Battles – Gloss Drop

written by: May 11, 2011
Battles Gloss Drop Album Cover Release Date: June 2011


As one of the foremost math rock groups, Battles has the ability to blow your fucking mind over and over again in live concert or on a lonely late night train ride, which is evident on Battles’ second studio release, Gloss Drop. The album from Warp Records sounds like a colliding carnival, California surf guitar, sprinkled with a little European pop and differs in many ways from Mirrored, where listeners struggled to differentiate between song ending and beginnings, even if losing themselves in the music was a listening experience most could get behind.

After losing vocalist, guitarist, and sound effect aficionado Tyondai Braxton to his solo career, some were worried Battles lost a certain flavor. It’s hard to say for certain what the band lost or gained with his departure but Battles’ first single, “Ice Cream,” sans Braxton is exciting and provides a weird tropical sound listeners haven’t heard before. Most of the lyrics are indecipherable, but no matter, it’s the sound and repetition of voice layered on other crazy shit going on that makes it pop.

Battles is a complex organization of bits and pieces of sounds that defy logic and still sound amazing together, due mostly to part genius and part good timing. “Africacastle” leads Gloss Drop with the classic eclecticism Battles has delivered since day one on EP B. It’s a sort of dancy, sort of funky, sort of organized disorder and experiment in its most organic sense with a lurking sense of terror provided by the consistent sounds of clinking metal.

What makes this amalgamation work most of the time is the variation in each song, usually pushing five to six minutes; listeners never lose interest because Battles won’t let them, as each of the members is usually playing more than one instrument at a time.

Newly performing and recording as a three-piece including guitarist/keyboardist Ian Williams, drummer John Stanier and bassist/guitarist Dave Konopka, it somehow sounds like there was a full stage behind all that uproar.

Layering multiple rhythms, plucky keyboard, plodding bass, two guitars, an eight-foot crash, sleigh bells, hand clapping, sampled steel drum, cowbell (yes, it’s true) and several guest vocalists can be exhausting, yet surprisingly accessible.

Listeners hear this on Gloss Drop as the longer tracks are broken up by short 2-3 minute interludes that kick back to early Battles. Williams slams the keyboard, sometimes while playing guitar at the same time, punctuating by a blitz of other sounds, followed by playfulness, followed by pulsating bass and frantic drums with enough intensity to cause shivers.

Battles is broaching new territory with Gloss Drop, which has a more varied and experimental sound than the EPs or Mirrored. It’s a good followup to the band’s debut, pushing the music into uncharted directions regarding vocals and using more eclectic keyboard and a wider percussive palate. As Battles becomes easier to listen to with more playful, digestible tunes and less hard-edged, calculated songs, it’s still brash and exciting.

Battles – Gloss Drop Tracklist:

  1. “Africastle”
  2. “Ice Cream (feat. Matias Aguayo)”
  3. “Futura”
  4. “Inchworm”
  5. “Wall Street”
  6. “My Machines (feat. Gary Numan)”
  7. “Dominican Fade”
  8. “Sweetie and Shag (feat. Kazu Makino)”
  9. “Toddler”
  10. “Rolls Bayce”
  11. “White Electric”
  12. “Sundome (feat. Yamantaka Eye)”