Grand Central, Downtown Miami
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Better Than: Approximately 95% of most live music events. Two tight bands, decently timed sets, booming sound. What else do you need?
Last night, Battles blew our fucking mind. Sorry to indulge the most standard live music hyperbole. But it's the truth.
We spent most of the set with our mouths ajar at the musicianship while our brains fired away trying to figure out what exactly it was we were hearing. It's been a long time since a band at Battles' level managed to make music that was not only good but also so strikingly original.
Opening act Nisennenmondai, a bombastic psychedelic power trio from Japan, provided an excellent opening foil to the evening's main event. Though equalling the headliners in complex songwriting, incredible skill, and sheer stamina, the band also indulges raw, superfried, loud-and-noisy moments of bombast that stood in welcome contrast to Battles's tidy, geometric compositions. One of the most satisfying live music experiences happens when a band comes out of nowhere and knocks you on your ass. Last night, Nisnnenmondai provided everyone at Grand Central with that kind of pummeling.
Battles opened, fittingly enough, with "Africastle," the intro to their latest full-length album, Gloss Drop. As the first few brightly toned and immediately recognizable notes were delicately plucked by guitarist Ian Williams, the fans began to roar. And they wouldn't stop for the duration of the set, exploding into cheers after every crescendo, as if they were saluting soloing jazz players.
After their atmospheric intro, the group went straight into one of Gloss Drop's poppiest cuts, "Sweetie and Shag," which features vocals from Blonde Redhead Kazu Makino. Of course, Makino has her own band, so she couldn't make an in-person appearance at last night's show.
Instead, a video of her was played back on a pair of monolithic LED screens as her prerecorded vocals were mixed with the band's live instrumental parts. And Battles used the same trick for cuts featuring vocal contributors Matias Aguayo and Gary Numan. It was a creative, visually arousing solution to the performance of album tracks starring singers with full-time jobs.
The set was heavy on Gloss Drop, featuring ten of the album's 12 tracks, and the two singles -- "Atlas" and "Tonto" -- from their previous record and indie breakthrough, Mirrored. After their initial sketch-and-incubate EPs, not to mention the arduous process of figuring out their relationship to vocals, Battles looked and sounded like a band reveling in total mastery of their material.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Ian Williams! Guitar god!"
Personal Bias: We're the ones who shouted that.
2. "Sweetie and Shag"
3. "Dominican Fade"
5. "Wall Street"
7. "Ice Cream"
9. "My Machines"
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