BATTLES at The Arches, 07/06/11

Showing up at the Arches, I realized how much trouble I was having comprehending the fact that it’s been FOUR YEARS since New-York City innovators BATTLES released the celebrated Mirrored. With the possible exception of single Atlas (which has cropped up all over the place, from LittleBigPlanet to Top Gear – I’m getting tired of Britain’s most celebrated bigots hijacking my favorite tunes), there isn’t a track on the 2007 record that doesn’t sound like it was released yesterday, or even ten years from now.

Quite the achievement, and so inevitability when founding member Tyondai Braxton left the band last year, questions were bound to get asked and tensions were bound to arise about the bands future. To no-one important’s surprise, none of these were necessary. It’s true that the days of undecipherable poly-rhythms and pitch-shifted crooning are over, but it’s hard to imagine a group as thrilling as Ian Williams and co. standing in the same spot for too long – if you can’t get along with this, you’re more than welcome to remain in the past (at least there’s some jobs going there), just try not too ruin anyone else’s fun.

And FUN is the operative word here. Tonight’s performance exclusively showcases material from the new record GLOSS DROP which goes some way to placing the trio in what a cynic might call ‘accessible’ territory. Whoever took the decision to avoid Atlas all together should be commended because it lends the new line-up a whole lot of credibility. There are some dangerously ravey moments as the skewed, chopped up guitar loops build themselves up into the colorful, saturated festivals of driving, noisy joy that battles are pedaling now, with new single Ice Cream getting a good rise out of the crowd. Of course with so many guest-vocalists on the new record (Gary Numan, Matias Aguayo, Kazu Makino) it would be impractical for the vocals to be delivered live, which leads to a particularly nice touch – live projections of the respective vocalists delivering the lines in sync with the music. Overwhelming.

I’ve got one complaint though and it’s the volume. On times, the synths are uncomfortably loud and jarring, and during the beat-less, sweeping ambience of the encore I am genuinely concerned for the well-being of my ear-drums. I’m sure there’s some wonderful tech-based explanation as to why the sound-guy couldn’t just turn it down a little on the speakers, essentially placing the blame on my refusal to wear earplugs. I’ll see you at lip-reading 101 I guess.

– Jean-Xavier Boucherat

GLOSS DROP is out now on Warp! Listen now or pose forever!


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