#21 on the 2011 Musical Bacon Calendar
Gloss Drop by Battles
Bands often change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, and sometimes they become something so different it’s hard to recognize the similarity. With the stark differences between their debut album, Mirrored, and this year’s Gloss Drop, Battles fits into the “something so different” camp. I wrote about their changes when I had the pleasure of seeing them play at this past summer’s Capitol Hill Block Party:
Between their first and second albums, Battles lost the only member of the band — Tyondai Braxton — who had the gall to use a mic in addition to the rest of his sound-making machinery. So with their second album, “Gloss Drop,” the band employed a number of guest singers, including Gary Numan, Kazu Makino from Blonde Redhead, and Japanese artist/vocalist Yamantaka Eye. Of course, these singers aren’t touring with the three remaining core members of the band, so, to make up for this shortcoming, the band filmed the vocalists singing their various parts, and then broadcast those videos during the performance. It’s an interesting effect that would have been made oh-so-much better if they’d filmed the singers from head-to-toe, life size, giving the illusion they were actually on stage.
But even with the larger-than-life videos of the singers, the effect was interesting once the band started to mix and play with the recorded sounds. We watched in amazement as the videos jumped from syllable to syllable, creating new words out of words not actually spoken, such as “Watch Battles,” repeated over and over again.
The band stuck to mostly to tracks from the new album, of which “Ice Cream,” featuring the voice of Matias Aguayo (who has his own fledgling solo career gaining speed), was the highlight. The band did play “Atlas,” the one underground hit the band has from their debut album. Instead of the expected vocals, sung by the now-missing Broxton, the band employed what sounded like the Von Trapp family to sing the vocals. It still got us all bouncing, but it just wasn’t the same.
The one thing that is the same in Battles is John Stanier’s drumming. The former Helmet drummer, now 43, is still one of the most amazing drummers you’ll ever see. With his trademark double-high cymbal and complicated beats, he alone drives the band forward and is more than enough reason to continue to invest time in the band. I suggest you do so now.
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23. A New Kind of House EP by Typhoon
24. EP by Grouplove
25. Fan Chosen Covers (Best of) by Eef Barzelay
26. TKOL RMX 1234567 by Radiohead
27. Organ Music Not Virbraphone Like I’d Hoped by Moonface
28. Heavy Boots & Underwoods by Ben Fisher
29. The Rip Tide by Beirut
30. Collapse Into Now by R.E.M.
31. I Am Very Far by Okkervil River