June 17, 2011

Battles - Gloss Drop

Many people consider Battles to be solely the experimental rhythmic noodlings of American composer Tyondai Braxton. Having trained under the experimental genre's elite (Glenn Branca, Steve Reich and father Anthony Braxton), the then four-piece's first full length Mirrored received widespread critical acclaim for it's glistening tones and it's unfathomable rhythmic changes. So when Tyondai left the band back in August 2010 as they geared up for this sophomore release, expectations sadly dropped. Yet wrongly so, as Gloss Drop pinches from Mirrored whilst reappearing with an all new collection of sounds.

One thing that should be said about Gloss Drop is that it is one of the funner albums that you are likely to hear this year. A pristine example would be the funky single Ice Cream which features Matias Aguayo, whose voice is manipulated almost as an extra instrument, full of rhythmic delays and slotted perfectly between playful beats of pure madness.

This record is entirely focused on creating playful, rhythmic music, and the production is a fine reflection of that. The low ends thump and the high ends are very snappy. The overall production is clean and crisp, with some really captivating panning enhancing the duelling guitar riffs in particular, but additionally the synthesisers and thoroughly competent drum work.

One of the standout tracks that Battles have really mastered on this thing is Wall Street. It is one of the craziest, danceable tracks that I have heard, umm, ever! It's that high octane pulse that for me sums up what Battles were trying to achieve with this album, and it's of great regard to drummer John Stanier that he can hold together such an intricate sense of rhythm on a track of this pace.

The vocal contributions on this album are also hugely welcome, with Gary Numan's performance on My Machines allowing a much greater sense of depth to that particular track.

Really the only reason that this effort does not score higher for me is that there is no respite at all. The record is full throttle from start to finish, and by the end your brain is slightly frazzled. A slight break in the chain may have done this album some good, but there will be people that believe that stifling this record's momentum would have killed it all together. Bottom line, it's safe to say that in the face of adversity, Battles really stepped up and delivered an extremely polished sophomore, which is no mean feat, even with Tyondai Braxton on board.
Out 06/06/2011
Stuart Thornton

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