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Battles - Gloss Drop CD (album) cover




Post Rock/Math rock

3.67 | 82 ratings

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4 stars It's been four years since Battles released their massive debut "Mirrored". An album using the math rock blueprints from guitarist Ian William's previous band "Don Cabellero" .Whilst Built upon the experimental and Avant Garde foundations laid by Vocalist/guitarist Tyondai Braxton. A combination destined for commercial failure. This however was not the case.

The album received a welcoming critical reception and the band even had their songs feature on television adverts and prime time British programmes such as Skins and Top Gear. The success of Battles boils down to the ambition of the band. Which despite their polyrhythmic, experimental and lengthy songs, they never seem at any point pretentious. They know how to carefully craft their compositions' in a way that musicians and casual music fans are going to pay attention.

The album Gloss Drop sees the band make a hugely anticipated return but this time without Tyondai Braxton. This may not seem of any importance to anyone unaware of Tyondai or indeed Battles but Tyondai's presence was usually the point of focus live and in the studio. A presence lost that I'm sure at one point affected the future of Battles.

But Gloss Drop does not sound like the difficult second album. It doesn't try to repent or make up for Tyondai's departure. This is a seamlessly natural album which flows together from one track to the other whilst still incorporating all the elements from "Mirrored" and more. Ian William's technical guitar playing and use of effects is as apparent as ever with brilliant keyboard counter points to match it (see Ice Cream).Bassist Dave Konopka and Drummer John Stainer prove to be a much underrated rhythm section with strong grooves and interesting rhythmic displacements.

The most notable difference from the debut is the addition of guest vocalists Matias Aguayo,Gary Numan (Yes the Gary Numan), Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead and Boredom's Yamantaka Eye. Each features on four of the twelve tracks, each uniquely propelling their own characteristics and vocal traits whilst interestingly not leading Battles astray. Admittedly infectiously catchy "Ice Cream" featuring Matias Aguayo is probably the closest to pop Battles will probably ever come. It will be a surprise to some how optimistic and catchy the song sounds. But I find that something so catchy and yet so musically ambitious is a rare thing to come by and will certainly provide it with plenty more shelf life for future listening. Interestingly "My Machines" with Gary Numan completely opposes "Ice Cream" .It's a dark industrial song with highly layered synthesisers, electronic loops and earth shattering drums providing the perfect sound track to a robot apocalypse. Unusual for Battles "My Machines" doesn't have guitar featuring prominently in the mix and neither does it have many changes instead there is a wall of sound which builds on the repetitive drums groove and industrial bass line of which is typical for electro. Likewise Kazu Makino's track "Sweetie & Shagg" has an indie esque feel to it but strangely the track "Sundome" with Yamantaka Eye was far more accessible than I ever imagined. Anyone familiar with Eye's work knows he works with Noise and Avant Garde outfit Boredoms but instead I felt a more dub/reggae feel to his vocals something I usually wouldn't associate him with or Battles. "Dominic Fade" is a short instrumental weighing in at 1:48 and is the only reminiscence I can hear of Mirrored and such drum orientated songs such as "Leyendecker" and "Snare Hanger".

There are plenty of different influences integrated into this album which without a closer inspection could be easily missed and this one of my favourites about the album. Each song is like a different piece of a puzzle, each piece stands alone as it's own portrait yet when you put it all together you realise the overall picture is much bigger. It has the overall consistency their debut exposed, the important progression needed for the second album and an interesting future ahead.

mrcozdude | 4/5 |


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