Track-by-track: Battles – ‘Gloss Drop’ (WARP)

Battles GlossDropalt Concise as we are at GIITTV towers, it was decided long ago that a release of this stature ought to be given a full appraisal both as a whole, and as a composition of its myriad parts. You can read my learned colleague James Smith‘s thoughts on ‘Gloss Drop‘ by clicking here (oh the wonders of the modern age) and indeed you should, as his opinions are as succinct as my own decomposed judgments could ever hope to be. I, however, have been tasked with looking at each track as a separate entity, and comprising a meaningful conclusion from that in the hope that we may learn more about the LP in the process. The sum of all parts et cetera. It’s by no means an exact science, but then neither is baseball, and people love that kind of avocation.

As an admirer of both Battles as a pioneering band, and Warp a pioneering label, I was keen to get my teeth into this one. There’s been much talk about the departure of a certain member in the build up to this release, and the affect that has had on those remaining, but I feel it’s fairer and indeed deferential that ‘Gloss Drop‘ be assessed on its own merits. Anyway, here’s what came out of the first listening session;


Taking a punt at being descriptive; there’s an air of looming in the shadows here (with shades of Interpol hidden in the reverb), before the synth begins to tip-toe around the ears and we know we’re not too far from home. However, apprehension is maintained and intensified as the track stalks the listener, biding its time deliberately up to the two minute mark before presenting itself in the full glow of the street light. When outed, we’re instantly in familiar territory. No one’s after our purse. It’s a sturdy and altogether confident rise to the fore, and inevitably I’m left feeling foolish for dwelling on anything otherwise. The anxiety here is borne out of how staggeringly high the band placed their benchmark four years ago, and the inexorable wave of artists who fail to produce on their second outing. Battles simply can’t, there’s too much a stake for everyone. Reassuringly here, as a listener we’re immediately treated to two alluring grooves; the first rapid and confident within its urgency, the second a more authoritative and poised display. Both sides of the coin are deft. However, whilst the majority of this could have been said of anything ‘Mirrored‘ had to offer, here there is an additional panache, something thoroughly more frolicsome, and this, it ought be noted, foreshadows the remaining duration of the album.

Ice Cream

Indomitably setting the carnival whirring with its induced familiarity, ‘Ice Cream‘ is schizophrenic and skatty in its disorientation. It’s the closest the band will come to appealing to your younger sister, however their own take on a pop-cult anthem is sickly-sweet and abrasive within its own stature. As ever there’s order to the chaos here, and that ought to be seen as a testament to Battles mechanisms within their overall approach to the craft. If I allow myself to succumb to the shameless punning other reviewers have admirably ducked, Mathias Aquayo‘s jovial tone may well have provided the additional sprinkles to the just dessert. An excellent choice of single.


For me, this is an immediate stand-out; the metronomic call and response within the guitar interplay brings with it its own irresistibly hypnotising groove, even before the kick drum comes a booming. This is exactly the kind of sound I was hoping to hear documented by this release, albeit for the opening 90 seconds, before the track trails off completely. Regrettably, this is more a cause for concern than a playful tease. The underlying synth chords are base throughout, stifling progression and diversity as the story unfolds, and by the halfway point you’re left cursing the promise this track honoured with its opening cry. Worryingly, all too many of the layers which comprise ‘Futura”s texture scream ‘afterthought’, with only the guitar remaining true throughout.


Inchworm‘, however, quickly pulls us back on track, acting as more an open jam than a calculated studio endeavour. Impressively the band even manage to incorporate sleigh bells in a respectable manner. Overall it’s a more involved enterprise than its predecessor. Without straying too far from its core, the samples used here are a real delight, culminating in a shimmering 40 second ebb and flow which is nothing short of captivating. A brief respite or pause for refection perhaps, albeit on which is short lived.

