Parts & Labor
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- Koko, Camden Town »
Heart beats double-time back here – TV screen the only eye on a stage hidden by bouncing bodies too many to brave a forward rush. Still, contentment rolls into excitement; rolls into knee-jerk joy: Battles would sound awesome if the listener were stuck in the foyer. Of a building across the street.
Koko – not known for its great PA; a digital mixing desk apparently the culprit for poor acoustics at gigs past – rocks vibrantly, and crisply, to the sound of four New Yorkers somehow, unexpectedly and against their own grain, catapulted into the attentions of music lovers happy to wear their love for Kasabian openly in public. (Yes, we saw you, however quickly you tried to hide under your jacket.) This isn’t music for the masses – it spurts out at odd angles, albeit from a linear spine that provides the necessary anchoring to stranglehold the senses of the gathered many. It’s not meant for TopShop, for shovelling coke to. Yet both have been witnessed, personally; interaction with the mainstream’s now a given, the thrill-seekers needing their beats delivered wobbly and without formula well-trodden for optimum abandonment. In perfect reaction, Battles have become a well-oiled war machine in the live environment. No compromise, their terms: it still befuddles therefore that their onlookers strap in for the entire ride of peaks and precipices, no questions asked.
An hour and a half of no-discernable-vocals avant-indie-pop; no break save for the odd (drummer) John Stanier-spurred second-or-two halt to allow sweat to trickle properly from brow down chest to toes. It’s endurance and exhilaration, a strange brew indeed. Sure, the path is predictable enough – the four-piece have played a similar set each time they’ve been witnessed in the past six months – but music like this must adhere to rules for it to find form amongst so much potential chaos. Paradoxically, this is precisely why they’re such an oddly alluring live draw: there’s little in the way of flexibility in terms of song ordering, although improvisation within established structures does see favourites from debut album Mirrored twisted, house of mirrored, expelled malformed and quizzical, seeking appreciation. Audience approval, of course, comes riotously, and never louder than when ‘Atlas’ fizzles out ten minutes after it began with the simplest drum beat imaginable. Layered to perfection, it’s the band’s calling card for a special reason: it is a truly special song, a certifiable give-’em-a-plaque classic of the year. No mean feat for a band already owning substantial bragging rights – seriously, guys, listen to this – in the shape of ‘Tras’, dispatched early on here to giddying reception. Man, it makes me jiggle.
Now comes reflection: a year to remember, forever, but where now? As Battles encore themselves off for the night, attendees chatter excitedly about the great new band they’ve seen. Sixty per cent or so, anyway; the long-termers, whose copies of B EP take pride of place at home, are now anxious to hear where the most-adored alternative instrumentalists around can head to next. More rippling front rows before stages bigger and brighter? Maybe. Or will withdrawal produce delights beyond expectation? Whatever the outcome, a contentment will develop into excitement, which will surely build to twitchy physical let-loose. See you here, sometime soon, to flail again to the sound of something awesome.
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