Thursday, 9 June 2011

Battles @ Heaven - Live Review

Battles marked their return on Monday with the release of their much anticipated second album 'Gloss Drop'. Following the departure of their lead singer, the frizzy-haired Tyondai Braxton who left supposedly due to not wanting to fulfill touring commitments, Gloss Drop sees Battles moving to a more fun and perhaps even more disjointed sound (if that is possible) from their debut long-player 'Mirrored'.  But as well as their records both of which have been showered in critical acclaim, Battles are known as one of the most prolific live bands around and the big question on many people's minds is; how will they cope live without Tyondai?

The band begin with album opener 'Africastle', which after minutes of slow building guitar droning, synth bleeping and drummer John Stanier on his knees playing sleigh bells, suddenly explodes into a barrage of drums and keyboard trickery taking the audience aback slightly with the sheer force, most notably of John Stanier's lightning fast drumming. Following this is 'Sweetie & Shag' featuring Kazo Makino of fellow New-Yorkians Blonde Redhead. Almost instantly all questions about how battles will compensate for the loss of Tyondai's vocals are cast aside, as a video of Kazu is projected onto a screen behind the stage while Ian Williams thrusts his body back and forth between keyboards with dancing reminiscent of Friendly Fires' Ed Macfarlane. Also similar to Ed, Battles build up a sweat pounding out newies such as 'Futura', a kind of hip-hop influenced tour through the warped yet precisely calculated landscapes Battles create. Also recent single 'Ice Cream' goes down a treat, with the ever-cheerful Matias Aguayo projected onto the screens providing a more tropical and exotic feeling to the set rather than brainfreeze.

Perhaps the highlight of Battles' incredibly extended set is 'My Machines' featuring the vocals of none other than 1980s synth-pop pioneer Gary Numan. Numan's vocals sound the best they've been since the glory days of 'Are friends electric?' and (the now almost entirely soaked in sweat) John Stanier's super-human drumming compliments Dave Konopka's droning industrial guitar grunts perfectly as Numan quite rightly proclaims "Welcome to the sound of now". By the end of the show of all new songs, it is apparent that Tyondai's legacy lives on slightly with a few cries for 'Atlas' the song that really got Battles noticed in the first place, but otherwise the sheer force and power of Battles' performance tonight is evidence enough they have moved on and are even better for it.

By Toby McCarron

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