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You must know you are doing something right when the godfather of electro and experimental music, Brian Eno, turns up at one of your gigs and says he was blown away by your artistry. Even better when he admits to gritting his teeth because he wished “he thought of that”. High praise indeed for the boys of Battles. When Eno curated the 2009 Sydney Luminous Festival, he made sure they were on the bill, playing the Opera House while his own visual art was projected onto the famous sails. 

The first album, 2007’s Mirrored, followed on from five EPs, all released in within three years of each other. It has therefore been a long time between drinks, with fans eagerly awaiting any news of the next release. And many fans there are, the reaction to the debut was massive, with frontman Tyondai Braxton’s energy and vocals creating something left of centre that caught people’s attention. With Braxton’s departure to pursue a solo career, Battles were faced with a few decisions with the second release. Go all instrumental? Have another band member step up with vocals? Or get a random assortment of guest artists in to lay down their particular style of vocals…as you probably know by now, this was the way they went. 

Gloss Drop has a diverse range of people swing by the studio; the legendary and pioneering electronic guru Gary Numan, Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead, Chilean electro producer Matias Aguayo and Yamantaka Eye, a Japanese vocalist, DJ and visual artist. Each of these offer something different, not looking to replace the style of Braxton, which would be impossible, but to bring their own angle to the recording. 

‘Africastle’ has some damn catchy guitar going on, in this perfectly positioned opening track. The pace is hectic as the track builds and the anticipation rife of what lays ahead over the next fifty minutes. ‘Ice Cream’ is the first single off Gloss Drop and features the voice of Matias Aguayo. It’s a doozy of a track, with a strange and brilliant intro, vocal percussion sounding like a steam engine building up momentum with a carousel chiming away behind it. These sounds get faster and more frantic, until you are not sure what you are even listening to. Is it all synth through a program, or something played by humans? The outro is just as cool and just as strange, in that Battles kind of way. The video, which you can have a look at below, is a superb mash of vintage clips put together by Barcelona based directorial collective, CANADA. The ‘Icecream’ single was limited to 3000 copies and was released in three different flavours. Well, of course! 

‘Inchworm’ was recorded by guitarist Dave Konopka shortly after Braxton’s exit, so as to ensure the band kept things moving forward. It has one riff looped with a dancy edge, sleigh bells and steel drums. ‘My Machines’, named after lyrics by Gary Numan, and sung by the man himself, is a standout. Heavy on the percussion thanks to John Stanier, with a grinding undertone and sparkling effects popping up occasionally, but the spotlight is firmly fixed on the drums in this one. ‘Sweetie & Shag’ features Blonde Redhead’s Kazu Makino delivering dreamy, wistful lines with a killer rhythm and melody. 

‘Rolls Bayce’ begins with tiny sounds and soon grows into a beast. It thumps along, a clash of opposites, mechanical, marching like percussion married with what could be a sample from an ancient music box. It’s a track that is over to soon, making you want to hear it all over again immediately. The closing track on Gloss Drop is ‘Sundome’ with Yamantaka Eye stepping up to the mike. His vocals, indecipherable as they are, made more mysterious by being layered way back in the mix, like an echo through a forest at night. Synths are jarring and play around with time signature, it’s a playful track that could well describe the LP as a whole. This album may take a few listens for some. But often this is a sign that something special is afoot. Pure art, at its best shouldn’t be easy. The payoff is what it’s all about, and when that moment arrives you realise it was well worth that extra listen. 

-Dave Roberts, August 15, 2011 


My Machines (Featuring Gary Numan)

Battles (USA)
From the album, ‘Gloss Drop’, Warp

Download here

Brian Eno talks about Battles


Ice Cream (Featuring Matias Aguayo)

Battles (USA)
From the album, ‘Gloss Drop’, Warp

Official video