Battles – Gloss Drop (Warp Records)

June 30, 2011 by  

Gloss Drop is the second full-length outing from experimental New York based rock group Battles following on from their excellent debut Mirrored. Unfortunately they fail to mirror the success of the former with comparisons to their debut being few and far between.

As far as album openers go, Africastle is a strange choice. A weak start by any standard. It fails to claim any sort of hold over the listener. Lightyears away from the form of Mirrored, this is Battles as a passive medium, like listening to the radio when you are not really listening. The track is tame at best and teases that it may explode towards the end but in reality the fuze is far from igniting. The technically assured presentation and recognisable formula will please Battles fans but it is missing a certain something.

Then we have Ice Cream. Opening with a mangled guitar riff, followed by clings, clangs, moans, groans, shimmers, bips, bops and fabulous effects-laden vocals most representative of the pop sensibilities of the Braxton lead Battles. It comes the closest to emulating the glory of the ingenious and massively creative Atlas and demonstrates that Battles do still have that special spark even if they are having a little trouble finding it on their latest release.

Minus vocalist/guitarist/etc.Tyondai Braxton after he left to pursue his solo work Battles appear as a much different outfit. Although predominantly an instrumental ensemble, without the presence of Braxton, Battles have lost their human edge. Despite being technically impressive and performing their music well, they find themselves falling short.

The guest vocalists in the form of Matias Aguayo, Gary Numan, the distinctive Kazu Makino and Yamantaka Eye are undoubtedly the glue that holds the album together, providing the vital spark that the other tracks are sadly lacking.

However, even with this significant boost something still seems to be missing. Makino?s vocals on Sweetie & Shag make the song her own, to the point where it sounds more like a re-hash of a Blonde Redhead song than a battles original.

My Machines featuring Gary Numan starts well, bursting into life and quickly sinking its teeth into jugular of Gloss Drop. The darker, mysterious quality is refreshing but it is ruined by a terrible techno jingle. This failure to spot the potential that would provide the key to creating an album that is as interesting as it is technical is a defining characteristic of Gloss Drop.

Gloss drop is not a progression of the genre mashing Mirrored. It is more of a less than scenic detour from the original as a vital part of the Battles machine comes loose. Unfortunately it appears to be the steering wheel as the New Yorkers push forward with a serious lack of direction.