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Battles

Liquid Room, Edinburgh
4 stars
Forget the unfortunate Math Rock tag. Battles are just King Crimson with cheekbones. Even when the American quartet’s guitarist Dave Konopka appears to be conducting the amplifiers at the start and close of the band’s set drawn largely from this summer’s debut album proper, Mirrored, released by electronic specialist label Warp, though, it’s done with ineffable cool and not a Prog cape in sight.

With members having served time between them in assorted stalwarts of America’s rock underground, Konopka, fellow guitarist/keyboardists Ian Williams and Tyondai Braxon and drummer John Stanier could qualify as a super-group. Especially given that Braxton is the son of avant-jazz composer Anthony Braxton.

Braxton junior is the nearest thing the band has to a focal point, his sampled vocals at times resembling the wordless classicism of Hocus Pocus by Focus as reimagined by the equally debonair Strokes. Williams, meanwhile, holds his red guitar high, as if Battles were the band imagined by Edinburgh’s Fire Engines thirty years ago. Its Stanier’s drums, though, complete with six foot cymbal stand, that drives them, and makes total sense of the band’s presence on Warp by putting a pounding pulse to the sort of baroque instrumental dance-scapes The Aphex Twin’s crazed composer shtick dreamt up through his lap-top.

Beyond 1970s wigginess, there’s everything tossed into the mix here from Charles Ives and American marching bands to wild west soundtracks and Glam rock stomp, all wrapped up in frantic Hardcore trappings, but with a regimented precision that leaves nothing to chance. Which, following previous Edinburgh outings at Triptych and supporting Four Tet, may take the edge off things a tad, but makes for a thrilling set nonetheless.

The Herald, October 22nd 2007

ends

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