Battles are back! The second record produced by their trio format, La Di Da Di is as bright, as colourful, and as listenably complex as ever. The first track references horrifying Australian film Wake In Fright, which is a promising way to begin. CD or double gatefold LP with bonus breakfast-themed posters for the first pressings. On Warp.
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I didn’t listen to Battles for so long that by the time I finally came to them on this here review pile, they’d combusted into a prog rock band. I’m told by our reverent weird rock fans that this band have faced their fair share of logistical headaches through the years, with Tyondai “Pplwontbeppl” Braxton’s departure leading the band to become exponentially more instrumental on ‘Gloss Drop’, wherein glosses were dropped. On ‘La Di Da Di’, also known as ‘Pretense Drop’, they give up on being anything but a bunch of art-rock jam kids, and it sounds very good: actually, it sounds like Tortoise. Also Yes, a bit? Don’t you need a permit for this kinda thing?
Okay, let me be clear: I think it sounds like that moment where Tortoise submerged into being Yes-likers. Being the only silly post-rock band to ever exist, it’s clear to me that they discovered prog-rock, which feels much like what Battles have done here: the keyboards are knowingly silly, ambling between squeaks, farts and perennially underachieving melodies. The rhythm section still think they’re in a math rock band, sneaking their notes and snares in like the playing card guards from Alice in Wonderland; the guitars, meanwhile, amble between whatever suits them, playing tightly-wound math a la Dustin Wong before working in the kind of prog exercises Vangelis might play on a different instrument altogether.
Battles have made the kind of record here that both feels exciting and exhibitionist: the builds on certain songs feel like unbelievable reaches, where the band have no more mountain to scale (chief among them “Summer Simmer”, that keeps adding extra riffs and calibrating a tauter climax through its few minutes runtime), and much of the record’s rigid discipline betrays a secret danceability. It’s safe to say the fun wins out, and when it comes to instrumental math albums, it’s nice to see there’s a band looking back at the crowd -- hands raised -- wondering if we are not entertained.
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