Live Review

Battles, ATP Nightmare Before Christmas

This tight and powerful set shows a band who know what they have to offer and execute it fantastically.


Photo Credit: Simone Scott Warren

In comparison to Friday’s headline curators Les Savy Fav, Battles look like stoic businessmen about to rock out. The only thing that gives away they are rock stars is Ian Williams’ slightly ludicrous moustache. Oh, and the massive amps and equipment they have behind them.

As curators they’ve chosen an eclectic array of bands – including the xylophone sweetness of Cults, the throbbing hip-hop bass of Flying Lotus as well as a few of the collaborators from last album Gloss Drop – including Gary Numan and Matias Aguayo. Which would lead you to expect them to share the stage with them at some point. You’d think. But more of that later.

The morning set is riddled with minor problems – some technical and some physical. They play ‘Sweetie & Shag’, Kazu Makino featuring on the two large monitors behind them. Unfortunately it’s out of synch. This characterises the morning set. They’ve been partying too hard watching Les Savy Fav and bassist Dave Konopka says “Only Shellac can handle this – our shit is breaking down.” He later reveals “I puked just before I came on stage but I love you and that’s why we do this.”

Don’t worry Dave, the feeling is mutual and all is forgiven. They play ‘Wall Street’, ‘Atlas’ and end with ‘Ice Cream’ (which is either added to or ruined by someone shouting ‘Fenton’ during a quiet bit as they build the song builds up). As one of the best songs of the year (no really it is, try listening and not feeling the happiest you’ve been) it can’t be marred though.

The evening is a more focused affair. Where Les Savy Fav brought a million silver balloons and five costume changes with them to make their late set different, Battles simply bring more intensity. Tim Harrington sits cross legged at the side of the stage watching on as guest appearances never materialise (friend of DIY Gary Numan watches from the crowd until someone beside him vomits, at which point he immediately leaves) but songs such as ‘Atlas’ and ‘Sweetie and Shag’ are somewhat reinvented, extended and warped with the videos now in time. The changes give added dimensions to tracks you heard just 8 hours earlier.

The whole set is tighter and more energetic. ‘Futura’ and ‘Inchworm’ are the soundtrack to a trippy fairground adventure and have heads nodding in appreciation. They also play ‘My Machines’ with Numan’s face staring out from the monitors. It’s all driven by the Animal-from-the-Muppets propulsive drumming of John Stanier, hunched over his kit with his symbol 6 feet above him. He beats out the rhythms that are the centrepiece of what Battles do best.

‘Math rock’ is a horrible term and one that doesn’t do the sounds Battles create justice. I’ve always seen them as soundtracking an imaginary Duracell advert where a man is running through a variety of landscapes as propulsive drumming pushes him on to keep on running. It’s this energy that invigorates their sound.

After singer Tyondai Braxton left, Battles had to think of a new way to present themselves – this tight and powerful set shows a band who know what they have to offer and execute it fantastically. As the tremors of their sound shake through the arena, both audience and band seem entranced by the rhythmic pummelling that has occurred. As they say themselves, this is ‘the perfect way to go out this year’.

Tags: Battles, Features

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