While playing at Wireless Festival, in what was the performance I’d longed for the most that day, Battles opened the set with what may have been Africastle. It was hard to tell, as equipment failure forced their set into an early finish. Sadly, after three uncharacteristically, unimpressive renditions of Gloss Drop’s hit singles the band trudged off stage, synthesisers between their legs.
The most disheartening aspect of the performance wasn’t the fact Battles were given a disservice by their equipment supplier, it was that it was my last chance to see firsthand a live performance of an album that should be the Summer soundtrack to anyone in search of grooves deeper than anything Rusko can offer.
Comparisons between Gloss Drop and their debut Mirrored may be easy to make. It’s certainly the case that as a whole-body Mirrored is definitive and stands out as a perfectly formed jewel of an album. But what Gloss has that Mirrored hasn’t in its track listing is a far more intrinsically upbeat sound! Their mutating drum patterns and experimental melodies (how they earned their place amongst the Warp Records rooster in the first place) are still there, but now there is that additional component to the Battles.
Maybe it’s Matias Aguayo’s joyous vocalisms in Ice Cream, maybe it’s just that you can’t be miserable while playing steel drums (Domican Fade), or maybe it’s the simple fact that the album art is of an excessively large ice cream, and what’s more jubilant than ice cream?
Either way, despite this change in direction, the album ultimately remains in the shadows of its predecessor, an album first given to me by a dark humoured workmate under the morbid recommendation that it was ‘baby killing music’ in the nicest possible way. Despite this the album isn’t conclusively better, but different. Whereas Mirrored stands out as a visceral piece of musical art, Gloss Drop is euphoric bliss. And despite noticeable less emotional depth, its singles such as the “My Machines” (featuring synthpop legend Gary Numan) are nonetheless guaranteed to make pop lovers cry an electric tear of joy.