Music Reviews
Gloss Drop

Battles Gloss Drop

(Warp) Rating - 8/10

Nobody could have quite predicted the impact Mirrored, Battles’ full-length debut, would make. Rarely has such an unusual record managed to do quite so well. It was weird, yet accessible; strange yet instantly captivating. It ticked boxes for people well-accustomed with the pursuit of ‘something different’, and for those making their first forays into the avant-garde. And it’s this that has made it one of the most enduring albums of recent years.

That album’s centrepiece, Atlas, was undoubtedly their ace in the pack. Even if you don’t think you’ve heard it, you quite possibly have: Sony snapped it up for the PS3 game LittleBigPlanet, Honda used a remixed version for one of its advertising campaigns, and it has appeared on numerous UK TV idents. That such a far-out track could have such a far-reaching impact was a testament to Battles’ ingenuity.

But that track - and much of the album in general - centred around the twisted vocal warpery of Tyondai Braxton. His departure before the recording of Gloss Drop means it’s back to basics (in relative terms) for Battles: this album sounds in many ways a lot more like their early instrumental EPs than a progression of the sounds on Mirrored. Only four of the twelve tracks here feature vocals - two of which are more or less nonsensical - giving the album an altogether different dynamic to its predecessor.

Like those early EPs, Gloss Drop relies more heavily on complex rhythms and wonky melodies to get its point across. Ice Cream - surely the album’s ‘Atlas’ moment, and a real highlight - presumably derives its name from its melody, which sounds like a huge party with an ice cream van for a sound system. Africastle introduces the album in a similar way to Mirrored’s Race In, with brooding swells of guitar giving way to frantic percussion and cartoonish synths. And the thick, snarling synth line in Rolls Bayce sounds like a buzzsaw set to music.

So this is a pretty good album, then, but it is missing something. Done right, instrumental music can be deeply affecting, but it can also lack that human connection. Tyondai Braxton’s vocals were the final piece in the puzzle on Mirrored, and it’s no coincidence that the tracks with vocals on Gloss Drop are usually the most engaging. But as another demonstration of just what can be achieved by a few guys with a plethora of musical gadgetry at their disposal, this is a pretty solid effort.