Battles

November 4, 2007

Holy. Fucking. Shit.

These guys may be the best musicians in rock today, especially the drummer. It’s three guys with samplers and live instruments–guitars, bass, keyboards, all switching off. One of them will start by playing a figure, then feeding it into a sampler so it forms a loop. Other loops are added, crossing over one another like desynhcronized windshield wipers, or like a heavily amplified version of Steve Reich. Somehow, the drummer, John Stanier, finds a beat out and starts hammering it home. The guy is simply amazing, he doesn’t play anything too showy–he’s not Neil Peart or some jazzbo–but his ears are amazing and his tempo is perfect, speeding and slowing to find that seam. The other three play fast, driving, occasionally ornate cascades of notes over the beat, all while adding and subtracting and manipulating the loops. Once in a while, one of them sings into an tape echo. It doesn’t matter what they’re saying–I think the lyrics to their “hit,” “Atlas,” are “the singer is drunk, whoa-ee-oh”–it’s all part of the music. It doesn’t always work–sometimes the echoes are so fluid that it falls apart, and people in the audience look confused, but it always starts back up again.

If I had to compare them to anybody, I’d say they combine the best aspects of the Butthole Surfers, Nine Inch Nails, and Yes. But that doesn’t do them justice–they’re completely unique and unlike anything else I’ve heard.