Empty Bottle; Thu 12, Fri 13
Last year saw both Helmet and instrumental outfit Don Caballero return to the stage, each featuring one original member and a bunch of hired mooks. Rather than sit home and cry about it, former Don Cab guitar whiz Ian Williams and Helmet drummer John Stanier proved that living well is the best form of revenge, and went out and joined forces with guitarist David Konopka of Lynx to form Battles. It's an appropriate moniker, considering the band's trancelike instrumental attack that hews closer to the knotty math-rock of Don Cab than Helmet's abrasive post-metal. Battles' secret weapon, though, is its fourth member, keyboard/utlity multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton. Previously known for his loop-based solo performances (and for being the son of avant-jazz legend Anthony Braxton), his sonic manipulations and synth textures add an extra dose of glitchy weirdness that confounds and compels.
Coloring its post-rock with shades of ambient and Philip Glass–by–way–of–Tortoise minimalism, Battles has a knack for tension and release dynamics: The group will push and pull an angular chiming riff to its breaking point, while Stanier shifts accents around or propels everything into double time. His beats are alternately funky and off-kilter, providing a perfect foundation for the dense layers of interlocking patterns laid down by Williams and Konopka. Battles spent 2004 in a recording frenzy and released three EPs of experimental madness in a row, but this music needs to be witnessed live, where the sheer physical power of Stanier's rhythms can be experienced at high, exhilarating volume.—Ben Taylor