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.