Battles: Gloss Drop (Warp) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Gloss Drop


Jun 06, 2011 #36 - Music vs. Comedy Bookmark and Share

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The cover art to Battles' second album, Gloss Drop, is quite strange, even considering the type of music this avant-garde/experimental rock band has assembled in its short history together. A mountain of pink, melting silly string is shot in hyper close-up. At first, it just seems like a pisstake, but once the listening begins, the photograph's deflated playfulness sets in as a visual premonition.   

Opening track, "Africastle," is an olive branch for ardent fans of Mirrored that miss such tracks as "Atlas." Every percussive and guitar element charges forward here and the song has an exacting flair. The single "Ice Cream," featuring Matias Aguayo, also outstrips that preposterous cover art.

Battles recently confronted a noteworthy sea change after de facto frontman Tyondai Braxton left to pursue his own musical adventures during the mixing stage of the album. Some may argue that Battles is a machine with no need for a central processing unit; however, a machine won't work properly without its necessary parts. Braxton was an indispensable cog. Drummer John Stanier (Helmet) and guitarists Ian Williams (Don Caballero) and Dave Konopka (Lynx) soldiered on and somehow unwound all of his contributions.

The album's other vocal contributions are nominal at worst and inventive at best: Gary Numan gives a nimble performance during the tribal and dark synth rock of "My Machines" and Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino lends the dance-punk tune "Sweetie & Shag" a sense of bearing when it veers off. "Futura" and "Inchworm" are boilerplate Battles tunes, and that's not a bad thing. The band gets inventive on the perfectly titled "Dominican Fade." The track retains an airy texture that Tropicália fans will adore. Battles should have explored this aesthetic more.

The album's back-half kicks into a lower, more methodical gear with "Rolls Bayce" and "White Electric." The kinetic, mechanical leanings make it sound as if the band is playing inside a clangorous factory. Unfortunately, the final track, "Sundome," is a plodding sci-fi reggae freak-out from The Boredoms' tribal spiritualist, Yamantaka Eye. It just doesn't work. Nevertheless, props should be given to a massively talented band that can change direction so quickly. Despite its problems, Gloss Drop is a mild accomplishment. (

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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