"Too Few" by Batsch

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"Too Few" by Batsch

Review

One of my favourite bands for a long time was Batsch: both on record and as a live act. I last reviewed them live in about 2019 and on record with their lockdown single "Darling" in July 2020. After that, the band appeared to evolve from hiatus to a state of not really existing at all. Even my attempts to include their wonderful original music on a "Hot Music Live Presents" volume were unsuccessful due to copyright issues, though I was able to give you a glimpse into their world on HMLP 8 with the inclusion of "Samphire" by the Batsch side project !nvisible Hand featuring Duke Keats

Now I'm delighted to announce that there is a genuine new Batsch single out: "Too Few". While the band consisted of Mason Le Long, Joe Carvell, Matt Rheeston & Andy Whitehead, it (with Lætitia Sadier guesting on vocals and Pink Shabab on bass) on "Darling", the new one appears to be the !nvisible Hand lineup of just Mason & Matt: the latter of whom, given his other roles with Bar Pandora, Paradise of the Titans & his solo Riizbo work, must win a prize (if there is one) for the musician associated with the most interesting local music projects. Maybe there ought to be such an award…

Given that a drummer is 50% of the current band, drums loom large in the arrangement, as does a very fluid & equally loquacious bass. If you think that means you've got a drum ‘n' bass single then in one respect I suppose you have, though it's probably not what you'd expect. In fact they are merely using the instruments as tools & seeing what they can make with them rather than simply use them conventionally. The drums are arguably lead drums & to some extent provide the melody: the most obvious comparison I can think of is when Keith Moon, instead of keeping the beat with The Who, tended to drum in a way which keyboards might normally be expected to contribute to the arrangement: forcing the other instruments to adapt accordingly. Meanwhile the bass wraps itself sinuously around them & somehow vocals are inserted into what little space remains: they do seem at times to be having to use their elbows to get into the song.

What you get therefore is a very claustrophobic sort of song which sounds like a large free form jazz combo playing soul but trying to stop their singer from getting a word in. Which is a fairly unusual sound in my experience, though I accept that finding an accurate description is far from easy. That the lyric concerns "tunnel vision" amongst other concerns is apt: the theme of the words appears to embrace worry about perceptions, breadth of perspective and consequently empathetic shortfalls culminating in prejudices. Or possibly I've misheard it. The words do require attention as well as analysis. But I've never resented music which obliges me to do work myself & challenges me to engage rather than receive passively.

I've said a great deal in recent weeks about my delight in how certain local musicians are trying to reconcile heads & hearts, the experimental and the popularly accessible. That Mason & Matt work closely with many of the names I've been citing is surely no coincidence. "Too Few" is certainly at the more avant garde of any such spectrum, though Batsch have a very honourable heritage already in attempting such feats. Indeed since I heard them way before I did any of the others, it may be that the initiative originated with them & it's subsequently inspired others.

"Too Few" asks questions of its audience, but is that so wrong? Those who don't like questions are usually those with something to hide.

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