There’s humor behind naming your experimental rock band’s entirely instrumental album after a classic hip hop track that showcased two young men performing only with their mouths. There’s also humor behind making your album cover artwork a photograph of various breakfast foods lined up diagonally on a solid white background. The irony behind NYC band Battles’ vocal-less third album’s title and the a capella rap song of the same name is obvious. But, unless I’m overlooking something, the humor behind the cover photograph of La Di Da Di is a bit more cryptic. Perhaps the food is meant to symbolize the fuel that runs the men who run the machines that create the sounds that make up the record? Or maybe these guys just love breakfast. Regardless, one look at La Di Da Di and a quick perusal of the album’s song titles, “Dot Net”, “Dot Com”, “Megatouch” to name a few, and you know right away you’re in for something refreshingly different.
Bubbling and chaotic synths, overmodulated and effects-laden guitars, and raw, stripped-down drumming that would make Steve Albini cry are the core instruments that make up La Di Da Di. Rhythms start simple, grow increasingly complex and then stop entirely before starting up again. ADD keyboards run chaotically through each song. The aforementioned “Dot Com”, with its crunchy power chords and drum fills, is the most accessible La Di Da Di gets. Other tracks, such as the tense “FF Bada”, sound like they could be used in an action movie sequence or a cinematic computer hacker montage. The song “Non-Violence” seesaws back and forth between dramatic, staccato strings and a playful synth. “Summer Simmer” starts friendly before turning angry and strained. Monstrous sounds crash in, threatening to destroy the party until the song settles on a groove, relaxing for a cool minute prior to finishing. La Di Da Di is bookended by two, seven minutes songs, but don’t let that make you think there’s any sort of neatly packaged musical symmetry happening. “The Yabba” and “Luu Le”, the record’s opening and closing songs, are as different sounding from one another as can be.
The most amazing thing about bands like Battles is that three otherwise unrelated individuals somehow found each other and agreed to make this idiosyncratic and esoteric music. The fact that they’ve been doing it for over ten years is, to say the least, impressive. La Di Da Di isn’t for everyone. However, if you’ve got a sense of musical adventure and a sense of humor, I’m betting you’ll find something to love here.