Battles review – joyful, ear-bleedingly loud grooves from sonic scientists

Electric Ballroom, London
Respectful head-nodding turns into full-blown crowdsurfing as the trio bend their complex, instrumental sounds into weird and complex shapes

In a neat mirroring of their sound, the three members of Battles enter the stage separately.

A hunched-over Dave Konopka layers loop-upon-loop of effects, sending fragments of noise floating off across the Electric Ballroom. He’s then joined by Ian Williams, nonchalantly holding a guitar and surrounded by an array of synths. A syncopated, warped sound begins to come into focus, slowly building for five minutes. Finally, John Stanier, who has been lurking in the wings, arrives to provide propulsive percussion.

Suddenly, everything falls into place. Through the distortion, the fidgety, brutal groove of new song Dot Com bursts out. The band lock into it; all jerky rhythms and hall-of-mirrors guitars and, for the next hour, you’re under their spell.

Battles’ third and latest album, La Di Da Di, is vocal-free and the lack of a singer makes sense: they are a band who like to speak through their instruments. Williams and Konopka are sonic scientists – pressing a synth key here, bashing a guitar string there – whose experiments aim to bend their sound into weird and complex shapes.

The result is far from calculated, however. The songs feel alive and visceral, built up, then deconstructed, only to be built right back up again. And, for all the subtlety, it’s loud, too. Really loud.

Stanier’s pounding drumming is a guiding force through the wonky, ominous squelch of Summer Simmer, right through to the teasing, twisted swagger of The Yabba. And, it’s their “hit” Atlas (surelythe first ever song to start with a three minute cymbal solo) that sees the respectful head-nodding of the audience mutate into full-blown crowdsurfing.

When Battles first started, they were branded with the dubious term “math rock”. Yet for all their obvious complexities, what emerges tonight through their complications and convolutions is a love of sound. A joyful, ear-bleedingly loud sound.


Danny Wright

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Review: Battles

6 out of 10: Leeds, Sunday, 8.50pm. They know how to rock, how to dance and how to loop atonal guitar riffs. Not the ideal festival fodder.

Paul MacInnes

26, Aug, 2007 @10:29 PM

Article image
Simple Things festival review – masterfully curated and delivered
The two-day weekender put math-punk with mumblecore, house, grime and happy hardcore as Battles and Galcher Lustwerk played to impress

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

26, Oct, 2015 @2:54 PM

Battles: Gloss Drop – review
Without ex-singer Tyondai Braxton, Battles take us on a bumpier though still impressive ride, writes Dorian Lynskey

Dorian Lynskey

02, Jun, 2011 @9:10 PM

Battles: Dross Glop – review

It's a little disjointed as an album, but there are some fine moments among this collection of Battles remixes, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

12, Apr, 2012 @8:16 PM

Article image
CD: Battles, Mirrored


Tom Hughes

11, May, 2007 @10:55 PM

Battles, ABC2, Glasgow

ABC2, Glasgow

David Peschek

28, May, 2007 @10:43 PM

Article image
Grouper review – haunting experimentalism from a sonic guru
Moving from the nakedly confessional to the genuinely unsettling, Liz Harris delivers a set that transports the crowd

Priya Elan

24, Apr, 2015 @2:45 PM

Article image
Battles: La Di Da Di review – still powered by playfulness
The New York trio dispense with the singers, but not the fun, on an album of inspired and wide-ranging experimentation

Kitty Empire

20, Sep, 2015 @6:59 AM

Article image
Panda Bear review – spine-tingling beauty from a sonic sorcerer
The singular Noah Lennox proves his voice is as hypnotic as his songwriting

Danny Wright

06, Mar, 2015 @4:02 PM

Article image
Slayer review – vital, vicious and loud
With a reconfigured lineup and renewed commitment to the infernal cause, the LA metallers reclaimed their crown as the masters of darkness

Dom Lawson

01, Dec, 2015 @12:18 PM