To understand what Gloss Drop sounds like, one need look no further than the album art. Stopping here would deny a potential listener of the opportunity to sink their teeth into the sonic equivalent of the suspicious but delicious-looking pink substance piled on the front cover, though, an experience well worth the fifty-three minute run time.
Battles' second LP is notably lacking founding member Tyondai Braxton, who was a driving creative force on the band's critically-acclaimed 2007 album, Mirrored. There was much speculation over what this record would sound like and frankly how good it would be without Braxton's processed vocals and songwriting contribution. The remaining three members of the band have definitely alleviated any fears, however, as Gloss Drop embraces the spirit of experimentation and exploration that made Mirrored such a fun to listen, without trying to replicate its sound sans Braxton.
While there are many similarities in style between the two records, such as the use of loops and effects to play with synthesizers and guitars until they are almost unrecognizable, Gloss Drop has its own direction and personality distinct from its predecessor. The most prevalent commonality is John Stanier's drumming. The stellar production on this album highlights his tireless syncopated backdrop to Battles' experimental tunes and while he frequently showcases his technical prowess, everything is done in good taste. Stanier has a keen sense of dynamic and gives the music room to breathe when appropriate, proving the hypothesis that these songs are actually structured and written despite the initial impression one gets from this record that the trio simply mastered an hour-long jam session and released it as an LP.
Though it may sound disparaging, this is by no means a criticism. The members of Battles are certainly talented enough to make a practice recording compelling, though as mentioned before, there is definite structure and composition to these songs. On the first few listens, the layers and sounds can be a bit overwhelming, but this simply necessitates active listening, a concept that should not be unfamiliar to fans of the band's previous work. Indeed, an attentive ear to Gloss Drop results in a very rewarding listening experience. There is a subtlety and nuance to the way this band constructs each track and the listener feels like they are following the trio as they build and subsequently examine and tweak each riff, altering details and trying out different perspectives on the motifs carried by their odd loops and samples.
It is clear that the band is having fun and pushing themselves creatively. The vocal tracks on this record feature artists from Gary Numan to Yamantaka Eye and they lend their own unique personalities while the band does what it does best: Explore. Exploration and fun are the album's defining themes and it is because of this joyously youthful approach to the music that the cover is so appropriate. Battles may have lost a key member, but the attitude that made Mirrored such an acclaimed release is stronger than ever.