Review Summary: More dross than glop.
When a band loses a member halfway through writing an album, the results can go one of two ways. If the band member is unessential and easily replaced then it is fairly easy for the remaining members to pick up the slack and carry on in much a similar vein as before. If the deserter is as important and influential to the band’s original sound as Tyondai Braxton was to Battles’ however, then the results are usually less positive. Despite this, or perhaps in spite of this, the remaining trio of Battles did fantastically well to successfully release their sophomore album Gloss Drop
, and the quality of the finished product reflected well on every member, displaying their skills in equal measure whilst showing that one man does not a band make.
When considering the subject matter of Gloss Drop
, it’s perhaps not surprising that the band decided on releasing remixes to the songs; there’s certainly no end to the potential in reworking the abstract beats and arrhythmic structures in any number of ways. Similarly, the calibre of the producers chosen to adapt the tracks is also in no way peculiar, with names such as Gang Gang Dance, Hudson Mohawke, and Gui Boratto among the prestigious line-up. Taken at face value, Dross Glop
had the potential to be outstanding, but somewhere along the way this potential lost itself, leaving a disappointingly uneven mess in its place.
As one would expect of an album originally released as 4 12”EPs, the lack of cohesion of Dross Glop
is considerable in its downfall. Having rejigged the play order from its original incarnation, Battles fail in making Dross Glop
sound anything other than a collection of individual tracks, a flaw which is annoying at worst, but fair enough when considered in the context of a remix album. Regrettably, this lack of a singular overarching direction highlights the negative aspects of the album far more than it does the positives, resulting in passages of uniformity between songs very against the band’s own ethos. Perhaps the freedom afforded on the remixers was too high, certainly the dense, droning techno loops applied to Inchworm
and Sweetie & Shag
seem almost unnecessarily obtuse. Although The Field and Silent Servant respectively are known for such indirect approaches, taking two of Gloss Drop
’s quirkiest tracks and removing the exuberant energy that made them so is at the very least short-sighted.
Similar mistakes are made with Toddler
, which barely resembles the original piece, whereas Patrick Mahoney and Dennis McNany slow My Machines
down to the point of absurdity, dragging it out to an excruciatingly awkward nine minutes. Elsewhere, Kode9’s remix of Africastle
takes a different route entirely, taking many of the original sounds and layers them with thumping house beats. The result is overbearing but not entirely unsatisfactory, and along with Shabazz Palaces’ White Electric
at least breaks up much of the monotony of the early record. This mini-interlude aside, it takes until Gang Gang Dance’s gloriously barmy version of Ice Cream
to reinvigorate the auditory senses once again, yet once again the positivity is halted too soon by the graceless My Machines
This all combines to make Dross Glop
a frustrating listen, because both Ice Cream
along with EYE’s renewed take on Sundome
show that it can work, and work well. In the end though, what we’re left with is something that sounds underdeveloped and feels incomplete. Given the circumstances it would be overly fastidious to classify Dross Glop
as a full Battles LP, but that doesn’t remove from the lumbering truth that this is their least satisfying output yet. While fans will undoubtedly be looking for a lot more invention in future releases, the band can take positives away from Dross Glop
and use it as a vehicle to learn from their mistakes. In the short term however, Dross Glop
marks the first blemish in an otherwise flawless back catalogue because unfortunately the majority of Dross Glop
is just that; dross.
Overall 2.0 Poor