Sunday, June 12, 2011

Battles: Gloss Drop

      'Gloss Drop' is the sophomore lp from New York experimental quartet turned trio, Battles. Formed in 2002, and with their first record 'Mirrored' released in 2007 to critical acclaim, many were troubled by the group's decision to drop quite pivotal member Tyondai Braxton in 2010. Rumours flew as to whether the band would continue to work, and the release of the single 'Ice-Cream', with guest vocals from Matias Aguayo, only served to stoke the flames. Understandable fears over the quality though, are fortunately misplaced!
     Compared to that first album, this one for me, seems friendlier and more accessible, while maintaining that level of experimentation we've come to love from Battles, even through their loss of a much loved figurehead. The energy you might also expect to falter, but the group has managed to retain their heart-pumping, adrenaline fueled dance rock rollercoaster to create something fantastically easy to jump around to. Variety wise, this twelve track record is also brilliant, with the guitar always finding new ways to lace the tempo and the synthesisers and the drums together in a fusion that just works. There is simply a rebellious youthfulness to the tracks on this album that reminisces on times past, a feeling I for one am glad about. In short, this is a worthy successor to their great debut.
     The first track rumbles into play, with moody synthesisers that support video game bleeps, be it lathered in atmosphere and playfulness. The drums then burst onto the scene, carrying the tempo and changing the dance beat to fall into a different pattern, one that fluctuates in it's adventure-esque dynamics. The end is filled with chiptune beeps that hide in an almost resigned manner some ominously deep and booming notes. Now might be a good time to explain that most of this album is instrumental, with a few guest vocals making their appearance hear and there. The first single is one of these, and as such is one of my favourites. A summery guitar riff introduces grunts and snorts that sound rather... rude, shall we say, but nevertheless, they make you grin and tap along to the rhythm they create. Matias Aguayo's fun vocals also make you dance along, with words that change up in dynamics and pitch, in keeping with the album's experimental nature. An ending equally as smile-inducing as the start, this has to be one of the most fun songs I've heard all year! While on the matter, another great ending is that of the following track, 'Futura', with it's reverb heavy guitar melodies. Excellent!
     'My Machines' sounds decidedly noisier than others, with it's math rock drum beats smothered in vocals, guitars and tinkling notes, all of which merge to form a bustling sound I really enjoyed. The ending's post apocalyptic grinding is also worthy of note, I have to say. The subsequent track, 'Dominican Fade' has a  very Latin American vibe to it, with festival like drums and claps audible at the back. 'Sweetie & Shag' is, as the name suggests, a sugary track that produces the only female vocals on the album, with Kazu Makino doing the girls proud. One of the quieter tracks on the record, 'Toddler' has next to no beat at all, though with the sounds made up of synthesised piano notes that rest on a soothing base of mellow reminiscence. A song that adds more variety to an already varied album, I don't think it was needed, but was beautiful all the same.
     As we draw to the conclusion of this review, I think that pretty much every track from this selection of twelve is brilliant, so in my overview of songs, I've undoubtedly left  some outstanding ones out. The lp ends with 'Sundome', a track Jamaican in nature, which is probably due to Yamantaka Eye's noteworthy guest vocals. The ending is abrupt, leaving the listener wanting more, though after a short rest, considering the upbeat and relentlessly fun feelings the album emulates. If you like experimentation, if you like dance music, but most importantly, if you want to smile, then go ahead and try some of Battle's sophomore effort, 'Gloss Drop'.