As ambient punk crew Deerhunter finished their set at South Street Seaport in downtown Manhattan, the concert promoter grabbed a mic and wondered aloud: “I have no idea how they’re going to top that.” Ooops!
From the instant the thunderous bass loops of Tij hit speakers, it was clear the challenge had been taken up. By the time Battles hit the first impeccably timed break in that opening number, there was little doubt who the winner was. Goosebumps.
The hourlong set was filled with stand out moments: from John Stanier bashing drums so hard on Atlas, he didn’t particularly need amplifiation to the virtuosic live sampling that allowed Ian Williams to accompany himself on the dizzying riffs of Race: In. But what impressed most was the degree to which the band won over a crowd of such a wide demographic — hardcore teens to random middle aged tourists — some of whom stumbled in purely by chance. Since when have the constant time signature shifts of math rock reached so many? The sea of people bounced to otherworldly syncopation of Ddiamondd.
Being a fan of math rock pioneers Don Caballero for some years, I was pretty depressed when guitarist Ian Williams split following their most accomplished effort: 2000’s mind-bendingly melodic American Don. Battles, though, makes it clear who got the better of the deal. Where Don Caballero regressed badly with World Class Listening Problem, Ian’s new band Battles takes math rock someplace entirely new with this year’s instant classic Mirrored. But hearing those tracks live is a whole different thing. It gets into your bones. You close your eyes and absorb it. Your head bobs uncontrollably. Come the end of the show, I was smiling ear-to-ear. File under best shit ever.