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Bats and Mice

Bats and Mice explores the flip side of screamy hardcore aggression with a thoughtful, edgy sound that replaces rage and violence with brooding melancholy. The band features three of the four members of the now-dormant -- if not defunct -- Harrisonburg, Virginia band Sleepytime Trio (yes, the "trio" was in fact a quartet). All three had gone on to start other groups after Sleepytime went on indefinite hiatus -- Jonathon Fuller to Engine Down, Dave Newmith to the The Rah Bras, and Ben Davis to Milemarker -- but, as longtime friends, they missed playing together, and decided to give it another shot. The result was Bats and Mice.

The trio started with a self-titled three-song 2001 EP, which signaled a dramatic departure from the styles of their other bands. While moments of unmitigated anguish remain, the tempos are slower, the guitars quieter and far more restrained, the vocals tired and introspective. It all has a certain harsh twilight beauty that suggests exhausted compromises and sad endings.

Bats and Mice's 2002 debut LP, Believe It Mammals, more than fulfilled the promise of the previous year's introductory EP. Though it features different personnel (Fuller departed to focus on Engine Down and Denali, while Daron Hollwell and Ash Bruce of Four Hundred Years signed on), Believe It Mammals displays the same fondness for darkly melodic, rhythm-based rock songs. The album is languid but rarely relaxed, the quartet using numerous approaches to squeeze a maximum of shadowy atmosphere from their instruments. While this music is certainly different from Sleepytime Trio and Four Hundred Years, most notably in its emphasis on melody over noise, you can trace the lineage; Bats and Mice draw from the same sources. The music's mode of expression has changed, its intent not so much. That's a positive, which should make B&M appeal to fans of the noisier stuff and fans of spectral, introspective indie rock.