The third album from the New York trio Battles opens with a sputtering noise: a sign that what's to come will be rife with the unexpected, whether it's the jingle bells that anchor the opening track "The Yabba" or the music-box treatments given to the guitars on the dizzying, triumphant "Cacio e Pepe." The band — Dave Konopka on bass and effects, Ian Williams on guitar and keyboards, and the storming John Stanier on drums — is one of rock's most exciting because of its inability to stay inside any stylistic box, and this vocals-free album shows it at the peak of its music-bending powers. "Dot Com" plants heady arpeggios atop finicky keyboards that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Blondie record; "Tricentennial" combines a thick riff and galloping-hordes drums with a high, tight guitar line that sounds like a caution flare. The players clearly thrill in wringing every possible sound out their instruments, making "La Di Da Di" one of the year's most satisfying trips into the sonic unknown.
ESSENTIAL "Cacio e Pepe"
Maura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.