Always support live music. Even in a library.Warp Records, 2015
6.5 / 10
It’s possible the best way to describe the new Battles album is to simply state that it sounds like Battles. Those familiar with their work can stop reading right here and decide whether they need more of that in them right now. For the uninitiated, La Di Da Di is technically Battles’ third album. For a band who’s played together since 2002 that’s really not a lot of material, and their discography is better for it. Forming in New York City, the band includes the drummer for Helmet and Tomahawk, former guitarist from Don Caballero, and a guitarist from the lesser known Lynx. Needless to say, those previous credits dictate the strength and talent behind Battles. The band garnered a lot of negative feedback after adding vocalist Tyondai Braxton for their debut album in 2007 on Warp Records, Mirrored. This was mainly due to the idea of the instrumental band selling out by adding lyrics. The assumption by many was that Battles were going to start making less creative music in search of the almighty dollar. It’s no secret that of all the indie labels, Warp is definitely one of the bigger ones, so this sentiment was partially justified. Though instead of simplifying their sound and mass producing a smooth indie-electronic-jazz album, many were surprised to hear the vocals sequenced, looped, and pitch shifted, just like every other instrument. In fact, it was to such a degree that those “lyrics” were nearly impossible to distinguish past their unique timbre, interesting musical tone, and striking addition to the rhythm.
As time passed, Battles continued to experiment with their sound. 2011’s release of Gloss Drop, found the band writing songs for guest vocalists such as Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead and Gary Numan to sing after Braxton’s sudden departure to pursue his own solo career. This left the band to rewrite an entire album in about four months, which isn’t very much time at all, especially when you’re on a label as big as Warp Records. Although it definitely wasn’t a “bad” album, it’s logical to say this wasn’t as strong as their debut on Warp. After finishing the tour for Gloss Drop, it’s obvious from what wound up becoming La Di Da Di that they’re done worrying about vocals for now and just want write from their roots. As such, there are no vocals on the album, and it’s certainly not worse for it. Instead we get a stripped down, still layered form of Battles. Their loops are dead on — to the point where its seldom possible to determine where they start and stop. Let’s be honest, every musician who’s used loops desires a similar final product. This is because part of the magic in music is that certain mystery of unpredictability mixed with its presentation. One could play the most technical riff ever, but if it’s not presented with that magic, negative judgments are quick to be spoken.
La Di Da Di sits at a comfortable length of around 50 minutes with 12 tracks. Each song sounds great on their own, but also sit well next to each other, none sounding out of place. As the opening line to this article states, the music sounds like Battles. It’s Mirrored but eight years later, minus vocals. To say this is my favorite Battles release so far would be misrepresenting their previous material as, “Not as good.” But that would be like saying that Dave Grohl was a better musician when he was in Nirvana. It’s a possible consensus to come to, but it’s discounting a lot of material and his entire progression as an artist. Similarly, this Battles is a natural progression for the band. Is it a qualitatively better album? I’m not sure. Though it’s obvious these 40 year-olds continue to learn more as time goes on. Which is a bit more than some other bands consistently attempt to accomplish in the rat race that has become, yet has always been, the “music industry”. This material is probably even better live, so if you have the chance to check them out, do it. Always support live music. Even in a library.