriately, following after with ‘I’m Still Finding Out Who I’m Going To Be’ which is also one of the shortest, but most harmonised tracks on the album. This then fades out on a silent clock ticking, bringing his debut to a neat closure.
Its absolutely unfathomable to compare Battelle to any one artist – as this debut was an example of pure unique songwriting. There truly isn’t anything that it can be paralleled to, even the three records LostAlone produced. He’s gone challenged the borders of songwriting and reinvented them, and this time it isn’t just in mad lyrics – its extended all the way into the sound, too. Each song sounds independent of one another, which is very hard to find in an album, especially as a solo artist – so all hats go off to Mr. Battelle for what can only be labelled as a musical piece of bonkers, brilliant art.