Remember, back in the ‘sixties, how AM rock ‘n’ roll stations such as New York’s legendary WABC used to play instrumentals by Duane Eddy, the Ventures, Sandy Nelson, et al., at the end of the hour, then fade them out to hit the timepost for the hourly newscasts? Heck, do you remember hourly newscasts? (An aside: I can remember the predictions of massive listener protests when we decided to drop hourly newscasts from NEPR’s classical shows a few years back, only to hear nary a peep. Then again, radio in the twenty-aughts was a totally different medium from radio in the ‘sixties.)
Something of the twangy, thumping, hard-rockin’ spirit of those classic instrumental artists lives on in the music of the trio called Battles, especially since guitarist, keyboardist, composer and vocalist Tyondai Braxton (check out his fabulous album “Central Market“) left the group in 2010. Now pared down to guitar, bass and drums, Battles specializes in the ultra-precise, rhythmically-intricate sub-genre dubbed “math rock” — another day, another rock sub-genre — which it plays with great energy and skill. There’s nary a note of improvisation on their new album, “La Di Da Di,” but there is constant invention that always leaves you guessing, then delighted with the results. Imagine three race cars hurtling around a track, all the while creating fascinating, ever-changing patterns, and you get the idea — except, I hope, while driving. Fasten your seatbelt and give it a spin.