Review : Battles - Gloss Drop
PopmattersThe cover of Battle’s 2007 debut album Mirrored pretty much summed up the point of the band for me. Enclosed in a lighted room with mirrors on the floors was a bevy of musical instruments and equipment: drums, keyboards, guitars, amplifiers. It would seem like an apt choice of cover art for a band that was largely instrumental, and tended to use gibberish voices in a highly processed, sped-up manner, making them an instrument in and of themselves. It would thus seem that you can sometimes judge a band by its cover.
I’ll be bluntly honest, though. At first, I didn’t really get the point of Battles and why they were being lauded to high heavens around the web. I picked up the record (literally, I snagged a vinyl copy) a year after it had been released after hearing a few cuts off it that I had downloaded, and I guess I did so primarily because this seemed to be a group worth figuring out, though any reference to their sound initially was beyond my reach and baffled me. However, at some point in my musical journeys, I discovered prog rock that existed outside of Canada’s Rush, as I began buying up used vinyl copies of albums by Yes, early Genesis, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer to further my own musical education, and then everything seemed to click into place. In a sense, Battles is the double-aughts version of a progressive rock band, featuring virtuoso musicianship pretty much unheard of in indie rock circles. All that was missing were lyrics about gnomes and fairies and the ilk. Battles was a band that was looking backward as much as they were looking forward, and it all began to make a heck of a lot more sense to me under that reflective prism.
That brings us to the sophomore album, and, yes, I had to wonder where Battles would go from Mirrored. That record captured a particular style of post rock-cum-prog, and my fear was that there would be a temptation to repeat the formula and do the same thing twice. Happily, with Gloss Drop, this is not really the case, although the driving musicianship and some of the trademark whimsy of Mirrored does still shine on through. Gloss Drop is not merely a sequel to Mirrored, but is an album in its own right, one that incorporates world music into the mix on a somewhat prominent basis, and one that sees the band move more in a pop-oriented direction....full text
GuardianBattles are an experimental rock band who treat the studio as a playground rather than a laboratory. Their 2007 debut, Mirrored, combined virtuoso precision with disorientating humour, with singer Tyondai Braxton warping his voice until he resembled an avant-garde cartoon character. But Braxton has since left, and Gloss Drop's guest vocalists take us on a bumpier ride. Chile's Matias Aguayo does bring a goofy energy to Ice Cream's Venusian summer jam, but Gary Numan helps make My Machines a bombastic drag. The instrumentals are equally variable. Africastle shifts thrillingly between electronic mood music and brawny riffs, and Futura is tense, cinematic funk-rock, each element locking into place like a cog in some formidable machine. Elsewhere, hints of Brazilian and Trinidadian rhythms suggest a loopy robot carnival. But, unlike Mirrored, there are dry, impenetrable patches, making Gloss Drop an album that ultimately impresses more than it charms....full text
TimeoutbostonFour years have passed since Battles unleashed their hyped, heavy and forward-thinking debut, Mirrored. While the supergroupish melding of post-whatever jazz and art-metal minds led to playfully inventive results, the quartet wasn’t immune to an old-fashioned clashing of egos. Multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton, seemingly the creative engine (not to mention the vocalist), left the band to concentrate on his solo career in 2010. What sort of beast would Battles be with its right brain and tongue torn away?
Surprisingly, a somewhat quirkier one. Now functioning as a trio, Battles enlist an impressive troupe to fill the Braxton-shaped hole on their sophomore album. Synth-pop icon Gary Numan, Blonde Redhead singer Kazu Makino, Chilean disco dweller Matias Aguayo and wildcard Yamantaka Eye of Japanese noiseniks Boredoms all lend their lungs to this intriguing follow-up. Braxton’s influence remains in the whimsical mood and heavily processed, synthy guitar sounds, especially on instrumentals like “Africastle” and “Wall Street.”
Gloss Drop is a busy bundle of energy, with a focus on Afro-Cuban rhythms and dark, muscular undertones. As guitarists Ian Williams and Dave Konopka squeeze cartoon birdsong, xylophone mimicry and carnival reels from their instruments, erstwhile Helmet drummer John Stanier attacks his kit in typically brutal and exhausting fashion....full text
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