Monday 6 June 2011


Battles' second album effort resounds with all the elements that made the first, 'Mirrored', so good. But it comes with a slightly different tone, one that seems less experimental in character and more structured in terms of classic songwriting.

This may be something to do with the departure of Tyondai Braxton: frontman, singer, guitarist and all-
round experimenter. Whether he was the driving force behind the insane rhythms and progressions of their first full-length album - characterised by my personal favourite from the album, 'Tonto' - is something up for debate; this change may have occurred without Braxton's amicable farewell.

But what is clear is that their instrumental jams are just as intense, interesting and listenable as ever. The aural pleasure you get from this band is something else, something like eating food you'd never think about making yourself: a medley of flavours and new tastes that shake up your insides - in a good way.

Saying that, the first single from the album, 'Ice Cream', is nothing like the rest of the album. Matias Aguayo provides vocals that could've been Braxton's next step with the band, but it falls short of being its star attraction. The sugary sounds and summery vibe whizz around without making a full impact. It's a glancing blow; if it's impact you want, you get it elsewhere with the girthy industrial madness of 'My Machines' (possibly due to Gary Numan's input), or the crazy cascading math sounds of the high-speed 'Wall Street'.

What you really notice with this album, generally, is its speed. Songs with an almost drum and bass tempo, like 'White Electric', 'Wall Street' and 'Rolls Bayce' - the last especially with its thundering sub bassline and ballsy beginning - stick out as being Battles as they were: machine gun drumming, distortion, and staccato, music-box noise. There's not a track I don't like on 'Gloss Drop', and I actually think my favourite, the opener 'Africastle', eases you into the new sans-Braxton Battles with beautiful sweeping chords that reverberate underneath pizzicato chatter, until choppy guitars bring you up to an explosive mathletic breakdown.

It's Battles as before, but with more freedom. And with that freedom they have chosen, for the most part (minus the slow hypnosis of 'Sundome', and the weird filler that is 'Toddler'), to play with the idea of being a more guitar-based band, the huge jam that is 'Futura' being crucial evidence of this. More traditional funk basslines have eschewed the more sporadic playing on their first album. The drums have been taken up a notch, as would naturally happen in a jam band, and some of the fills you will hear interlaced into the irregular math rock rhythms of this fantastic band are genius.

Released today, this album comes featuring other artists for vocals and more. It's an interesting way to go, and something that could form some amazing collaborations - 'Sweetie & Shag' with Kazu Makino (of Blonde Redhead) has that potential, dragging Battles halfway to the dancefloor, stopping short to rock out on the way.

'Gloss Drop' does not run as smooth as 'Mirrored', and seems to be taking the band down an avenue that is lined with similar treasures to that which took them through their debut - treasures which are slightly lacking their once-alien lustre.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -