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Battles – Gloss Drop (Warp)

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Battles - Gloss Drop

by Princess Stomper

Mirrored had some very fine tracks – the famous LittleBigPlanet theme ‘Atlas’ and the dreamy ‘Tonto’ – but it had its weak spots.  Gloss Drop is an altogether more accomplished affair: strong, confident songs – yes, songs! – because this time Battles have brought some friends.

Gloss Drop is still wilfully difficult, tinged with math-rock or post-rock or any of those other buzzwords critics throw out when frankly they don’t have a clue what’s going on. It’s also wilfully poppy – stridently and unapologetically accessible. It has an eclectic exoticness to it – ‘Africastle’ might have it in the name, but there’s something ancient and tribal about all of the rhythms here. It’s the sort of album to throw in bongos in a way that doesn’t make you want to punch a hippie in the face. Battles don’t normally bother with vocals – or at least not with discernible lyrics. Mirrored had vocal samples of indistinguishable noise, but it wasn’t anything you could sing along to. This time around, guest vocalists Matias Aguayo, Gary Numan, Kazu Makino and Yamantaka Eye turn these trippy instrumentals into proper songs with words and stuff. It’s still predominantly vocal-less, but it’s certainly not background music. Each track is intricately layered, dense, arresting and a pleasure to hear.

This has the immediacy of mid-90s Chemical Brothers at their best but is a thousand times more sophisticated. Not in a chin-stroking hipster sense, but in the sense that Battles really know how to write music very well. Gloss Drop owns Mirrored in every possible way – if the previous album showed that they had potential, this is how Battles start to realise it. It’s louder, harder, heavier and more insistent, but in an exuberant rather than aggressive way.

‘My Machines’ is the best thing Gary Numan has done since ‘Cars’. It’s the sort of music he probably set out to make in recent years, but wound up instead with fairly standard sub-NIN dross. This has the the movie-climax epicness those distinctive vocals deserve: vital, portentous, dramatic and quite brilliant. It’s a song that begs to be repeated the moment it fades out.

(continues overleaf)

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