Battles, "Gloss Drop"

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This well-pedigreed avant-rock outfit-featuring former members of Helmet, Lynx and Don Caballero-lost an important leavening agent last year when frontman Tyondai Braxton quit the group to pursue his solo work.Although the lack of Braxton's pitch-shifted vocal antics creates an undeniable hole on new album "Gloss Drop," Battles still sound determined here to inject their precision-geared prog-pop with the kind of humor and adventure one rarely encounters among bands that possess chops like these. In opener "Africastle," steel drums (or perhaps another instrument modified to sound like steel drums) ripple jauntily over a throbbing dance-punk groove, while "Toddler" lives up to its title with a sing-song nursery-rhyme synth melody.

For a handful of tracks, Battles recruited known-quantity guest singers like electro pioneer Gary Numan ("My Machines") and Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino ("Sweetie & Shag") to fill Braxton's place. More often than not, the vocals end up serving a textural purpose in music that's never short on direction.

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