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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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5 Responses to Battles – Gloss Drop (Warp)

  1. Tom Randall July 1, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Fuck – awesome review. The only of this album that I’ve read so far that makes me feel something about it, and I haven’t listened to the links yet.

  2. Chad Parkhill July 2, 2011 at 10:52 am

    It seems odd that you’d write a whole review about Gloss Drop that doesn’t mention the fact that Battles lost a founding member (Tyondai Braxton) during its recording, which I why the remaining members invited guests along. Also, the photo on the second page has Braxton in it, so really doesn’t work with this review.

    Still, nice to read a review of the album that doesn’t say, “It’s not as good as Mirrored, but it’s aight.”

  3. Princess Stomper July 2, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    I didn’t mention it because I didn’t know. Battles are one of those bands that my friend linked me to, I bought the debut album on the strength of that link, and didn’t bother to find out anything about them. This one comes along, and it was such a surprise that I was too carried away by excitement about the music to think about finding out about the band as people. I wrote the review while listening to it on Spotify (didn’t want to risk money on a bad buy) and then picked it up on Amazon MP3.

    I guess I should find out about the band now. Very sorry to hear about the loss of Tyondai Braxton.

  4. Princess Stomper July 2, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    LOL! I thought by “loss” you’d meant he’d died! I was surprised, even as a casual listener, if I hadn’t heard about that! Ah, so he’s apparently quite well but just left the band. Phew! hahaha

  5. sleevie nicks July 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    actually tyondai braxton is very very small, and he was lost in mcdonalds bouncy ball cage weeks ago, management at the eatery searched for him, but the line started to back up and the milkshake machine needed refilling the band finally called off the search. battles continue to carry on boring audiences even without tyondai.

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