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Battles - Academy, Manchester, 23/10/2015

  by Billy Seagrave

published: 25 / 11 / 2015

Battles - Academy, Manchester, 23/10/2015


Billy Seagrave watches New York-based experimental trio Battle play a groundbreaking set at the Academy in Manchester

It has been over a decade since Battles, who hail from New York, firrt formed. What once was a quartet is now distinctly a trio. 'La Di Da Di' is only the band's third album in what seems to be a four year release cycle. The remaining members, Ian Williams (guitars/keyboards), Dave Konopka (guitar/bass) and John Stanier (percussion/drums), having dispensed with a recognised vocalist in Tyondia Braxton and now experimenting with guest singers, have taken what has been described as experimental rock to new and eclectic levels. Konopka enters the stage under a single spotlight and spends the first few minutes stooped over his maze of pedals and wires, strumming, plucking and looping various guitar and bass sounds that start to fill the packed venue with an eerie and haunting mood of layer. Immediately the rhythmic layers have the audience nodding and swaying their heads in unanimous appreciation. To the right of the stage appears Williams, guitar strapped high, who begins to pull and push Konopka's melodic rhythm with his own synthetic and probing repetitive backbeat of guitar and keyboards. This first track 'Dot Net' is already into its seventh minute of meticulous momentum of loops, beats and clicks before Stanier takes centre stage on his drums, which are situated as close to the front of the stage as I have ever encountered. Stanier's kit is as intricately set out as the music, the arm’s length crash symbol marking a set-up which as individual as the band. If the lingering layers of the guitars over bass and synths over guitar was the start of the war, Stanier's introduction explodes the band into a full blown battle. Yet this is not a conflict but a unification of a strategically built ether. Three becomes one, each with its own elements of direction and structure. Stainier's pounding of his kit pushes and pulls Williams and Konopka to try and contain the power that is being expelled. Guitars are pushed to their limits and synths are directed to harmonise what could easily become an all too over-exuberant jam session, masterfully managed by a set of musicians who seem to all be breathing from one pulse. Tonight’s crowd are already lost in this heady fusion of rock and funk. Blasts of reggae blend with aggressive punk overtones, and repetitive loops and ticks distract from the absence of a lead vocalist. While we are brought through tracks both old and predominately new, the band have developed the art of creating a backdrop that you instantly lock onto, and have the ability through the live structure to crank up or drop tempo in an instant. This is what seeing the band is all about for me. You feel and breathe the energy. This is a real organic structure and you cannot help but be consumed within it. If I were to make comparisons, not musically but to a band who pioneered a pathway for bands to get up on stage and engross themselves and their audience in a musical hedonism, it would be Pink Floyd in their early Marquee Club. Unexpectedly during 'Atlas' and its immense build-up, a pint hurls straight onto the stage to the right at Williams and lands all over his pedals and loop machines. This is whilst Stainier and Konopka play on totally engrossed in their own world. Williams calls for an immediate end to the track, andhe grabs the microphone to berate the thrower. Thankfully the band pull themselves together to carry on ending with the final track 'Yabba', maybe not delivered as powerfully as it could have been, but it still didn’t detract from what had been an experience. Although the crowd were calling for an encore, the band cleraly have decided enough is enough. Some people will look at this and think it was a journey. I would interpret the evening in this way. Through their albums they have laid down a calling card, an invitation, not to come and listen to tracks from albums. This is like going to a restaurant and having the waiter read you the menu. You already know what’s on offer. This is an opportunity to taste to experience to almost touch and feel something that is best consumed live. Photographs by Billy Seagrave http://www.seagravesocialphotography.com

Also at Academy, Manchester

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Battles - Academy, Manchester, 23/10/2015

Battles - Academy, Manchester, 23/10/2015

Battles - Academy, Manchester, 23/10/2015

Battles - Academy, Manchester, 23/10/2015

Battles - Academy, Manchester, 23/10/2015

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