Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Caribou w/ Battles, Star Slinger & Kelpe – Apollo, Manchester 4/6/11

09 June 2011, 09:14 | Written by Matthew Britton


In the words of a fellow attendee ‘It’s better if you think of Battles as two entirely seperate bands. One with Tyondai Braxton, and the other without him’. It’s clear that they themselves seem to think in these divisive terms too: shorn of their vocalist, they’ve also cut themselves free of his songs. And so a catalogue of era defining classics have been consigned to memories, with the seminal Mirrored not even getting the merest nod throughout the band’s hour long set, despite the obvious clamour from the crowd.

Even an encore comes and goes without so much as the opening chords of ‘Atlas’ being played – the startling thing is that it wasn’t even really needed anyway.

There are many bands who have tried and failed to move themselves on from their recognisable formative years and failed massively: despite thousands of pages of bluster from the brothers Gallagher, Oasis never managed to come up with a suitable riposte to their fans clamour for ‘Champagne Supernova’ to be played on a loop at all of their shows for the rest of time. Battles, though, have never been a plodding indie rock band, and latest album Gloss Drop sounds like the work of artists given extra freedom rather than being inhibited by loss.

Live, they’ve simply upped the ante, replacing a singer with two screens which act as the vocals when needs be. If anything, they’ve become more of a spectacle, the cherry on top inarguably coming with ‘Ice Cream’, their neon math-rock behemoth.

Manchester’s Apollo is a big place for anybody to fill, and promoter Now Wave do a spectacular job in getting it anywhere near its capacity in a city that only seems to attend Take That concerts. With the main band on halfway across the city, the effect of saccharine mainstream pop seems to have been taken into account with the organisation of this bill. Opening up at eight, Battles have to wait until near midnight to take to the stage, about halfway through the event. Bizarrely, despite their distinctly different fan bases, the venue only really fills up once the mums over at the City of Manchester stadium have finished fawning over Barlow and Co. It’d have been lovely to see how the crowd of forty-somethings would’ve reacted if they’d refused to sing ‘Take That and Party’.

The jump for the album that breaks you to the mainstream is a difficult one to makethough: something that Dan Snaith is going to have to think long and hard about once he finally gets down to recording the follow up to 2010’s Swim. Several albums and monikers deep into his career, the man known now as Caribou seems to have fallen into his stride now.

A qualified mathematician, he and his band play with an unnerving accuracy, if not quite the adventure and guile of others on the bill: Kelpe, opening up, does well to a handful of people; live drumming adding heft to a set that could otherwise be construed as your standard laptop producer fare; Star Slinger plays his unmistakable grooves to a swelling crowd, finally gets to grips with the fact that he is one of the brightest new lights in the country and a true innovator – even if some of the audience seem to think he’s just doing a DJ set.

Of course, reaching the level where you can easily convince a couple of thousand people to miss their last bus home and stay up until 3am. is a distant dream for both of them, but Snaith and his band of musicians must surely be worrying about taking things to the next level. For now, merely doing a professional job is enough to keep a mass of bodies moving: but as Battles prove, there’s nothing that quite gets them moving like seeing a band out on a limb.

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