Battles’ second album sees them face up to life without vocalist Tyondai Braxton, who left the band last year, introducing a host of interesting guests that they hope will fill the void. Opening with ‘Africastle’, the sound of calm pulsating electronics is broken by interjecting blips guiding a melody to a crescendo of noise, Battles state their chaotic intentions. It sounds promising. The single ‘Ice Cream’ is one of the tracks of the year so far, featuring a thrilling intro that kicks into a funky jam with vocals from Matias Agauyo over the continuous barrage of exciting sounds and noises, and the ever present driving bass that keeps it all in check. ‘Futura’ carries on the jam vibe, introducing steel drum-sound synthesizer for the first of many times over the course of the album. Here they are welcome, creating an a-tropical-yptic noise that’s as eerie as it is fun. At this point the album sounds like a Disney soundtrack for a wired generation with a cut and paste concentration. ‘My Machine’, featuring Gary Numan on vocals marks the final high before the buzz wears off, the hunger kicks in and the colour drains from the vibrant soundscape.
Six tracks in, six to go. No major changes but it all becomes formulaic. It’s hard to fault the likes of ‘Sweetie & Shag’ but in truth the sound simply tires. The album is still energetic but the drive is gone. The sounds are interesting but you no longer feel interested.
‘Sundome’ is the finale that sums the latter part of the album up well. Clocking in just under eight minutes, it is a collage of noises, all coherent but none cohesive, like a jigsaw that on completion is an unsightly picture of very little at all.
On listening to Gloss Drop you imagine that Battles had had an inspired and productive morning, went for a lunch time pint to congratulate themselves, then remembered, regretfully, they had the rest of the album to write and record. The second half feels forced, like they ran out of steam. It’s not catchy enough to capture attention, and not daring enough to be worth revisiting. The ambition to create interesting sounds is there, but it’s asking too much to demand that listeners bear with meandering noise in the name of sonic progress. Battles are capable of an outstanding full album. This just isn’t it.