Battles’ third album La Di Da is a curious beast. Unlike 2011’s Gloss Drop, this album doesn’t feature guest vocalists; instead the band serve up 12 instrumentals, some better than others, giving the album a disjointed feel in places. When the album works, it make sense of the decision to omit vocalists, with tracks like The Yabba and FF Bada are prime examples of Errors at their best but, a little too often, the tunes feel half finished, more ideas than full tracks themselves.
The album opens with The Yabba and it’s a brilliant start. A sprawling near six minute long track, The Yabba is at starts off as a blur of lopped electronics and beats before it adds a distorted guitar line and goes full on electro freak-out by the time it riotously draws to a close. Dot Net continues the riotous theme, swapping the guitars for crashing drums and icy synth bleeps. The strong opening continues with FF Baba, a highlight of the album, filled with pounding rhythms, almost industrial in feel and is one of Battles' finest tracks.
At this point however, the album dips. Summer Simmer is yet another mass of electronics and math rock like guitars starts week, but fails to really progress and ultimately ends with a whimper. The short Cacio E Pepe fails to reignite proceedings with synths chugging in an out and noises floating around, sounding more like an idea than anything you might call a finished track. Non-Violence is better but again, it doesn’t kick on. It starts well but soon feel more like a jam than a song and, ultimately, it overstays its welcome. After such a strong start, these tracks leave the album lacking any coherency which is a pity.
Thankfully, things improve again for the last third of the album. Dot Com begins the comeback and it’s up there with FF Baba and The Yabba as one of the best three tracks here. It retains the chaotic electronic edge of the album but adds strangely upbeat beats and sounds and is all the better for them. Tyne Wear is good and certainly helps things flow albeit that flow is slightly halted by the overly experimental Tricentennial which is another of the tracks that feels half realised at best. The superb Megatouch is a joy. It starts off like the stoned son of Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) before exploding in a flurry of industrial beats that rattle along quite wonderfully. Flora>Fauna and Luv Le then end the album in typically experimental fashion but hey both don’t match up to Megatouch sonically.
Overall, La Di Da doesn’t quite do what you hope it would. Battles are capable of some quite breathtaking, unique music and their previous high points like Atlas are nearly matched at certain points here, but, sadly there’s not enough cohesion and the album feels disjointed and at times, a little flat.