Battles, Dead Rider | Metro | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Grant Cornett

When: Fri., Oct. 2, 9 p.m. 2015
For their 2011 album Gloss Drop, New York band Battles jerry-rigged a solution to the loss of founding member and vocalist Tyondai Braxton by enlisting a variety of guest singers. But the group had always been more like an instrumental combo, with Braxton’s voice essentially functioning as another instrument, and judging from the new La Di Da Di (Warp) they seem to have realized that they don’t need a vocalist at all. Propelled by the giant, punishing beats of John Stanier, the trio have crafted their most simultaneously forceful and playful effort, where proggy flourishes dissolve into DayGlo dance grooves. The band’s de facto leader, Ian Williams, shifts between jagged guitar patterns that shatter like brittle plastic and electronic shapes that sound plastic. Underneath the overheated beats the music sparkles and bubbles, as though the trio—which also includes bassist Dave Konopka—have extracted the essence of African guitar pop. “Dot Yet” gurgles and spasms over rubbery, squelchy synth blobs, with Williams laying down a kind of vague funk, while “Summer Simmer” spits stuttering electronic melodies that recall Trevor Horn’s 80s production work with Yes. Every song is in a constant state of flux, with new ideas and sounds rapidly flying by. As inventive as it is, La Di Da Di also makes the combo seem predictable for the first time in their 13-year run—though they may not sound like any other band out there, they do sound quite a bit like their former selves.
— Peter Margasak
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