Review: Battles @ Solus
26th June 2011
Never go back, that’s what they say.
I saw Battles in The Point in 2007 and it was one of the best gigs to which I’ve ever been. They were supporting a five star album (Mirrored), in a magical venue with four guys all in tune with each other. Last night they were promoting a three star album (Gloss Drop), in a vacuous venue ("Solus without the U" as Islet said) and missing a key member (Tyondai Braxton left before the recording of the new album).
I can’t remember the support acts from that gig in The Point but last night’s will linger longer. Well Islet will any way as I missed most of Truckers of Husk set but they seemed well received and the brief snatch of LOUDquietLOUD post-rock I heard was not terrible.
Islet were yet again fantastic. They’ve inherited an extra member since I saw them last at Swn 2010 (not Tyondai Braxton as that would have been too neat) and he’s appeared to have brought a new hardness to their sound. They still wig out in their trademark tribal and loose way but the loud bits have a new heaviness to them. They’re playing to the converted now in Cardiff but their shows at Reading and Leeds Festivals could be the platform they need to go and convert the rest of the UK.
The way Battles operated before Braxton left was never like the conventional four piece rock band and he wasn’t the singer as such what with the vocals being warped beyond recognition to become another instrument in their sonic palette but he drew your eyes. Battles have got around the loss of their focal point by putting drummer Jon Stainer front of stage and with two six foot tall video screens at the back. Good choice it is too to put Stainer up top as he’s the best drummer I’ve ever seen. With a minimal kit and the highest of cymbals he kicks out breakbeats and rolls while sweating an almost inhuman amount. A spectacle to be sure.
And I was glad I was down the front to see all of the stage as Battles are an interesting band to watch if not always to listen to (although I could have done without the sight of Ian Williams playing a keyboard with his backside via a guitar and the four foot high image of Gary Numan’s wizened face pouting at me from the video screen). They still throw the kitchen sink at tracks, sounding tropical tinged, twichty, reggae-like and heavy prog rocking with LFO-style bleeps and acid house vamps all in one track. Battles make complex and fiddly music but that doesn’t mean it isn’t comic or fun.
If I hadn’t seen Battles before I would be rabid with rhapsodies but I have and they were better in 2007. But this gig has proved what a versatile, determined and good band Battles are and has made that 2007 gig all the more special in my memory.