Posted by Todd Hamm
Battles' sophomore Warp Records release, Gloss Drop leans less on the tweaked experimental angle than did it's predecessor Mirrored, but as always, the band's ability to graft largely unapproachable sounds into a coherent groove remains simply transcendent.
The first few minutes of the record set things up with an outstanding melody drop, where robot noises give way to a helicopter guitar effect (which could just as easily be steel drums being played through an office fan) before the rhythm section sweeps in. The drums, or rather the spacious recording on the drum tracks (it still sounds like they're recording in that glass case) on the album are a welcome human element to the production, which adds a comfortable familiarity to the mix of largely unidentifiable instrumentation on the tracks. This kind of juxtaposition plays into the overall complexity of the album, and is a good indication that the deviated course this album has taken from the other half of their discography was a purposeful departure, rather than one of necessity. Though the band is notably without their first album's vocalist Tyondai Braxton on Gloss Drop, the focus here lies more on the instrumentation and bounce than anything else, and one realizes--though Braxton's contribution filled the role nearly perfectly--that it always did.
After the silly, pop-friendly "Ice Cream", for which the band brought in guest vocalist Matias Aguayo, the album hits its stride with "Futura", a monstrous near-Ratatat guitar beat (check the video below) that is possibly the most radio-accessible track of the bunch, and there is not a low moment until the album's lukewarm finale "Sundome" (featuring journeyman vocalist Yamantaka Eye), which unfortunately brings the LP to a comparatively uninspired close. The meat of the album though, is packed with amazing tracks like "Inchworm", which evokes a baby elephant lope through soca country; the Caribbean dance-infused "Dominican Fade"; and the hard-hitting buildup "White Electric", that serves as reminder that Battles is still a highly capable rock band.
The "jam" is certainly strong on Gloss Drop, which could be expected by any conglomerate of seasoned New York area musicians, but the jam never takes over; the band never gets lost in itself. Here, Battles has created a focused, admirable follow up to the groundbreaking, nearly-impossible-to-follow-up Mirrored, that may not be exactly what a certain sector of Battles fans expected, but for what it's worth, they've done it in style.
Posted by Todd Hamm
The drum pulse and the winding static at the onset of "Hearts" feels like the prelude to something intense; some drum and bass at a warehouse rave, although the vintage-looking footage (which recalls Fleet Foxes' recent "Grown Ocean" video) in the corresponding video says something gentler is happening. As the farm and stream visuals float by, the electric keys drift in, the kick eases to make room for the ambient melody, and it's all gravy. The sound is very dream-pop, like a rural Beach House, yet not nearly as sedated. This is the first single from Stockholm duo I Break Horses' (Smog reference) debut album (also called Hearts), which is set to be released August 16th on I KILL LOVE Records in the U.S., and it's quite beautifully put together. Though Maria Lindén's voice sneaks in all echo-ey with the effects early on, she doesn't take a leading role until the midpoint in the track. She garnishes the tune for few measures, holding the spotlight, then fades to the background as the beat rides its course. At the song's conclusion, Lindén and her musical partner Fredrik Balck tune down the last, lingering note to ensure a slightly anti-pretty ending to a very pretty song as the black clouds creep by in time-lapse. IBH is officially on our radar.