By Josh Herwitt //
When I first heard Battles in 2011 following the release of their second studio album Gloss Drop, there was something about the band that immediately caught my ear.
Maybe it was the odd time signatures that Ian Williams (guitar, keyboards), Dave Konopka (guitar, bass, effects) and John Stanier (drums) were dialing up, or maybe it was the unique looping techniques that the New York City experimental trio has long used (popular music software company Ableton, in fact, released an in-depth documentary earlier this year that details the band’s writing/recording process and its affinity for repetition through looping). Or, maybe it was just the fact that the band worked with some rather noteworthy names while recording Gloss Drop, including electronic music pioneer Gary Numan on “My Machines” and Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead fame on “Sweetie & Shag”.
Now four years later, and Battles are back with their third full-length studio effort, though this time it comes without any special guests singing on it. If anything, the all-instrumental La Di Da Di proves fairly well that Williams, Konopka and Stanier don’t need any assistance — vocal or not — when it comes to creating songs that bend, twist and loop (no pun intended) like a state-of-the-art roller coaster. Powered by lead single “The Yabba”, which clocks in at almost seven minutes to open the 12-track LP, La Di Da Di is arguably the group’s most polished work to date — and that’s quite impressive considering the critical acclaim that Gloss Drop received when it came out.
Returning to LA less than two months after performing at this year’s FYF Fest (read our review of the band’s performance here), Battles played a rather early headlining set at The Regent Theater, taking the stage by 8:15 p.m. on a Saturday night. Konopka was the first to arrive on stage, followed by Williams, with Stanier the last to show his face. But when he did, quietly slipping behind his three-piece, canary yellow Tama drum kit, the former Helmet drummer, who is known for elevating his Zildjian K ride cymbal as high as it will go when performing with Battles, received a rousing applause from the audience. Stanier, after all, is one of rock’s most versatile drummers, playing with the power of the late John Bonham and the finesse of Billy Cobham. And in many ways, at the age of 47, he’s already a drumming legend in his own right, paving the way for many other young rock drummers today with his attention to detail.
If their setlist at The Regent was any indication, Battles are clearly focused on performing their newest material for their fans. Six of the 10 songs they played were from La Di Da Di and only one was from their debut record Mirrored (it was single “Atlas” to no surprise), though it was refreshing to see them open their encore with Seattle hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces’ remix of “White Electric” before transitioning into the original cut off Gloss Drop. It was a small sign that even after more than a decade together, Battles are still pushing themselves sonically and creatively, whether it’s in the studio or in front of live audience. And if you happen to be a fan of theirs, that’s all you can really hope for.
White Electric (Shabazz Palaces Remix snippet)