Gloss Drop

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When Tyondai Braxton left Battles in 2010, three years after Mirrored showed that their music could be as incredibly catchy as it was highly technical, there were concerns that a large part of the band’s playfulness and charisma had departed with him. Fortunately, Gloss Drop proves those worries were unfounded. Though Braxton's shoes are undeniably large ones to fill, John Stanier, Ian Williams, and David Konopka strike out on their own and with some well-chosen collaborators. The tracks with guest singers are Gloss Drop's immediate standouts. As the sometime vocalist on the band’s debut album, Braxton lent a cohesiveness to Battles' excursions, but here the trio picks singers that reflect a particular aspect of their sound that they’ve chosen to express. Matias Aguayo turns in one of the album’s revelatory tracks, “Ice Cream,” which not only matches the playfulness of any of Mirrored's tracks, but adds a summery physicality and sexuality that is completely new. The other is “Sweetie and Shag,” a collaboration with Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino that is a peak for everyone involved, with her wispy vocals adding spun-sugar sweetness and their energy giving the song blood and muscle. Both of these songs sound like pop from another planet, unfettered by conventional structures but still remarkably immediate and catchy. Which is not to say that Gary Numan's work on “My Machines”' high-speed drone-rock or “Sundome,” which features the Boredoms' Yamantaka Eye singing like he’s calling the sun into being, aren’t as inspired -- they are -- but they don’t have the shock of the new that Aguayo and Makino's cameos do. Likewise, Gloss Drop's instrumentals alternate between shoring up Battles’ proven strengths on Mirrored-esque tracks like “Africastle” and “Wall Street,” and departures such as the brief Latin-tinged foray “Dominican Fade” and “Inchworm,” which boasts playful sleigh bells and a melody so kinetic it’s almost visible. On every track, Battles' joy in playing together shines through, whether it’s the minute-long snippet “Toddler” or “White Electric,” one of the album’s biggest showcases for the trio’s pure instrumental prowess. In that regard, Gloss Drop may be more accomplished than the band's debut; even if it’s not quite as much of a powerhouse as Mirrored was, it shows that the trio version of Battles is lean, creative, and surprisingly adaptable.

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