While I use this blog as a motivator to listen to more varied music, I still worry about my tastes being too mainstream and bland. I make myself listen to different genres and styles, but at the end of the day, the vast majority of music I listen to is pretty straight forward. 4/4 time signatures, verse-chorus-verse type stuff. As much as I try to appreciate more experimental music, I generally revert back to my comfort zone at the end of any experimental flirtations. But there’s one band who is nothing but experimentation that I can’t get enough of.
Battles are all weird time signatures, trippy loops that take you down ever increasingly bizarre rabbit holes, and letting songs go in whatever trippy direction feels right, or more accurately, just slightly off to stay that little bit more interesting. I was late to the Battles party, getting on board just as they released their sophomore long player, Gloss Drop. That meant I could binge two albums and two EPs all at once. It was awesome to have that much music to sink my teeth into, but it also means that those two albums and EPs have kind of merged in my memory to be one big mass of music. With their latest, La Di Da Di, I’m excited about having a Battles album that will completely stand on its own in my mind.
Opener The Yabba lets me know that this is still Battles and that the almost half decade between albums hasn’t seen them morph into something completely new or foreign. There are familiar Battles synth tones, a familiar reliance on loops, and John Stanier’s unmistakable approach to drumming.
With vocals being a rarity on Battles tracks, it means they have to work that little bit harder to keep their songs on track. Because it’s so loop heavy, there’s always gonna be a certain amount of repetitiveness. But the strength this band has always been their ability to keep a song fresh, by building and building and building and building. You might not always notice it’s happening, because it can be so gradual. But a Battles song always takes you on a trip where the end is totally different from the beginning. Which is exactly what you get on Dot Net and FF Baba.
But it’s not all loops, computers and keyboards. At the end of the day, Battles is made up of a drummer and two guitarists. So there’s still a solid rock base at the heart of a lot of La Di Da Di. A song like Dot Com has plenty of bleeps and bloops, but it also has a rocking bass guitar, chunky guitar bar cords and Stanier’s relentless drums driving it from go to whoa.
And just when I thought l knew exactly what to expect from this band and this album, they go and throw Megatouch at me. It sounds like a Battles song in a lot of ways, but it also sounds like what a Battles song would sound like if it was written to be played in a psychotic circus. Or, maybe written for a Sega Megadrive video game about a psychotic circus. It’s the weirdest, most out there track on a record built on out there weirdness. And it might be one of my favourite Battles tracks of all time.
Which is a great way to end that more than stands up to everything this band has released before. Like my impressions of the opening track, La Di Da Di is still Battles. And the almost half decade between albums hasn’t seen them morph into something completely new or foreign. But it still has a fresh vibrancy to it that makes it its own thing.