Battles | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Battles 

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Considering their pedigrees, the members of the New York instrumental quartet Battles admirably suppress individual personalities in their music. On their recent debut, EP C (Monitor), drummer John Stanier (Helmet, Tomahawk), guitarists Ian Williams (Don Caballero, Storm & Stress) and Dave Konopka (Lynx), and guitarist-keyboardist-electronicist Tyondai Braxton (son of legendary jazz polymath Anthony) work feverishly to weave their parts into a lattice of rhythms and crisscrossed lines. While much has been made of Williams's math-rock past, Battles don't sound very complicated; rather the music is stripped down to its core. On "B & T" a pair of simple harmonics-laced guitar licks are put through various electronically treated permutations: fed into delay effects, treated with severe volume fluctuations, disassembled into component parts, then reconfigured, continually morphing while Stanier's beats bulldoze forward. As the various elements pull tighter and tighter the song becomes a magnificent exercise in tension creation. None of the other cuts quite match the excitement of the opener, but some come close. Both "UW" and "Ipt-2" are vehicles for Braxton's nimble electronic skills, as he slices and dices guitar and keyboard parts into melodically abstract vignettes, while on "Hi/Lo" the towering groove and seesawing guitar and keyboard lines vaguely recall Led Zep's "Kashmir." Reportedly the band requires seven amps to pull off its onslaught live; that in itself should be something to see. Dead Meadow (see Spot Check) headlines; Icarus Line plays second. $12, 18+. Sunday, July 11, 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton; 773-975-0505 or 800-594-8499.

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