Liverpool Barfly 22nd August

It’s a big crowd tonight. Including, it seems, every musician in Liverpool. Even Your Fucking Correspondent only gets in by pleading Warp Records Immunity to the doorstaff.

We’re unhappy with Battles even before we get in though, because, so Barfly tells us, they’re so precious about their backline that tonight’s support act, legendary Liverpool Krautrock-heads Kling Klang, are relegated to the smaller half of the venue and a big chunk of the audience is forced to wait outside till the main act.

But of course, Battles are a band that already know they can make you wait. Yet, when they stroll on, there’s only a muted reaction from the crowd. Rarely appearing in publicity shots, many people are unsure whether these serious, muso-looking types are just the tech guys. Within a few minutes of them plugging in though, we’re hit by a wall of deep, thundering, echoing bass. A sound that makes even the chin-strokers take a sharp intake of breath.

The band appear without a care in the world, mooching about the stage with assured confidence and quiet concentration. Sweat dripping gently off their brows as the music does all the talking. The first few rows need little encouragement to get into the swing, and throw themselves into moves that sometimes resemble dancing.

Battles create a constant, complex warping mesh of sound. Low, rhythmic parts stomp deep into you, iced with a multitude of jabs and slashes which keep up the excitement. All this is largely created from a very simple combination of guitars, drums, keys and a box which is played with the flair that an orchestra is conducted.

As you’d expect from a band with jazz elements, they tease those familiar with the songs by extending and shifting the arrangements. As a dragged-out ‘Tonto’ is finally allowed to break off, the collected sweat flies from the drum kit and the hardcore in thee audience explode almost as much as the song before being let down again slowly.

At the end of the show, another patron tells the Stool Pigeon, “They’re good, but they only have one song they do ten different ways.” An astute observation perhaps, but it is a damn good song.

By Kenn Taylor