When it comes to Battles, the question on everyone’s mind is whether or not losing their innovative frontman, Tyondai Braxton, to a solo career will have an irreparably damaging effect. It’s been four long years since the release of their 2007 epic debut Mirrored- and any hype Gloss Drop carries with it has been built primarily on the undeniable strength of this album and how the band will respond sans Braxton. An audacious hybrid of explosive post-rock and sonic texture, Mirrored was a daring, exciting experiment, largely successful due to their frontman’s role as central tether.
The good news is that Gloss Drop is it’s own dynamic affair with several tracks far superior to anything on Mirrored. Beginning with “Africastle”, the listener is in familiar territory. All of Battles’ signifiers are well-represented- the tight, driving rhythms, the foreboding atmosphere, the playful time signatures. The first half of the album is highlighted by “Futura”; a relentless force of a track that insists upon itself in the best possible way for over six minutes. Gloss Drop is endlessly provocative in the ambitious sense- yet it also retains the user-friendly comfort that Battles fans will relish. It is admittedly an odd combination that the band pulls off quite well. The bad news, however, and it’s only slightly bad, is that Braxton’s absence can be sorely felt in sporadic places- most notably, the album’s second half. As the various guest vocalists pile up (and they are remarkably varied- Gary Numan, Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino, Boredom’s Yamantaka Eye among others), there are moments where it seems Gloss Drop may have worked better as an EP. Subtle hints- especially on the albums midsection- indicate the band is scrambling to bulk up the material. But if Battles occasionally spins their wheels, they regroup with album closer “Sundome”- a roundhouse kick of a tune that infuses calypso influence and tribal sounds with the customarily dynamic percussion and chord progression all garnished with a tasteful, electronic flourish. It is one of the best songs they have ever done and a powerful reminder that, while Braxton may be irreplaceable, so is the entity that is Battles.
Battles - Gloss Drop (2011) by daftdreamy