Battles makes it its business to produce art that sticks in the mind. We all remember (don’t we?) the distinctive image of the band performing “Atlas” in a mirrored cube, which served as the primary set piece for their first music video as well as the artwork for their 2007 debut album. Similarly, the strikingly vibrant cover art of solidified pink goo defined the sound and feel of their most recent album, Gloss Drop.
Unfortunately, even with all these arresting images, not to mention their dense and compelling music, the narrative around Battles that has seemed to stick in the minds of onlookers centered on the seemingly sudden departure of singer and multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton in 2010. Fans fretted at the time that the group would be hobbled after losing a founding member, especially a musician whose influence and vocal stylings contributed such a distinctive flavor to their earlier work. Critics at the time seemed to consider compositional disappointment to be all but certain, and hopes for Battles’ success as a three-piece were dubious at best.
Thankfully, Battles’ work on 2011’s Gloss Drop proved that they could truly thrive even after losing such an important member. The music didn’t suffer, it simply changed. Battles is now tighter, harder, and sturdier-sounding than ever. It’s not like they have much left to prove as musicians, with band member pedigree which includes such luminary groups as Don Caballero and Helmet. But their recent work as a trio has proven that they’re more than capable of fusing their current elements into something great, even when an important piece of the pie has been removed.
Bogarts will host a performance by Battles tonight at 8:00pm. Tickets are still available. If you haven’t had a chance to see them before, do yourself a favor and see what the fuss has been about all this time.
Maybe we’ll all finally figure out why drummer John Stanier puts his ride cymbal so damn high. I have to admit, that’s been bugging me for years.
-preview by John Crowell. Follow him on Twitter @terriblesounds