“I don’t know… I keep coming back to the word technique…” In a pokey pizza place in Hackney, Ian Williams is failing to explain the unclassifiable sound of his band Battles’ new album – their first since 2010’s pop-tastic ‘Gloss Drop’. Ever since exploding into the big time in 2008 with otherworldly masterpiece ‘Atlas’, after a string of taut, exciting EPs, this is a band who have perplexed and perplexed. But it seems not even Battles can explain Battles.
Bassist Dave Kanopka cuts right to to the chase: “Dude, we’ve gone beyond being classifiable to even ourselves on this album. All I’ll say is that this is our next level shit.”
The Battles sound fans know and love is present and correct on ‘La Di Da Di’: that avant-dance swirl of laboratorial child’s play and wonder-inducing maximalism, the offspring of New York’s no wave’s neo-classical artists and distant relative to the gleeful millennial ‘post-indie’ of contemporaries Animal Collective. But this time, there’s a mind-bending level of technical complexity on show. Kinetic, convoluted, brilliant. With the aid of cutting edge technology, the New Yorkers have again pushed the traditional rock set up a couple of steps into the beyond. It could be described as futuristic rock music. Williams, though, sees it differently.
“Rock music has always been shaped by new technology – see the case of arena rock and massive PAs,” he explains. “It just so happens we came up in the last decade during this massive explosion in available technology. So in fact we’re a rock band of our time.”
Purged of the simplifying pop hooks of last album ‘Gloss Drop’, we’re left with only the detail on this latest full-length. It’s a taut, insistent listen but for a few ambient interludes and more spacious, laid back moments, including one melodic, grin-inducing fairground waltzer that seems a shoe-in for the album’s lead single.
Gone too are the guest vocalists of ‘Gloss Drop’: formerly the remit of the departed Tyondai Braxton, it’s an entirely instrumental album free of collaborators that feels paired down and focused. “We wanted to work with the fundamentals of what the three of us were capable of,” says drummer John Stanier.
It’s a tricky album to discuss in real-world terms, so out there and abstract are its labyrinth of sounds. Fortunately Kanopka in on hand once again to provide a bit of clarity. “In the end, there’s something intangible about what we do, but simply speaking this album stands as an excellent display of how the three of us communicate musically. How we work as an organism.”