Battles: Gloss Drop
The critical success of Battles’ debut album Mirrored is often placed at the feet of ex-front man Tyondai Braxton. His heavily modulated vocals produced their distinctive aesthetic: half-castrati munchkin, half-sexual predator. Braxton’s departure has had two major effects on Gloss Drop. Firstly it has provided a narrative around which all reviewers will feel obliged to structure their analysis and secondly it has allowed the band to experiment with guest vocalists.
For the most part the band have retained their effortless and intense signature sound. The main point of departure comes in the form of the album’s lighter summery moments. The first single ‘Ice-Cream’ with Matias Aguayo is an extreme example of this development, sounding reminiscent of indie-pop darlings Vampire Weekend, but other tracks such as ‘Dominican Fade’ and ‘Inchworm’ represent far more successful integrations with their past. Whilst the album’s polyrhythmic ventures into the tropical are a welcome development they sit poorly alongside material such as ‘Rolls Bayce’ and ‘My Machines’ ft. Gary Numan, a sinister industrial number which compliments much of Mirrored but sounds disconcertingly anachronistic on Gloss Drop. Much of the material compares favourably to songs that serve similar purposes in Battles’ back catalogue, ‘Africastle’, for example, is a superbly developed opener that draws the listener in far more effectively than ‘Race: In’ ever did and ‘Sundome’ ft. Yamantaka Eye ends the album on a bombastic note where ‘Race: Out’ only offered a fade.
However, despite its moments of brilliance the album fails to cohere effectively, it is an ambitious follow up which occasionally lacks direction and suffers as a result. This is best seen on ‘Sweetie & Shag’ ft. Kazu Makino, an upbeat number in isolation which falls flat when sandwiched between two short but highly memorable tracks. Battles genius is evident on ‘Gloss Drop’ but in order to produce another masterpiece the thread of Braxton will need to be replaced by something far stronger.