posted on October 11, 2007 07:55
Battles (live in the Tripod, Dublin)
Review Snapshot: New York avant-garde tech-metallers Battles touch down in Ireland for the second time this year. Dublin rock-venue/sauna Tripod is jammed with Battles devotees. I'm yet to be convinced.
The Cluas Verdict? 6 out of 10
Is it possible to be overawed at the musical skills of a band while still remaining curiously unmoved? It's an odd conundrum I grapple with throughout Battles' math-rock experimentalism in an oven-hot Tripod.
About half of the time, I simply marvel at the musical dexterity on display from the New York quartet. Former Helmet drummer John Stanier's frighteningly precise drumming is something to behold. He looks as if he is doing a particularly strenuous workout session rather than keeping time on his kit. A strange looking kit, it must be noted- a no-frills, minimalist set-up- and only Stanier knows why he has a single, standalone cymbal standing about four feet above him.
Multi-instrumentalist and quasi-frontman Tyondai Braxton provides those odd pixie-like vocals and voice samples, while switching adroitly between keyboards, guitar and the obligatory MacBook Pro. When he plays guitar it is not to elicit some recognisable hook, a hint of a tune maybe, but to unleash more of that industrial riffing, another layer to the way-out sound of Battles.
And yet, for the rest of the time, mainly in the latter half of the gig, the repetitive nature of the music induces something I didn't expect: boredom. It is only when the marvellously robotic 'Atlas' arrives, with its pounding, ascending beat and clever appropriation of techno, that you get the 'idea'. More of this and I would be an instant convert to the ideology of Battles, but it's a fleeting moment in a set that gets more and more samey as the gig progresses. Each song bleeds relentlessly into the next, with little real emotion or light and shade to distinguish them. So while it affects you in a cerebral manner, the heart remains unstirred.
Yes, they are marvellous musicians and are to be greatly applauded for creating this new futuristic music in an era when the retrograde tripe of The Enemy (spit!) are feted as the next big thing. The problem with Battles, however, is that, with the exception of 'Atlas', they rarely provide that big emotional pay-off, the surging moment that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand-up. You wait and wait and, infuriatingly, it never comes and I start to think that maybe that is their intention. Perhaps the band is worried that this would make them sound too conventional.
By taking such an idiosyncratic route ,however, Battles have ended up being a band far easier to admire than to love.