La Di Da Di
Sep 14, 2015 Issue #54 - August/September 2015 - CHVRCHES
Battles' debut Mirrored is still one of the most notable albums of the last several years. It managed to present a wholly weird sound—experimental rock built not on electronics, but filtered through them in a visceral and unique way—and somehow masquerade it as pop music. A lot of the band's appeal was due to the strange-as-hell filtered vocals by Tyondai Braxton. When Braxton left the band a couple years after the release of Mirrored, the core trio of Ian Williams, David Konopka, and drummer John Stanier (Battles' true secret weapon) forged on. 2011's Gloss Drop was an intermittently successful follow-up, maintaining jammy rock weirdness and keeping some pop appeal by way of guest vocal appearances.
Four years after that album, La Di Da Di is evidence that Battles are still going strong. It is made up almost entirely of that jammy rock weirdness and it excises all semblance of pop, and it's probably the closest we've ever come to understanding the way Battles works. For the first time, they've started to sound like a real trio; the 12 tracks have a consistent keyboard/guitar/drums sound and as a whole, it's almost minimal in comparison to the first two albums. It also means Battles sounds the most like a rock band here than ever before. That is mostly due to Stanier's drumming; the dude is an otherworldly being, and he plays with so much force it's a wonder his drum heads stay intact for very long. Tracks like "Dot Net" and "Summer Simmer" are dependent on his propulsive power.
It's always refreshing when Battles pop up, because they approach experimentation and abstraction with an attitude and gusto rare in the genre. But without Braxton (who has established his own solo career as a sort of IDM-classical composer; this year's HIVE1 is pretty and interesting), the group can only hint at the brilliance of Mirrored. The beguiling and unique pop element he brought to the table left with him, and Battles haven't quite figured out how to replace it. La Di Da Di is an energetic step in the right direction. (www.bttls.com)
Author rating: 6/10
Average reader rating: 6/10
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