La Di Da Di

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Battles' John Stanier, Ian Williams, and Dave Konopka always sound psyched to play together, but never more so than on their first entirely instrumental album, La Di Da Di. While vocals -- first provided by Tyondai Braxton on their early work and by a host of collaborators on 2011's Gloss Drop -- might have seemed necessary to humanize their experimentation, they're not missed on the band's third full-length. If anything, removing them gives the trio's ideas to generate sparks the way they did on Mirrored (particularly on "Tricentennial," which recalls the mischievous alien anthems of their debut) while keeping Gloss Drop's immediacy. Battles' mix of muscular drums and riffs and heady melodies and electronics has never sounded so liberated, whether on "The Yabba," a thrilling seven-minute excursion that sounds more like seven one-minute songs strung together, or on the relatively serene "Luu Le," which uses the same amount of time to close the album with a sun-dappled suite. Here and throughout La Di Da Di, the band sounds mercurial but not chaotic, with an interplay that ebbs and flows like creativity itself. Indeed, there's a uniquely rubbery quality to these tracks, a built-in bounce that suggests Battles recorded them while jumping on trampolines. As vivid as La Di Da Di's sound paintings are, the album feels more consistent than Gloss Drop, where the vocal cameos made the band sound like a different act on each track. Here, they employ a few recurring motifs -- sleigh bells, distorted synths, power chords that lunge and swell like a string section -- that underscore how well they straddle the line between rock and electronic music. While Williams and Konopka's guitars get plenty of use, the way Battles riff on sounds and ideas until they become something new on La Di Da Di has more in common with Matmos or Oneohtrix Point Never. Deep within "Dot Com"'s weirdly chipper fusion of synth arpeggios and arena-sized riffs lies the mutated DNA of the Who's "Baba O'Reilly," while "FF Bada"'s fanfares and twangy guitars reconfigure surf rock and spaghetti Western themes and "Summer Simmer" lets its roiling funk boil over into a hectic call and response between the guitars and synths. As Battles evolve, they remain true to their unique mix of brains and brawn, and La Di Da Di just might be their most engaging music yet.

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