INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
The Australian JUNE 5, 2009 - by Sean Rabin
LUMINOUS MIXED BAG
Battles, Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House, May 30 / Ladytron, Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House, June 3
New York's Battles and Liverpool's Ladytron represent the rock element in Brian Eno's Luminous festival in Sydney. Both bands rely heavily on synthesisers to give their music a futuristic character, but that is where the similarities end.
Ladytron repackages traditional ideas of pop in the latest electro style, while Battles build labyrinths of rhythm as they seek new forms of music.
Since the release of their album Mirrored in early 2007, Battles have toured Australia three times, and except for one new song in their encore, this performance had the same set list. Because the predominantly instrumental music is so thick with ideas, the precision it demands does not allow the quartet to improvise or introduce fresh elements into familiar songs. What made this show interesting for those who had seen Battles before was the opportunity to hear them through the Opera House's superior sound system. Although the mix was little lopsided, the clarity was close to the band's recordings.
Four nights later, Ladytron took the same stage and delivered a completely different experience. The quartet added two members for the live show, but Ladytron's take on the early 1980s sounded rudimentary and uninspired. Clearly influenced by the Human League and Gary Numan, it was a pedestrian exercise in style over substance.
With four synthesisers, two (matching) guitars and a drum kit at their disposal, it was astounding how few ideas Ladytron offered. The drummer seemed capable of only one beat, which the guitarist appeared determined to follow, while the bass guitarist kept his hair in the wind machine.
Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo refused to deviate from their deadpan style of singing. This was compensated by the light show, but even that could not keep fans from the door once they had heard their favourite tune.
In the Luminous program, Eno writes that these bands represent the future of music. That may true for Battles, but in the case of Ladytron it's a ludicrous suggestion.