ABC2, Glasgow, Wed 23 May
The sides of the musical road less travelled are littered with well-intentioned souls whose big ideas never quite had the stamina to make it to fruition. The seasoned veterans in Battles are cannier than most, men who resiliently stuck it out on their own paths before this meeting of musical minds.
A pair of acclaimed EPs in 2004 and some bursts of serious touring whet appetites for the hypnotic grooves of this New York-based quartet, but it has taken until now to get a chew at their debut album. Where before their boundless energy shot hither and thither like a lightning bolt searching for an earth, they have found a conductor for all the wild elements in their album Mirrored. That’s not to say they’ve mellowed. If anything, the introduction of more vocals (well, Tyondai Braxton’s filtered cut ups and loops of vocals somewhere between the Pinky and Perky and Ming the Merciless) makes them sound even more peculiar, but there’s less of a scuttle and more of a swagger to their sound, nailed with ruthless efficiency by sticksman John Stanier. Nowhere is this more brilliantly illustrated than in lead single ‘Atlas’ where they build a mountain of a song out of a nagging bass loop and Stanier’s Glitter Band tom-tom rumble while guitars bray and squeak like zoo exhibits.
While all these wilful juxtapositions sound very impressive on paper, the truly great thing about Battles is that the snappy ideas transfer onto tape and into the live arena. They are an uncompromising beast and relish the chance to drag an audience out of the typical rock band comfort zone into somewhere odd, playful and new.