Battles – ‘La Di Da Di’

Battles return minus the vocals, but with just as much infectious oddness as ever

[a]Battles[/a]’ last album, 2011’s ‘Gloss Drop’, was a masterclass in pop-tastic playfulness. After former singer Tyondai Braxton quit to pursue his solo career halfway through recording, the experimental New York three-piece bounced back by roping in pals like Gary Numan and Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino to sing on a bunch of infectious-but-bloody-weird bangers.

This time round though, it’s a slightly bumpier playing field. Third album ‘La Di Da Di’ is comprised of 12 entirely instrumental tracks that feel less like stand-alone songs and more like strange sonic experiments cooked up in a lab. There are fewer pop hooks to grab hold of, and no guest singers to take you by the hand. Titles like ‘Flora > Fauna’, ‘Dot Com’ and ‘FF Bada’ are odd too, even for Battles.

And yet being dunked in the deep-end of this weird, glitchy world can be just as much fun as ‘Gloss Drop’. From the stuttering rhythms of opener ‘The Yabba’ to the bitty squiggles of ‘Dot Net’, the record is as insistent as it is infectious. And crucially, for all the technical wizardry, the menacing squelches of ‘Summer Simmer’, the wonky techno stomp of ‘Tricentennial’ and the cosmic fairground wonder of ‘Luu Le’ – which features the sound of a helicopter – all twitch with human warmth. They may be trickier playmates than before, but Battles’ game is far from over.