Sarah Warburton 11/10/2007
It was with a lot of intrigue, slight trepidation and a sprinkling of excitement that I headed out this damp October evening to the Labyrinth-like venue of Koko in Camden, to bear witness to the live spectacle that is Battles.
The eager anticipation of this sell-out gig could be felt as soon as I crossed the illuminated red walkway into the main hall. Battles have built up quite a following in a relatively short time and it was quite apparent that everyone present was desperate to see and hear for themselves what all the fuss is about. Entering the main hall, the first sight to pounce on me was that of Stanier's huge high-rise cymbal sat on the stage, which seemed to act as a symbol of the huge things to come.
Proceedings began with Clark entering the stage alone, picking up his bass and generating a riff which was set to loop before he ran off behind the comfort of his lap-top. One by one, the remaining members entered the stage adding their own layer to the complex musical recipe. From here on the performance only got more and more impressive.
Hailing from America's East coast, this self-proclaimed math-rock band are anything but dull - they definitely don't fit into any set niche and “unique” doesn't even begin to explain their sound. The musicianship of each Battles member is jaw-droppingly good, and it has to be, because the complex musical structures they create demand them to be no less than 100% tight. With each of the four band members playing no less than two instruments each (sometimes playing both simultaneously), multi-tasking is another thing this band don't have a problem with!
The biggest cheer of the evening came as Battles began the opening sequence to 'Atlas', and bearing witness to this complex piece of music live really was a treat for the eyes and ears. A particular high point took place mid-song as Tyondai Braxton and Ian Williams began a keyboard conversation which ended up in a full-scale argument.
Battles are rare in the world of music; they are able to replicate the meticulous detail applied to their recorded material in a live environment and they also have an ability to create muscular riffs and take them to unexpected and unpredictable places whilst never becoming indulgent or anything less than immediate.
Battles may not be to everyone's taste, they don't really attempt to interact or engage with their audience and their music isn't particularly pretty. The real beauty of this band is in how utterly compelling and instantly distinctive they are; in fact I am not ashamed to say that I was mesmerized!