Since I did really enjoy the Battles gig last week, and because I haven't been to any more in this mad month of May (though I have three planned for later this week), I thought I would present a few videos from YouTube of Battles playing Dublin. These are from their Temple Bar Music Centre (TBMC) show in July 2006, their Tripod show in August 2007, and from last week in Vicar St.
[the title of the post doesn't really mean much, except that a common complaint about history is that it's all about the dates of kings and battles. Plus, the four members of Battles are all pretty great.]
It's also an opportunity to look at the Battles sound, and how it has developed or stayed the same over the last couple of years. I attended both the Tripod and the Vicar St. shows, and I'm still sticking to the 'less interesting, more enjoyable' paradoxical description. In addition, Mirrored wasn't even out for the first gig in TBMC, whereas it and 'Atlas'/'Tonto' were the huge draws for the latter two shows.
I also found a couple of other reviews of the Vicar St. gig, so you don't have to take just my word for it:
Tenacious Timothy ("Bloody. Brilliant. Gig.")
Battles - 'HI/LO', TBMC July '06
First up is 'HI/LO' from EP C - which Pitchfork describes as " lurching upbeat stomp that leaves gaping-wide chasms for keyboards to fill with carnival pinwheels" (EP C/EP B review). This performance is in the Temple Bar Music Centre, in the heart of Dublin city centre/bohemian quarter. I saw the Draft, Bouncing Souls and Black Keys in that venue earlier in 2006, and haven't been back since (in which time it has changed it's name to the asinine 'The Button Factory' and will be hosting Ireland's other post-rock heroes, God Is An Astronaut, this Saturday - unfortunately the same night as Ham Sandwich and A Lazarus Soul play the Village). Anyway, the first thing to notice about this video is how cramped the band appear. I didn't even spot Dave Konopka until about thirty seconds in.
The second thing to note is the difference between this song and the songs from Mirrored. (There's also a video from Nialler9 of 'Leyendecker' being performed at that gig) I'm not sure there is much of a difference, if you're just talking complex, instrumental and repetitive math-rock. But it's still a stage removed from the sound of Mirrored, even if it is probably my favourite song, with its needling keys, on EP C. The focus of the video, though, is on drummer John Stanier most of the time, and rightly so. I heard a reviewer on the radio make his case for Stanier as the frontman of the band - albeit a vocally silent one - which to me makes perfect sense.
Battles - 'Tonto' and 'Race:Out'/'Tij', Tripod August '07
This set of videos, of exceptionally high quality, was filmed by foetal media. They have an impressive range of Irish live videos - including one of Battles, to be posted further on - as well as Crayonsmith's 'Lost in the Forest' and a series of Redneck Manifesto live vids (check out 'No One Plans Eleven' from them).
I wasn't aware of the amazing video for Tonto until sometime after this gig, so I don't think I appreciated this song as much as I should have, and indeed did at the last performance. But regardless of how cool you think it is, its hypnotic, enveloping rhythms are plain for all to see and hear. Of special interesting is the maintenance of the rhythm section at extremely low tempos towards the end, and then the final interplay between guitar and keyboard - done to great effect in the music video, but also live.
From earlier on in the gig, this is also the frenetic drum intro to 'Race:Out' (with the drummer still having his shirt on) segueing, in an inversion of the album tracklisting, into the distorted sampling of 'Tij'. This I think neatly brings up the more interesting vs. enjoyable part of the shows. The energy was there at this stage, but it was more sporadic and it wasn't that complete sense of visceral ecstasy which you get when a show really starts rocking out (You can briefly see the back of my head, not doing much, at about the 2:11 mark). Only to be expected, of course, and I completely enjoyed this part of the show on an intellectual level; but it hadn't really gotten started by this time. Still, there was a tension in the air as to what exactly they were going to do next - even, I reckon, if you had all the songs memorised - as well as the curiosity of seeing the sounds actually being produced on stage (especially the sampling procedure).
Battles - 'Atlas', Vicar St. May '08 (excerpt) and Tripod, August '07
The top video (just 3:05 minutes long) shows conversely the more purely 'enjoyable' aspect of the live experience in Vicar Street. Shot from the balcony above, it is essentially the one single beat being played over and over for about a minute and a half (notice the surge in excitement when the kick drum comes in briefly) followed by the further repetition of the introductory part of the song with the crowd turning into the "sea of pogoing fans" I mentioned previously. Thankfully the video cuts off shortly after Tyondai Braxton starts singing (and the crowd responds in adulation) since the sound quality can't handle, you know, the actual song. This is where the gig kicked off last August, and last week this was following immediately on to Tonto which was in itself genuinely amazing, but the principle still stands that the show is broken up into the conceptually interesting and absorbing, and the physically astounding and intense.
Below it, is the coup de grace - or perhaps de sueur - the full performance of 'Atlas' as recorded by Foetal Productions in August '07, all eight glorious minutes of it. Rock on - since it's the one song everyone came for, right?