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Review: Battles bring video vocalists, frenetic force to packed Crowbar in Ybor City



Battles mix of math-rock complexity and thinking-man’s electronica seems, on paper, more likely to inspire quiet admiration than, say, crowd surfing.

The crowd surfers at Battles’ Crowbar show Wednesday night would have a different opinion.

The Ybor City club was packed and the crowd thrashed frenetically throughout the trio’s set. There was a near constant roil in front of the stage with the occasional fan getting passed over the heads of the others.

Whatever subtleties underlie Battles’ music, the surface is rife with big, fat riffs and hooks. Few bands with Battles’ CV could – or would – come up with something as downright summery as Ice Cream, an highlight of both Wednesday’s set and latest album, Gloss Drop.

With the departure of vocalist Tyondai Braxton, Battles was free to call in vocalists as needed for Gloss Drop. The singers, including Ice Cream voice Matias Aguayo, appeared on video screens behind the band.

Other virtual guests included Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino on Sweetie & Shag, and synth-wave pioneer Gary Numan on My Machines.

But the trio – drummer John Stanier, guitarist-keyboardist Ian Williams and guitarist-bassist David Konopka – were just as excellent on the numbers without vocal assistance as well. Stanier, the former Helmet drummer with a Florida background, was particularly impressive, an awe-inspiring mix of virtuosity and brute force.

Stanier had the percussion bar set high by Sayaka Himeno, drummer for the preceding act, Nisennenmondai. Himeno’s machinelike drumming was at the heart of the Japanese trio’s hypnotic repetitions. She attacked her kick drum and high-hat throughout with sadistic precision.

The group’s music is heavily influenced by early ‘70s German outfits such as Can and Neu!, although the pummeling chaos toward he end of the set sounded like nothing so much as MC5’s Black to Comm.

Tampa trio Auto!Automatic!! opened with a set spotlighting its eponymous second album. Fret-tapping guitar master Brian Larsen impressed throughout with an arsenal of looped riffs, moody harmonics and unearthly noises.

-- Curtis Ross, tbt*

[Last modified: Thursday, October 27, 2011 2:54pm]


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