I saw Battles, those math-rock sensations, last night at the 9:30 Club. (Random note: for some reason, saying “math rock” to people not familiar with the genre makes them snicker. Try it, it’s fun.) I didn’t even bother to bring my camera — that’s two shows in a row (saw Robert Plant & Alison Krauss on Friday night, and never got a photo pass confirmed for that one). Left me plenty of headspace to focus on the music. I have Mirrored and, honestly, it doesn’t do much for me, which is disappointing because so many people who like the same kind of stuff I do have been raving about it. But I’ve heard great things about their concerts, and there have been many a band that turned me into a fan through their live performances, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
There was no mistaking what this band is all about, based on their stage setup: the drummer was placed front and center, flanked by three guys playing guitar or bass, each of them doubling on keyboards or electronics. Said drummer was definitely the center physically as well as visually — this guy has the most inefficient drumming style ever, with each stroke preceded by a backswing akin to a golfer’s. It was indicative of his lack of compactness of movement that he had a massive cymbal raised three feet above his head, for no good reason other than it looked cool whenever he had to raise his arm all the way up to strike it. With all that flailing, it was amazing that he could play as fast and as precisely as he did.
And no doubt, these guys are tight, and precise, and mathy. Oddly, they reminded me of Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin more than anything else, in that the entire ensemble was basically one giant rhythm section, with the occasional jagged melody almost an afterthought. My complaint with Mirrored is that the melodies that do exist are kind of silly (which I realize is not an accident, and is probably the intent) and nothing to really get excited about, and that the band often get stuck in the same groove for way too long. Live, I hoped that their intensity would mitigate these things, but it didn’t really happen. They only played a 45 minute set, but by then I’d already pretty much had my fill. (If I’d been a real fan I would have been pretty pissed though.)
Guess this is one highly regarded band I’ll just have to let pass me by.