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Battle lines

Experimental rock group Battles return after four years on “Gloss Drop” with one less member and one more Gary Numan.
Battle lines
Image by photo courtesy Jason Frank Rothenberg

What: Battles with Walls

When: Saturday, Doors at 8:00 p.m., Music at 9:00 p.m.

Where: Fine Line Music Café 318 North 1st Ave.

Cost: $15

When singer Tyondai Braxton left Battles after the critical acclaim of the groupâÄôs 2007 album âÄúMirrored,âÄù fans were uncertain of the experimental rockersâÄô future. But uncertainty has always fueled the groupâÄôs complex patchwork of melodies quite naturally. 

The New York trioâÄôs latest release, âÄúGloss Drop,âÄù weaves a tight mélange of technical prowess. After only one year to mend the ill communication following BraxtonâÄôs departure for solo work, Battles returns on the new record with looping hooks that sound as if they will burst apart at any moment.

âÄúWe changed our creative process a lot in the way that we make an album,âÄù bassist and guitarist Dave Konopka said. âÄúIt allowed for a better way to communicate.âÄù

âÄúGloss DropâÄù serves as their golden opportunity for reinvention. BraxtonâÄôs surprise exit forced Konopka, drummer John Stanier, and guitarist Ian Williams to start from scratch.

âÄúA lot of how this album came together was the comparison of parts. Putting together these layered songs were like putting together a puzzle,âÄù Konopka said. âÄúIt was a totally different way of writing, but it lends itself to having more fun experimenting with compositions.âÄù

The ensembleâÄôs layered song structure has led devotees to dub BattlesâÄô genre as âÄúmath rock,âÄù but this label takes away the pure excitement of their spontaneity. Songs are devoid of formulas.

âÄúThereâÄôs always that element of something going wrong or something not being perfect,âÄù said Konopka. âÄúTo be able to ride that momentum makes for a more exciting show.âÄù

Electronic loops alongside a cascade of guitar riffs are tirelessly composed in studio, but Konopka finds value in a true live performance. None of the recurring melodies are played from a recording.

âÄúWith a backing track, why would you want to go watch a band where you could just listen to their CD really loud?âÄù Konopka said.

Williams and Konopka loop melodies in real time on stage. The dynamic nature of processing melodies live forces the band to anticipate their repertoireâÄôs evolution.

Because of their songsâÄô rich melodic density, Battles even had to reassemble songs off the new album before playing for live audiences.

âÄúWe had to sit there and listen to [âÄòGloss DropâÄô] and learn how to play songs before we left to go on tour,âÄù Konopka said.

Stanier, former drummer of alternative metal band Helmet, acts as a stabilizing force for BattlesâÄô diverse framework of sounds. With precise beats, he complements WilliamsâÄôs and KonopkaâÄôs wild hooks.

âÄúHeâÄôs got a whole catalog of different beats,âÄù Konopka said. âÄúIt really takes it to that level and solidifies it well.âÄù

Each musician seems to lead the band at various points. Every line of music begs for attention throughout their songs.

âÄúGloss DropâÄù integrates guest vocalists from electronic pop pioneer Gary Numan and psychedelic trio Blonde RedheadâÄôs Kazu Makino. Battles began as a strictly instrumental affair, but the vocals never sound incongruous.

âÄúThe band has never been driven by vocals,âÄù Konopka said. âÄúThe band comes first and the vocalist is an additive part of the [song].âÄù

 The collaborations enrich the diversity of songs like standout single âÄúIce Cream,âÄù sung by Matias Aguayo. This penchant for adaptation marks the bandâÄôs core philosophy and signals a bright future ahead.

âÄúThe three of us are perfectionists,âÄù Konopka said. âÄúWe want to put forth the best album we possible can and to continue to push boundaries.âÄù

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