Since releasing La Di Da Di, their third full-length album back in 2015, the men of Battles have been relatively quiet with no sign of movement. Suddenly, after announcing a massive gig opening for hometown heroes Interpol this fall, Battles announced a last minute and much more intimate show at House of Vans.
Seeing a Battles show is a most unique and satisfying experience. A decade after releasing their opus, the brilliant Mirrored, seeing the band live (which, for the majority of their existence now operates as a trio) is still a sight to behold. Planted front and center, drummer John Stainer is the band's main attraction. Sure, even with Dave Konopka's intricate knob twisting and deeply atmospheric guitars and Ian William's topsy-turvey balance of boards, strings, and keys, Stainer's power and presence is the band's dominating force. His beats are bold, thunderous moves that lock each track firmly into place. Of course, his towering cymbal looming over the band is their trademark look and beckons a call and response of fans replicating his elongated reach unlike anything I've ever witnessed. For most, a drummer is just the person in the back, but Battles lays it out so that all may marvel at this radical centerpiece. In the end, however, watching the band perform as a unit is truly where the spectacle lies. Precision is key and the band perform with such accuracy which makes their tight-knit live show so phenomenal. "Ice Cream" popped into the set early which broke the crowd into a delightful and groove induced funk propelling a great stream of energy off which the band seemed to feed all night. However, the highlight of the night without question came when it became clear that ten years later, the magnetic pull of "Atlas" is still as strong as ever. The slow drum roll-in bleeding into the over-extend synth melodies and heavy guitar riffs felt just as rambunctious and rejuvenating tonight as it did a decade ago and this hyper-extended version sent a wild wave of bliss through the crowd. Watching the band play is a mesmerizing and ultimately pleasing experience that resonates just as well in a club in London, a festival, a skate park, or a supreme yet small metal bar. Their effort protrudes the stage and their focus is clear and poised. They make incredibly complex music that draws from metal, glitch-pop, prog, and post-rock and humbly combines it all into an outrageous sound all their own. Deep into their career, Battles have found a riff that seems challenging and rewarding all at once. Lucky for us, we can watch it unfold onstage.