david singleton

I’ve seen Battles described as everything from Math rock to post rock to experimental jazz metal but what I do know is they always provoke a strong reaction. Take my brother’s reaction to my wildly overexcited email about “Atlas” the lead single from the new album:

Hi Neil, I just listened to that Battles track you recommended.
What the fuck!!??!!!? It sounds like Pinky & Perky fronting Rammstein. It’s just wrong on every level, you should be ashamed of yourself for spreading this evil music!! I’m moving it to the recycle bin as soon as I’ve finished typing this!

I pointed out that he made Pinky & Perky fronting Rammstein sound like a bad thing, but to no avail. Similarly even their loyal fans often disagree, descending into unruly mobs over whether the “Mirrored” album represents them selling out or if its hugely disappointing compared to “the early stuff”. Everyone seems to agree on one thing though… they ROCK live (or math post avant-garde ROCK live at the very least).

The Scala was packed out on the inside, and queued up on the outside. A veritable bonanza for the usual tout life who were quoting £40 a ticket and getting it… London it seems definitely has its Battles.
That ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier is positioned right up front where most bands have their vocalist tells you all you need to know about how central rhythm and the drum are to the Battles sound. Sure enough mid way through the opener and Stanier looks like he’s been in the shower such is the furious energy put in to the bizarre but brilliant afro beat Umpa Lumpa mash up that is “Race In”.

Unfortunately The Scala’s stage is quite low so many in the crowd may only have witnessed the beating given by Stanier to his Cymbal positioned as it is at a ludicrous height, feet above the rest of his kit. To fully appreciate them live you have to actually “see them” and take in the intensity of the four, eyes often locked together fighting to keep the seemingly chaotic elements of their sound in time and tune. With this in mind I did hoist someone onto my shoulders for a couple of numbers, and Im told the Battles are definitely best experienced at 10ft or above. I couldn’t comment on this as I was busy simultaneously trying not to fall over whilst appearing nonchalant, and saving the person in front from being impaled on the pointy tips of my passengers boots. (I should add I do know the person on up top before anyone thinks I make a habit of randomly plucking strangers from crowds and hoisting them up startled onto my shoulders).

The single “Atlas” with its winning combination of relentless Gary Glitter beat, demonic helium assisted vocals, and laptop mangled guitar racket saw the mosh pit at its most frenzied. It was and is immense, only slightly spoiled by drummer and band slipping totally out of tune mid way through. Not everyone agreed however and Drowned In Sound user “MEGAtron” later complained that “Atlas” was embarrassing causing as it did “everyone in the crowd to start jumping from one foot to the other as if they were at a children’s party”.

The reinvention of songs from earlier EP’s also received rave reviews with TheoGB declaring that the updated version of Hi/Lo “quite simply ripped everyone a new anus!” Blogger Ssssamuel while no doubt admiring his new back passage offered a more reasoned thought on how older tunes were “reworked to sound far more focused, appropriately rampant alongside the recent material”.

By encore time there didn’t seem to be a soul inside the Scala that hadn’t been either won over or blown over by the force of Battles relentless inventiveness and power. I was certainly glad I’d moved a safe distance away from the huge speaker stacks either side of the stage. Sadly with triumph in their grasp the band let it slip with a turgid messy encore. Keyboard and vocalist Tyondai Braxton may have displayed “fucking awesome” beat-boxing skills as Citizen_meh observed in his brilliant review of the night but the other three were simultaneously playing an entirely different tune. When during the last song he started yodelling I almost forgot the greatness that had come before and sparked a stampede for the exit.


Myspace / Warp Records site


Battles – “Atlas” (MP3)

Visit Samurai.fm for a 25min live studio session


New album Mirrored” for £9 @ Amazon


Rock-A-Roller magazines gig pics

Other photo’s of the gig on Flickr


Citizen Meh’s excellent review

Saltmill admires their musicianship and skill


Battles – Electronic Press Kit

Battles – Atlas” (YouTube)

Battles – Atlas (Live @ The Scala)” (Youtube)

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