Max Watt’s House of Music, Melbourne
Friday 12 February 2016
Battles are very precise. They have to be. They’ve carved out a unique and specific place in music. That’s why the room has filled with so many devotees, including one gentleman who, Zo tells me, checked himself out of hospital only hours after having reconstructive surgery on his arm to make doors.
The Hi-Fi is now called Max Watt’s. Numerous sources confirm this is old news but it’s news that somehow slipped past me.
Battles have three albums, the most recent of which is last year’s La Di Da Di. The key thing to know about their discography is that all three records are very good. The stage set up has pressed them forward, as close to us as Max Watt will allow.
Three distinct personalities emerge on stage. Drummer John Stanier doesn’t seem to let enjoyment get in the way of constructing Battles songs. His crash stands high, almost out of his strike range. What he drives on stage is complicated enough and he doesn’t seem content with making it any easier for himself.
Ian Williams takes a similar route, angling two of his keyboards towards the ground. He moves his body in time to the music he creates through his fingers, be they attacking keys, guitar strings or sample pads.
Dave Konopka falls somewhere in between and seems very happy just to be here. He spends quite a bit of time building loops and toying with whatever he’s got going on down there with all those effects pedals. I could try explaining further but I’m about as up to date on guitar technology as I am on the proprietary of Melbourne venues.
Battles find moments to flirt with experimentation. Watching them perform feels like watching an album being produced and recorded in real time. They are a puzzle put back together. To say they’re good at sampling feels about as trite as saying Michelangelo was good at painting ceilings.