Archives for posts with tag: Battles

Some beautiful math-rock from the precursors to Battles, it’s the mighty Don Caballero:


And a boopity boop boop live version:


(First posted on on 13/06/2011)

Disclaimer: As with all my music reviews, this is a blow-by-blow account taken from my own perspective and written mostly for myself as a memory aid. I’m not always an expert on the band.

I first heard Battles at a time when I was mostly focused on heavier, edgier music after being introduced to them by a friend. It was fitting then that we attended The Arches on the first gig after the release of their 2nd album “Gloss Drop”.

It seemed that this would be an evening of firsts as this was the first time I’d ever been to The Arches, which I had heard a lot about. I knew it was a dance venue, chosen because of its atmospheric vibe since the venue is essentially a network of old tunnels under Glasgow Central train station. I had heard that sometimes you could hear trains rumbling overhead while waiting on the musicians to play.

In some regards, the venue lived up to the hype. Throughout the gig I was awed by the excellent lighting and secretive feel of being cloistered together and listening to experimental bands in what felt like an underground bomb-shelter or perhaps more appropriately an 8 year old’s secret club hideaway. However, due to the nature of being in a box of brick and mortar, the venue’s accoustics suffered from an echoing around the room and left me unable to hear a lot of the detail in the music, especially for later tracks after I was exposed to the proximity of the speakers. I would later see Mono in the same venue later in the week which would also have the same atmosphere and sound issues.

Without any hype of their own, it was Thank You who took to the stage as the solitary support act of the evening and immediately you could see why they were chosen to support the innovative headliners.  They brought a bouncy and distinctive sound similar to Battles in their innovation. While the majority of the band built up a sound that changed and shifted gradually their drummer maintained the movement of the music, looking lively behind the drum kit and speeding the pace of the music up for the most part. His style was energetic enough for my friend to remark on his “frogs legs” as he pogo’d on the pedal.

Signifying Battles arrival was an army of instruments, including but not limited to 2 guitars, 2 keyboards, 2 man-sized TV screens, a bass guitar, a minimal looking drumkit with one very, very tall high-hat, sleigh bells, countless pedals, a sampling deck and a seperate cowbell. If I didn’t know the band about to play I would have thought at least five members were about to take to the already cramped looking stage.

One by one the trio stepped up onto the platform. I was at the front of the crowd and noticed the band make their arrivals from behind a speaker but if I wasn’t I would have thought they had stepped out from the crowd itself – such was the proximity of the stage.

As they did so, they built up a sound with each instrument – sleigh bells first followed by sampling, along with a beat, a touch of guitar to be followed by a smattering of a second guitar for the drummer to put down the sleigh bells and take his place behind the kit… and so on. I knew Battles’ sound was built up from different noises, almost like techno or dubstep of a less climactic nature but having seen them live now, I would say it’s more like the formation of a Jackson Pollock painting.

Where Pollock would smatter whatever he felt was necessary in the painting, using different means to different ends to create the whole scape from whatever angle he wanted to view it from, Battles would use whatever instrument was necessary for the sound they wanted to create. Moreover, the music was a fluid, living creature.

You could see this in how the band would interact with one another. If a sound wasn’t necessary for the build up, perhaps one band member would hold up a hand as a cue for the drummer to change something in the beat or the guitarist would stop playing and when ready to come back into the song he would be playing a different riff or instrument altogether. I thought at first that perhaps the band weren’t as tight, particularly when I noticed the drummer straining at points, powering out a blast of the high-hat as if his life depended on it. It would’ve been understandable if they weren’t as tight as  as they could’ve been after losing one of their members and having only just released “Gloss Drop”, which they kept their set list to rather than playing from earlier releases, but then I realised that they were experimenting on stage with the build up. In between songs they would leave a sample looping over and over and pick up a different instrument and attack it from another angle. It was quite exciting because you weren’t sure where they were always going, until somehow the big climactic beat had crept up on you and everyone behind you was jumping.

I didn’t see much of the crowd as they were all behind me but hearing their support for the band’s direction, it was clear they were enjoying it. After their set a chant for an encore went up which was followed by their arrival and another chant of something like “Who needs you [previous singer]!”. At this stage in the gig I actually couldn’t make out what people were shouting due the mish-mash of noise in my ears caused by speaker proximity and venue accoustics.

My friend told me that at one point Battles were unlikely to bounce back after they created a full second album worth of material which they then scrapped entirely in favour of what has now become, in their own words, “a bouncing baby, named Gloss Drop”. If they are the parents we are the extended family, waiting to see what it will become and the potential it holds.