Wall Street

Wall Street‘ then struts in hastily as well it ought, the tempo hurried and the imagery respectfully keen. Probably the only true evidence to support the math-rock tag the band are often tarred with; here the numbers glitter bewitchingly within the notes, and not even a nettlesome synth intrusion can mar the achievement. Again we’re left with a compelling sample at the end, something which you’d hope the band would’ve ran with. Instead it merely suggests; ‘this is what we can do’, as opposed to ‘this is what we’ve done’.

My Machines

The second vocal track on offer, oozing the potential of a stand-alone release. It’s fast and assured, with too much creative implication on offer to dismiss Battles as the backing band for a Gary Numan cameo. John Stanier is at the top of his game behind the kit, his the most noteworthy performance as Numan’s vocals subside halfway through and allow the instrumentation to breathe, whilst simultaneously leaving the listener breathless with the sheer haste of it all.

Dominican Fade

Another welcome exercise in groove; the steel pan patch being the only other Caribbean connotation here. Gladly, this is more a demonstration of what the band can do when left to their own devices, and there’s an inherent swagger to that which only adds to the gaiety.

Sweetie & Shag

Again, another strong contender for single release, with Blonde Redhead‘s Kazo Makino moonlighting the mic this time around. Nonetheless, I’d argue that the rigidity in structure only serves to suffocate – for Battles it’s a tepid outing, but for any of the other faceless indie ‘troupes’ it’d probably be hailed as something more avant-garde. Unsettlingly the track is instantly forgettable, and stifled for the duration by its stringent uniformity – something I’d never class as synonymous with this band.


Well titled as it trips along with unsure steps; the melody is naive but endearingly so, and the 71 seconds act nicely as the precursor to probably the best offering on ‘Gloss Drop‘…

Rolls Boyce

Name. This is Battles at their most desirable and unflinching; a balls-out noise track at its core, and all the innate discordance and confusion that comes with it, before alluding to a sample so candid in its beauty you can’t help but drop your guard. The juxtaposition in sounds here is tactful, and what this achieves is truly praiseworthy. In essence, this track drops the shackles of vertigo whilst scaling the heights of some of the finest material the band have offered to date, begrudgingly doing so in a little over two minutes. An altogether unmitigated achievement given its peers, easily provoking the widest of smiles over the course of the listen.

White Electric

Strolling absentmindedly through an echoey scale during its inception, ‘White Electric‘ bides its time patiently, and in doing so fittingly punctuates the tail-end of the album from all which has gone before. This leads aptly into a trademark lock groove and more familiar terrain, where, it would be fair to say, the track wouldn’t find itself too far out of place on ‘Mirrored‘, offering as it does a more brooding encounter. Play all the louder for it.


The final bow aches with delay for the first part; the kind of sound we’ve all heard in our own heads wandering the streets at around five in the morning. Again, I personally hold reservations with the synth’s bass ‘parps’ here, but the over-dubs as a whole do just enough to tread the line. I would suggest, however, that you may be forgiven for feeling somewhat underwhelmed. This track, this album, is solid and vibrant throughout, and were it to be released as a debut by an unknown, would receive justifiable plaudits. But knowing what Battles are capable of, and have demonstrated repeatedly during their reign, I can’t see past the fact that ‘Gloss Drop‘ misses the high water mark ever so slightly. This fault lies with me, I fear.

It’s irresponsible to dismiss this as a ‘brave new world’ for the band; life without Ty is irrelevant given that it’s left a core of accomplished musicians capable of confident ventures without the need for stabilisers. My gripe is that the moments of splendour, the sheer essence of Battles, are for the most brief and unelaborated, whereas the sections on which the band choose to dwell are at times fusty and, on occasions, fully stagnated. Thankfully these moments are rare enough, and are counteracted well by the colossus of the kit and the effervescence of guitar, something the band will continue to coin with aplomb. But, admittedly, in the current climate this is a sore thumb worth soothing, ‘Gloss Drop‘ forgiven in its overtures, and Battles a band we’re all just grateful to have back.

[rating: 3.5]

Release date: 06/06/11

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.