Ever since their first handful of EPs almost 10 years ago now, it’s never been quite clear how Battles created their music, let alone what their intentions were in doing so. “Did they just improvise that whole song?” “What instrument is this even played on?” “How the hell is the drummer keeping up?” What did shine through however was a certain perfectionist professionalism, the results of which are consistently manifest in a surprisingly infectious strain of math rock experimentalism.
Battles’ newest record, the aptly titled ‘La Di Da Di’, aims for the same thrills of its predecessors but this time stripping back the vocal arrangements and focusing much more on the repetition. Not only have they returned full force, but have placed a heavy emphasis on the electronic elements of their sound. You merely need to look at the song titles to know how this album sounds, with ‘Dot Net‘ and ‘Dot Com‘ both sounding like a sentient, music producing computational network. John Stanier as always provides his earth-shattering, near-impossible drumming as the backbone of Battles’ sound, but Ian Williams and Dave Konopka seem to be acting as a united force throughout. In Ableton’s short feature on the band, they talked about the proverbial butting of heads that went into making their records, but their dynamic on ‘La Di Da Di’ suggests a band fully in sync with each other’s improvisation – “a three-head cyborg“, as their biography states.
However, despite not being their longest release, the album starts to drag in places, particularly in the middle with tracks like ‘Cacio e Pepe‘ and ‘Tyne Wear‘ feeling more like interludes than the pithy powerhouses of vibrancy that they achieved with ‘Ddiamondd‘ and ‘Dominican Fade‘. The problem seems to be in the lack of certain songs mutation. One of the many reasons that Battles are so enjoyable is their ability to dismantle songs and reshape them in a new form (see ‘Atlas‘/’White Electric‘), but the heavily repetitive focus this time misses out on this structural form, creating songs that merely layer ad infinitum. If it is not the overall length of the music then, it is the constant melodies and tempos found throughout the songs themselves that causes the drag.
Overall, ‘La Di Da Di’ manages to reach giddy heights of manic fun that encapsulate Battles as a band ‘The Yabba‘ and ‘Luu Le‘, for example, but unlike their previous efforts these moments aren’t nearly as common. Fortunately however, thanks to the phenomenal ability of Williams, Konopka and Stanier, the album sounds like an album that only Battles could make, worming its way into your head by creating compositions unlike anything else heard by humanity.