There was very little cause for excitement in the lead up to the (some might say) unexpected second Battles album Gloss Drop. Firstly, Battles have been touring and playing the same stuff for what felt like the decade since their first album Mirrored came out, with little hint of new material in the several times this reviewer had seen them play during this time. Then there was the odd decision to have a track on one of those 'hormonal-teenage-vampires-in-love' movies that the girls seem to like so much, potentially alienating long-time fans and pissing a bunch of kids off when they discover that the vampire movie song was not so much like anything else they had ever committed to record. The feeling of hopelessness was then compounded with multi-instrumentalist singing dude Tyondai Braxton abruptly quitting the band at the beginning of recording a new album, and it just seemed a foregone conclusion that perhaps Battles was past it. Happily, Gloss Drop proves that this despair was wholly unwarranted.
Firstly though, what is up with Braxton quitting anyway? Some kind of scenario must have played at some point out where he was all 'hay dudes, let's record an album,' then a couple of days in to it he is all 'well dudes, I cant be fucked doing this, think I am going to quit now. Bye!' Why then? And why quit at all? I mean, that solo album he did was a bit thin on interest and frankly just reminded us all how awesome new material from Battles could be (if they ever got around to making any), so this was a chance for him to fully redeem himself.
Anyway, fuck that guy. What Battles have put together on their new album Gloss Drop is a highly imaginative / strange / mind-melting / interesting piece of curiosity, with awesome cover artwork and great billboards(!) along with it. When you first have a listen, there is a huge element of 'how the fuck did they do this?', and it seems impossible that any kind of reproduction in a live setting would be possible given the huge brain-frying complexity of it—at times the music sounding like it is being ad-libbed, while elsewhere sounding as if several years planning had gone into making a particular 10 second sequence of sound.
The first single "Ice Cream," sounds unlike anything Battles have done before, and is rather jarring if you came in expecting something like a hypothetical Mirrored II. Vocals are provided by Chilean disco dude Matias Aguayo and completely forgo the pitched-shifted and heavily modulated (and sometimes mostly annoying) style that so framed Mirrored, resulting in an unexpected weird kind of poppy sing-along that for some reason has been described widely as a 'summer jam'.
The track "Sundome" has an odd almost Christmas / reggae sound, supported by a crunching organ sound that defies this writers descriptive abilities. The lyrics on this track are provided by Yamantaka Eye of the legendary Japanese noise merchants Boredoms, and sound something like a Native American chant for the first 3 minutes++, before the drums kick in and the beat gets all sexual and the vocals become progressively menacing. Gary Newman guests on "My Machines" and it all sounds very… Gary Newman-ish. Rounding out the guest spots is Kazu Makino of Blond Redhead on "Sweetie & Shag," which, along with the delicately delivered "Toddler," is amongst the lighter moments on the album.
Other instrumental tracks such as the dark "Futura," the frantic "Wall Street" and the jaunty "Inchworm" showcase the technical abilities of Battles in a variety of scenarios—e.g. being dark, frantic and / or jaunty. Anyway, forget this review, I have nothing interesting to say other than Gloss Drop is really, really good, doesn't sound much like anything else, and you should listen to it and perhaps send Battles some of your money.
- Ice Cream
- Wall Street
- Ice Cream
- Wall Street
- My Machines
- Dominican Fade
- Sweetie & Shag
- Rolls Bayce
- White Electric