Battles Enter Unchartered Territory With 'La Di Da Di'
Much ado was made (and, honestly, will still be made in reviews of this album) about Tyondai Braxton's decision to leave Battles after the release of 'Mirrored'. It's totally understandable, given that 'Mirrored' was a rare debut record that was both assured and incredibly fun. After going into a poppier direction on the transitional 'Gloss Drop', Battles aim to distinguish themselves by doing away with any vocals and creating a purely instrumental album.
On the aptly titled 'La Di Da Di', Battles make songs that sound like post rock pushed one step further. Instead of a slow build into an anthemic and triumphant musical release, they start with a groove and transition into new melodies and synth lines until it all loops back and coalesces into a bubbling cacophonous mess. Yet, when things reach their absolute chaotic peak, their melodic tangents all snap into place and create the most knotty music you can dance to. It’s a thrilling little trick that the three men in Battles can pull off with an uncanny aplomb.
Battles use this new instrumental framework as an opportunity to get elastic, stretching their music into previously uncultivated corners. Drummer John Stanier creates a propulsive playground for multi-instrumentalists Ian Williams and Dave Konopka to play around in and explore. Williams and Konopka respond with constantly twisting instrumental leaps on tracks like “Dot Net” and “Tricentennial,” blurring the line between the electronic and the organic.
'La Di Da Di' is a record brimming with idiosyncratic moments. Sonically speaking, “Dot Com” seems like the result of leaving a classic krautrock record out in the sun for too long. If keyboards came with a "rubbery violin pluck" preset, then that would be the basis for the oozing closer, "Luu Le". “Summer Simmer” glitches out and manages to bend into itself without doing a disservice to its title.
The band can stretch out a little too much as times, with tracks such as “Megatouch” outwearing its welcome and the relatively short “Tyne Ware” playing out like a song idea that never quite takes off. “Flora > Fauna,” feels a bit like filler, but it manages to get by on charming bombast alone.
Battles have continued to push themselves into territory unmapped by most bands of their ilk while strengthening their chemistry. This album doesn’t provide them with another “Atlas” or “Ice Cream,” but it does postulate a definitive statement on their status as a three piece.
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Words by Keenan Novi