The sheer fact that a band like Battles exists in the modern music scene is a clear indication that despite the utterings of many naysayers, all is not lost in the world of music. The fact that a band who’s music comprises such eccentric, wild, untypical and non-commercial content can still have a degree of success still leaves a few nails out of the lid of commercial music’s coffin and an optimistic outlook on the horizon.
On immediate inspection, Battles’ music seems discordant, messy and unstructured and maybe that’s the intention, but bubbling beneath the surface of the maelstrom are some fantastic riffs and melodies. Some melodies are loud, abrasive and confronting, whacking you in the face and abusing your ears and gut until they both shake. Others are melodious, upbeat and rousing crowd pleasers, wrapping you in a warm, cheerful glow.
Despite this seeming lack of structure, the lack of lyrics (from the guys on stage at least, some tracks have sampled vocals) and only the occasional patch of inter song banter, the combination of such an enthralling, in your face cacophony and understated but captivating stage presence, Battles are an extremely compelling live act. Melbourne’s infamous Forum venue with it’s ornate classical balustrades, star spangled roof and slightly musty smell is an almost perfect backing for the band, adding to the atmosphere. All combines to create a crowd completely engrossed and enjoying themselves immensely, with even a smattering of dancing, which bearing in mind the erratic nature of the music and the temperature, is a fair accomplishment.
In the past year Battles have reduced from a four to a three piece but still produce an incredible amount of noise, frequently multi tasking on several instruments simultaneously or swapping between them in songs with the greatest of ease. It’s hard to even imagine what instruments are making what noises, as couple of keyboards and guitars don’t seem capable of producing the audio onslaught emerging from the three people on stage. Somehow holding it all together despite some of the strangest rhythm and timing changes sent to challenge any budding musician is the tallest, loudest and sweatiest drummer in town, who as he leaves the stage to rapturous adulation literally drips on the front row.
The chaotic nature of the music makes it hard to actually describe in any great detail, there’s almost too much detail to describe. A set can include a plethora of genres, everything from heavy rock, to electro, sometimes all squashed into one four minute song and then interwoven into a mesh of inseparable musical slabs. Suffice it to say, it’s a mind blowing, jam packed, schizophrenic musical joyride and if your senses can take it all in, well worth jumping on board.
– Chris Ward