Sunday, 8 July 2007

Battles Live Review

This was a live review for the Gigwise website.

The Purcell Rooms

It is not every day that a progressive math-core band sign to a gold-standard UK dance stable or headline a night at the furrow-browed, chin-stroking Ether Festival on London’s South Bank but hey, Battles aint just any prog/math/loop-core act. ‘Mirrored’ their latest record for Warp builds on last year’s collection of their early EP’s and finds a unique band comfortable in their singular skin and able to distort and fracture their sound in new and unexpected directions.

While the album can initially perplex and confuse with it’s excursions into looped soundscapes, to see Battles in the live arena is to truly witness the coherent sum of their vision. While John Stanier’s almost unbelievably tight precession remains both an anchoring counterpoint and driving rhythmic force it allows Tyondai Braxton, Ian Williams and David Konopka to spin webs and loops of sound almost at will from the mammoth bank of instruments and equipment that surround the spartan drum kit centre stage.

Having practically invented math-rock’s syncopated repetition in Don Caballero Williams builds riffs and keyboard patterns simultaneously that Konopka builds on with guitar or bass as Braxton plays out refined versions of the ‘orchestrated loops’ that feature prominently in his solo work either on guitar or organ and occasionally utilising the modified vocals that characterise the new albums lead off single Atlas that is rendered in terrifying fashion tonight at the heart of an extremely impressive set.

Jumping straight into new recording Tijj it is apparent from the outset how much these four guys from New York are enjoying playing this new material. The infectious energy that spills off stage is channelled into both the new songs and into interesting re-interpretations of earlier work such as their debut single Tras and while the core of the set is comprised of selections from the new record (no B+T from EP C alas) such as the aforementioned Atlas as well as Tonto and the frantic Race:In the addition of the warped and frankly smurf-like vocals adds another layer of unifying to sound the heady brew throughout and by the time closing number Dance draws to its conclusion a theatre that is usually reserved for considered performance art is on it’s feet applauding a great live spectacle. For a band that spend so long precisely crafting sound in the studio the stage seems to give Battles the energy to re-interpret their work into it’s most potent form. They are back in May; in this form miss them at your peril.

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