Monday, 11 April 2011

Review: Battles

This was the first gig I went to without a jacket on this year. And I saw a fox cross the street on my way to the venue. Kids, spring is here. 

I arrived a little late for the gig and missed Oval (which played first, to my surprise). Because of the mild weather, the courtyard of Festsaal was so crowded I could hardly get into the venue. To my surprise it didn't feel nearly as crowded inside when the band played. It was pretty easy to get to a good viewing position, so I situated myself in front of the stage, and the speakers. The latter had a serious effect on my gig experience because the sound was very deep and drony and my body vibrated from the bass.

"You know when you watched Star Wars as a kid and thought that the band playing those weird sounds was absolutely preposterous? That's kind of what Battles do." 

My friend is clever. Even Zitty failed to describe Battles' sound and my friend hit the nail on the head when he drew that comparison. While Battles' music is still pretty suitable for the masses, it's also such a mix of styles and ideas that it's challenging the listener to think outside of his known categories. And although the first few recordings were very experimental, they have by now evolved into a dance music band. It's as if you mixed early !!! tunes with the drums of Shellac and threw in some world music. Then, on the newest record, they've added different guest vocalists, thus giving each song its own character through that, too.

Live, the band performed as the three-piece as we expected (having recently parted ways with their fourth member): A bass player, a legendary drummer and an IT-freak who uses his laptop as an effect machine on various pieces of electronic equipment as well as his guitar. Just watching the band play is amazing because it's so unconventional. Because they currently don't have a set singer, they used video panels which showed films of the guest vocalists singing. And that made me realise that the songs are not nearly as spontaneous and improvised as they appear, or the filmed vocals wouldn't fit the songs so well that you could imagine they were sung live. For a short period of the set, a singer did actually appear on stage but I wasn't too impressed. He somehow seemed out of place.
The set was fairly short and only featured new songs. They played none of the old hits, possibly because of the departure of the singer of those, and in my eyes that was a shame. The new songs lack some of the energy and weirdness of previous recordings, but I did enjoy myself and I danced. And although in my eyes, this gig wasn't nearly as good as the one at Berghain, I'm still glad I went. And who knows, once they find a new singer, this trio might take their music to yet another level and we might all flock out to see them again next time and be amazed. It may just be possible when the three geniuses that are Battles do their magic.

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