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Battles - Gloss Drop CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.70 | 73 ratings

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4 stars Battles Loses Their Leader, Broadens Their Sound

Battles' MIRRORED is one of my favorite albums in the math rock universe, and GLASS DROP was one of my most anticipated albums of 2011. As the advance press began to come in, I learned that lead singer Tyondai Braxton had moved on. His aggressively effected and quirky vocals had been a defining feature of the debut, so most fans have been understandably nervous about the result. Many listens into this new album, and I still have mixed feelings. Rather than replacing Braxton, the band has mixed instrumental tracks with guest lead vocals. While prog boasts a number of bands who have tried this approach, it never completely works. Here, the band has diversified their sound while keeping their roots intact. The result is an interesting sampling of music, but nothing as exhilirating as their previous effort.

The opener "Africastle" begins with a throbbing, ominous tone almost reminiscent of Pink Floyd. Playfully, one of the characteristic Battles key tones comes in playing small melodic snippets. Eventually the song progresses into a more band-typical bounce with intertwining bass, guitar, and key lines. This is to be the pattern for the album, with a subdued version of the sound established on MIRRORED weaving in and out of explorations into at time pop, psychedelic, and even classical ideas. The variation keeps the album moving, and I never find myself getting bored. The vocal songs seem designed for their respective guest vocalists and contrast most strongly from the debut sound. The lead single "Ice Cream" is the most poppy of the album, and features a new key sound that I believe split the fan base when the track was released.

Despite the new explorations, there is definitely a loss in energy on this album. "Futura" dogs along, building slowly with no discrenable lead element or melody. While nicely layered, the song is blaringly missing the lead singer. Several of the instrumentals fall in this line, featuring a combined math / carnival sound with much less nervous energy. "Wall Street" approaches previous hyperness, and thereby eclipses previous tracks. "My Machines" features early 80's techno pioneer Gary Numan and a repetitive distorted guitar line that adds another sound. The final song features Yamantaka Eye who has been featured in noise projects including the sadistic "Leng Tche." The band again seems to molding to his influence and the result is one of the more interesting on the album, with what sounds like whalesong backing bouncy piano and almost tribal vocalizations.

Overall, I appreciate that the band continued after Braxton's loss, and that they chose to branch out. This album is a good addition to the catalog. While MIRRORED was a 4.5 I rounded down because it just missed masterpiece, GLASS DROP is a 3.5 I'm rounding up for adventure.

Negoba | 4/5 |


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