words & photos by Benjamin Lozovsky
Battles does things unwaveringly big. Even to the point of absurdity. On Wednesday night during their performance at Le Poisson Rouge, the first in New York in close to two years, bassist/guitarist Dave Konopka addressed the audience from a microphone well above his head, guitarist/keyboardist Ian Williams clanged on a cowbell seven feet in the air, and drummer John Stanier beat his iconic, loftily-placed crash cymbal with a ferocious anger. Even as the band got smaller last August when former member Tyondai Braxton departed to focus on a solo career, the group's sound and unorthodox yet seemingly perfected performance style has remained colossal.
Despite its continued heft, Battles' music has grown crucially smaller though, or at least more focused in its sights. Their upcoming second album, Gloss Drop, is a groove heavy, manically driven dance party rife with afro beat pulsations and steel drum mimicking guitars. There are far fewer moments of disjointed weirdness, ambient buildups, or meandering walks through a stoner wasteland. The band continued their transformation to a tight three piece by running through a set of strictly new numbers from Gloss Drop, bringing the increasingly greater organic side of their music to vivid fruition.
From the onset of set opener "Africastle," the group's transition was clear. The song began with an unnerving and spatial introduction light on percussion yet full of anxiety, but eventually gave way to the first of many loop-based, cyclical grooves that pummeled with immediacy and stripped down tenacity.
It continued with the surprisingly springy and airy "Sweetie & Shag," gilded with wry affection thanks to guest vocals by Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino. Although Makino wasn't there in person, her vocals were broadcast along with the music in video projections synced up with the band's performance, as were other the contributions of other collaborators like Matias Aguayo and Gary Numan. Numan's video cameo occurred towards the end of the set, his mascara-blackened façade looking on and looming like a stern communist propaganda icon.
Gloss Drop is due on June 7th via Warp Records, and Battles has many more shows scheduled before and after then including ATP's I'll be Your Mirror in Asbury Park on October 2nd. All tour dates, the setlist from LPR and more pictures are below...
BATTLES - 2011 TOUR DATES
APRIL 29 Toronto, Canada - Mod Club
APRIL 30 Chicago, US - Lincoln Hall
MAY 02 Los Angeles, US - Echoplex (moved from The Echo)
MAY 03 San Francisco, US - Bottom of the Hill
MAY 04 Portland, US - Doug Fir
MAY 05 Seattle, US - Crocodile
MAY 27 Barcelona, Spain - Primavera Sound
MAY 28 Dudingen, Switzerland - Kilbi Festival
MAY 30 St Gallen, Switzerland - Palace
MAY 31 Marseille, France - Espace Julien
JUNE 01 Lyon, France - Nuits Sonores Festival
JUNE 02 Poitiers, France - Confort Moderne
JUNE 03 Brighton, UK - Concorde2
JUNE 04 Manchester, UK - O2 Apollo with Caribou
JUNE 05 Dublin, Ireland - Forbidden Fruit Festival
JUNE 06 Leeds, UK - Cockpit
JUNE 07 Glasgow, UK - The Arches
JUNE 08 London, UK - Heaven
JUNE 09 Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Melkweg
JUNE 10 Dortmund, Germany - FZW
JUNE 11 Munich, Germany - Feierwerk
JUNE 12 Hamburg, Germany - Uebel & Gefährlich
JUNE 25 Glastonbury Festival, UK - John Peel Stage
JUNE 26 Cardiff, UK - Millennium Music Hall
JUNE 27 Birmingham, UK - HMV Institute
JULY 01 Belfort, France - Eurockeennes Festival
JULY 02 London - Wireless Festival
JULY 15 Chicago, US - Pitchfork Music Festival
JULY 29-31 Fuji Rock Festival, Naeba Ski Resort, Japan
AUGUST 10 Cannes, France - Festival Pantiero
AUGUST 12 Hertfordshire - Standon Calling Festival
AUGUST 13 Saint-Malo, France - Festival la Route du Rock
OCTOBER 2 Asbury Park, NJ ATP I'll Be Your Mirror
DECEMBER 9-11 Minehead UK - BATTLES ARE CURATING ATP/NBC