Album Review: Battles – ‘Gloss Drop’

Complicated and disjointed but still full of frisky genius

Knocking around on the internet, there’s pictures of Bill Gates taken in 1983 of him stretched out on a desk, wearing a chunky woollen sweater and loveably tousled fringe. His face is saying, sure, I might be a geek, but this geek knows how to cut loose.

If this Bill Gates wasn’t living in 1983 and didn’t have a trillion-dollar computing empire to build, he might have made a good fourth member of [a]Battles[/a]. Their modus operandi, pretty much, is taking musical qualities deemed the preserve of cold fish – instrumental rock, drenched in effects, often employing complicated time-signatures – and making it as serious as a chimp’s tea party.

The making of ‘Gloss Drop’ was a headache, with founder member Tyondai Braxton quitting halfway through recording. His parts have been eradicated, replaced by a raft of guest vocalists – the first being Chilean singer/producer Matias Aguayo, who takes the mic for the delirious, tropical romp ‘Ice Cream’. Fiddly it might be, a strange concoction of twinkling keys and chunky bass bumps, but by dressing [a]Battles[/a]’ metallic chassis in Bermuda shorts and pointing it towards the pineapple mojitos, it shows they’ve found a way to match ‘Atlas’ without retreading the same path.

The other vocal spots take a similar approach of shaping to fit their guest star. ‘My Machines’, featuring [a]Gary Numan[/a], is propelled on stern, piston drums, pointillistic guitar notes scattering like frightened crickets. And there’s the climactic ‘Sundome’, which starts off as a [a]Panda Bear[/a]-ish ramble before your reverie is shattered by a deranged, belly-beating chant courtesy of Boredoms’ Yamantaka Eye. All this makes for a more disjointed listen than ‘Mirrored’, but its peaks are equally high. ‘Gloss Drop’ is powered by a tireless, ingenious sense of play. Admittedly, it is sometimes the sort of playfulness displayed by quantum physicists and pure mathematicians. But hey, get the numbers right and everything else just slots into place.

Louis Pattison