on June 20, 2011
Battles' musical style is such that losing a member means losing all the songs he played on, which was shown at their show in the Melkweg not too long ago. No Atlas or Tonto were played, but it was still easily one of the best concerts of the year so far. The departure of Tyondai Braxton left some, including me, wondering what would become of the Battles sound. "Gloss Drop" provides the answer, and a surprising one. Some elements are still intact; John Stanier's drumming is still some of the best in the alternative music scene. It takes about a minute in opener `Africastle' but the pounding is relentless and tight, like it was on "Mirrored" but it does not dominate the album.
What has changed is the overall mood. "Mirrored" could be dark and brooding at times, "Gloss Drop" is at times almost upbeat. This is in part because of the high pitched keyboards, which Ian Williams has more space for now. It even has melodies! The drumming and beats are almost more towards hiphop where the funky beats have replaced the really weird solid beats on "Mirrored".
Dave Konopko still provides the rumbling background sound with bass and lowtuned guitar.
Braxton was the singer but has been replaced with a score of guest vocalists. How do they do this live you ask? Well, two screens show images of the singer singing the vocals, and this can be manipulated. The brilliant `Ice Cream' vocals are provided by Chilean/German Matias Aguayo, and even Gary Numan shows up in the drum-heavy `My Machines'.
It is unfair to compare "Mirrored" with "Gloss Drop". The moods of the album are different, mostly because of the changing musical dynamics. "Gloss Drop" is stronger overall. While lacking some of the top tracks like the monumental Atlas (maybe the best piece of alternative music recorded in the first decade of this century) it is easier to access and a more pleasant listening experience. One thing is still certain, Battles is still as unique as ever and is as 21st century as music can get.
on June 10, 2011
Fell in love with the different layers of Mirrored, with each song being kinda like a flaky pastry. Know what I mean? You peel it back and there's another tasty layer. Well Gloss Drop is more like a Gobstopper. Still has those tasty layers, but it's a totally different food altogether. I agree about cruising to this during the summer with the windows down and volume up. Good stuff guys.
on June 7, 2011
Without former vocalist Tyondai Braxton around, 'Gloss Drop' of course feels a bit less "songy" than 'Mirrored.' But, really, who lists that quality among reasons to listen to Battles releases? Regardless, this is quite an infectious sugary rush of beats here, much more joyously kinetic than their pre-Mirrored material, and a number of guests vocalists stop by once in a while to change things up. All in all, "Gloss Drop" is an effortlessly enjoyable record that's a lot of fun to blast on some decent speakers. Current standout tracks: Ice Cream, Inch Worm, My Machines, and Sundown.
Dave Konopka stated in a recent interview that Gloss Drop was pieced together in the studio rather than the result of jam sessions. This was a different approach than what was used to create Mirrored, but this album proves that it worked very well. Highly recommended and definitely the top album of 2011 by a long shot.
Perhaps the most exciting part is they're back on tour. One of Battles' greatest attributes is they build very technically precise songs and then try to figure out ways to play them live. As a result, every time I hear one of their songs live it sounds different than a previous time they played it, which is in turn different from what you hear on the album. Ian really has his hands full now, playing two keyboards and a guitar at the same time. These guys are good and they know it, and watching them play is awesome to say the least.
on September 10, 2011
I didn't want to like this. I didn't know anything about Battles but this pile of pink string in the shape of ice cream just called out to me. I put it on in the record store, and though I was set against electronic music with no singing--at least on the first track--but it is infectious. I've heard people say it has no soul, but it sure is fun. I read about the math that went into it, but for me it's the most innovative stuff dance tunes I've heard in a while. People said Mirrors with old singer Braxton is better. I tried Mirrors. In my opinion, this one's a lot better. I returned Mirrors and got this one. An MP3 wasn't good enough. I had to go vinyl on this and blast it. Electronic music is the music of this decade, but of all the stuff so far this sounds like it took more virtuosity than usual and for me has a lot of heart, if not soul. Glad I picked it up.
on August 5, 2011
this album is full of ever changing styles and structures that make it absolutly, positively, fun to listen to. The craft of songwriting is on full display here, and these guys are complete masters of their respective instruments. thats the fun part for me, listening to the way the songs sound like they may have been crafted on a computer, only to realize they are played on standard guitars, keys, and a freakin beast of a drum set. John Stanier is doing things on this album that in my opinion, he didnt get to do on Mirorred. The syncopation here is breathtaking. The fills, the heavy metronome beats, to the frenetic off time changes he pulls off somehow, make me convinced that hes one of the best drummers working right now. I will go on record saying that i like Gloss Drop more then their debut LP, because it seems more eclectic, musically. The guest vocalists, the bumpier yet contained song structures, really work for me.yes, Mirrored was a groundbreaking album for many reasons, and while i found it to be totally unique and interesting, i just couldnt get into whatever they were trying to do with that one. I think the cartoon/chimpmunk vocals of Braxton were a big part of that. a lot of people thought it was genious, i thought it was kind of annoying most of the time. like fingernails on the chalkboard annoying. but Drop is different. the vocals complete the music, they are a part of it instead of being soooo out there and unique they stole the show, and not in a good way imo. bottom line, Battles have made a very impressive record here. the best of 2011 so far, hands down.
on April 21, 2015
With GLOSS DROP, Battles continue their math rock stampede, starting with the twitchy, thick "Africastle," as the complex layers and rhythms overlap and intersect. But they let Matias Aguayo in on the fun, as he grunts and chants his way through the near-tropical sounding "Ice Cream," wihle also letting a darker mood crawl into the background of and otherwise-perky "Futura." But the friscalating tones on "Inchworm" accompany tones that almost could be hits on a steel pan drum and the playfulness of "Wall Street" sparkles like sweat on a bull's back. Gary Numan steps away from the 80s synth-pop he's known for and instead offers his vocals to the quick, aggressive "My Machines," but Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino has an even better time sprinkling her sugar on "Sweetie & Shag." The warm Caribbean vibe continues into the shiny "Sundome," capping off a fun, spry album. Drop some more gloss on me!
on June 25, 2011
Simply a good, fun record, albeit a very odd one at that. The music sounds just like the album cover looks (A melting brain? Bubble-gum spaghetti?) There's a playfulness that radiates from every track, even Gary Numan's robotic crooning doesn't hinder the vibe (see "My Machines"). "Ice Cream", "Futura" and "Sundome" are my favorite examples of the craziness Gloss Drop emulates. "Sweetie and Shag" injects a bit of "indie-pop" into the mix, while the brief "Toddler" could have have been inspired from some of Raymond Scott's work.
I never listened to Battles before this, so I can't compare it with Mirrored. As it stands on its own this is one awesome record. (and I do literally mean record... I bought the vinyl version, which includes a code for a digital download and a small poster, btw.)
on July 10, 2011
Dare I say Yes-like? King Crimson-like? With a kettle drum in certain tracks for a tropical flavor, like the pineapple wedge on the rim of a cool tall refreshing sweet progressive music drink. Get it and drink it up. Exclamation point.
on August 4, 2011
"Gloss Drop" is unlike anything you're listening to right now, even if your iTunes playlist includes songs from Battles' prior and only other album, 2007's "Mirrored."
Sure, Battles is still firmly rooted in math rock, albeit a variation that caters more to the dance club than the calculus club. And, in an age in which song is king, the New York City band has crafted yet another concept album. But a key component to its playful racket is missing -- Battles has been reduced to a threesome.
Multi-instrumentalist Tyondai Braxton, who memorably contributed Oompa Loompa-like vocals to the hip-shaking, bionic-rock tour de force "Atlas" on the debut, left Battles halfway through the making of "Gloss Drop." The surviving trio (which includes Ian Williams, formerly of Don Caballero, and John Stanier, formerly of Helmet) reworked the album, employing help on vocals from Gary Numan, Blonde Redhead's singer Kazu Makino, and a relatively subdued offering in an imaginary language from Yamataka Eye, the Boredoms founder who changes his name every few years.
In the process, Battles has managed to retain its exuberance, and expand its horizons. "Gloss Drop" adds polish and builds breathing room into the phrenetic energy it unleashed on "Mirrored," and confirms that the heart of the band remains intact.
Take the dense, cavernous instrumental "Futura," dizzily rotating on a rickety wheel of sound like a merry-go-round gone off its axis. "Phantom of the Opera" organ woozily morphs into "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," and echo loops coil around the erratic pulse from the drum kit. What makes Battles tick is its inherent ability to take this seemingly discordant recipe, this furious marriage of the organic and electronic, and crank out yet another giddy morsel of otherworldly pop.
Where Battles really flirts with the mainstream is on "Ice Cream" and "Sweetie & Shag," both of which feature vocals with actual lyrics. Lyrics are something new for the band. The departed Braxton used his voice as an instrument; no actual words were formed.
Makino's silky tones -- and the band's atonal synth rhythms -- give "Sweetie & Shag" a sunny vibe, like digging your toes in warm sand on a beach halfway across the galaxy. It's the band's most accessible song so far. "Ice Cream," a jangly affair helmed by Chilean-born singer Matias Aguavo, is another sprightly number, infectious and sensual.
Bassist/guitarist Dave Konopka, who made the "pink blob" sculpture reproduced on the cover, has stated that the artwork represents the creative process this time, that the blob "fell into place and then congealed and solidified" -- and by way of reply, so has "Gloss Drop."