Battles bring the rhythmic business. - Oh My Rockness

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Battles bring the rhythmic business.

August 22, 2007
It's the final free summer show at South Street Seaport on Friday, August 31st, and man are the bookers sure ending the series with a big bang. Battles (the best band we saw at the Oya Festival in Norway a couple weeks ago) will close the season with some serious math-y insanity. Seeing them is believing that rock will forever evolve. And the always stage-dangerous Deerhunter plays too. If you missed every Seaport show this summer, just go to this and you'll still be able to call your summer show season a success.

It's absurd how talented the members of Battles are. I mean, you know by reading and googling that Battles features former members of luminous bands like Helmet, Don Caballero, Storm and Stress and Lynx. But you don't really know what that kind of pedigree means musically, or how that background translates to their stage show, until you witness it for yourself. These four guys are just crazy good. Sometime, way back when they were in all those bands, they figured it all out. Watching them is watching a band that's tapped into some elusive musical secret.

To call what Battles does "math-rock" doesn't really give them or their rhythms justice. Every band that didn't have a singer and liked to guitar-noodle mid-song were called math-rock. But Battles does more than shift tempos and create time disruptions. Call what they do "quantum-physics-core" or something.

Both Ian William and Tyondai Braxton are guitar gods, finger tapping their way towards rock-out enlightenment. But just to prove that they are indeed better than most every musician you know, they also pound out catchy keyboard riffs at the same time. It's truly a sight to behold. I have trouble tapping my head and rubbing my stomach at the same time. Not these guys.

Drummer John Stanier is clearly as good, if not better, than Williams' old Don Cab battery mate, Damon Che (and Che is a drumming god, so there you go). He doesn't play the drums; he attacks them with contained fury. All the while, David Konopka lurks with his guitar in the background, keeping melodic civility to the rhythmic unrest.

Studying these guys as they play, you can tell from their clenched faces (and sweaty shirts) that the music they're making requires their utmost concentration. They're like torch-jugglers riding on a ten-foot tall unicycle over a tight-rope. You won't get any crowd winks, or much witty banter. These guys are totally focused on their mission to rock you out. It's fast, it's precise, and it's exhilarating. Man, I bet these guys burn a ton of calories every night.

Atlanta's Deerhunter opens for Battles. This bigger-by-the-day band's live show has been known to blow minds, either out of audience awe or just plain crowd confusion. Whatever they do, they certainly inspire a strong gut reaction from the people they play for. And that's pretty punk, I guess. The band plays sprawling psych-garage-rock with an eccentric experimental twist. In other words, they sort of sound like what the Liars have been doing crossed with the retro weirdness of Grizzly Bear.

Deehunter's music is epic in sound; it swirls, drones and gradually glides towards eclectic resolution. It's hazy and hypnotic, it's spacey and it's heavy. It's also kind of creepy. If you like your listening tastes challenged, then Deerhunter is the band for you.

Battles and Deerhunter play South Street Seaport, on Friday, August 30th.


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