Reviews Battles Dross Glop

Battles

Dross Glop


I wanted to write this entire review as a spoonerism, but my editor slapped me through my computer screen before I could even begin to type it. Though she was probably right to stop me, it would've made reviewing this dod gamned remix album much more interesting. Dross Glop is a series of remixes, originally released as a four-part vinyl set, from math rock band Battles's kitschy, enjoyable, and overall well-executed 2011 album Gloss Drop. That album was a wonderful example of just how far a little bit of creativity and (most likely) a little bit of drugs can go, and it is still an album I find rewarding to listen to. Dross Glop, by way of contrast, is not.

Most of the issues on Dross Glop stem from the fact that it is aimed at exactly the wrong audience. Instead of catering to the fans of the band that are familiar with their playful math rock material and would actually care enough about them to buy an album of remixes in the first place, the remixers here generally take the original music and obfuscate it behind an impenetrable wall of electronica nonsense that is at best marginally related to the source material and at worst completely and unapologetically irrelevant.

The Alchemist's remix of "Futura" strikes me as the absolute worst offender on the album. It does nothing beyond slapping a generic, annoying Amen break on top of the original song and adding some unnecessary and irrelevant voice effects. This not only detracts from the original piece immensely, but also completely misses the heart and intent of the original piece while also watering it down significantly. Put frankly, calling it "shitty" would be an insult to shit. Shabazz Palaces's remix of "White Electric" also borders on offensive, relegating almost any interesting aspect of the original song to mere cameo status in favour of an otherwise unrelated (not to mention incredibly boring) hip-hop/electronica piece. The unrelated rapping in particular is so aurally unpleasant that I literally could not bring myself to listen to the full track more than the one requisite time required to finish this review. The goal of Brian DeGraw's remix of "Ice Cream" seems to be to take what was an amazingly catchy, enjoyable, pop-influenced song and add in enough unrelated and annoying effects and flair while removing everything that was lovable about the original to make me seriously consider forcibly disconnecting my ear canals by hacksaw. And while Hudson Mohawke's interpretation of "Rolls Bayce" is actually pretty faithful, it manages to bring out the most annoying qualities of the original and put them front and centre, framing its key faults like they were works of art.

Some tracks on the album aren't as bad as much as they are just plain old irrelevant. Both Silent Servant's remix of "Inchworm" and Kangding Ray's remix of "Toddler" are really nothing more than boring, generic, unrelated electronica pieces that may just have a reference to the original song in question somewhere in them. Bugger me if I can find them, though. "Domincan Fade", remixed by Qluster, actually isn't too terrible, but again it has little to nothing to do with the piece it came from, making caring about it entirely more difficult than it needs to be.

There are a few tracks that do hint at something interesting, but they all seem to exhibit the same key flaw: going on for too damn long. (Coming from the person that usually listens to pieces 20 minutes long without batting an eye, that means a lot.) The Patrick Mahoney & Dennis McNany remix of "My Machines", for example, I fully admit has some good ideas to it; it actually embellishes on the existing material of guest vocalist Gary Numan quite well and brings out some ideas that would've been lost in the original song. There's also a lot I want to like about the The Field remix of "Sweetie & Shag"; the industrial undertones and creative use of Kazu Makino's breathiness is actually incredibly intriguing. Gui Boratto's remix of "Wall Street" also brings this trance-like, pensive quality to the piece that I really do want to enjoy. The only thing holding these otherwise creative remixes back is how damningly repetitive they are over such a long period of time, which in turn makes the pieces as a whole seem more bland and uninteresting than they really need to be.

If I allow myself a bit of a stretch, I suppose I did enjoy Kode9's interpretation of "Africastle"--the pulsing and syncopated dance rhythms actually match the heart of the original piece surprisingly well while bringing about some new elements to it that had been underdeveloped before. However, there is really only song that actually floored me as a whole, and that is the chaotic and eclectically arranged version of "Sundome". What I like about it is that it's actually faithful in spirit to the original while still taking it in an entirely new direction--you can hear the tribal influences and loose composition elements of the original piece played with and expressed in interesting new ways. Given that this one was remixed by Yamantaka Eye, who performed the vocals for the original track, I guess the maturity of his arrangement is not unexpected. (On an unrelated note, this is the only track that's not included in original the vinyl series.)

Okay, I'm really not trying to be a negative nancy here--I suppose a lot of my complaints are pretty common for remix albums in general. But that certainly doesn't mean that they have to be this terrible. The remix album of Isis's Oceanic, for one, is a perfect example of how remixers can make the music their own without detracting from the original, and even at many times significantly augmenting the experience of the music. Dross Glop just doesn't have any of that, for lack of a term, 'inspired' creativity behind it needed to add aything appreciable to the source material. It's a moderately interesting distraction at best and an exercise in masturbation at worst.

Now I remember why I like Battles--it's because their music is incredibly intricate and witty while still maintaining an incredibly facile surface appearance. Remixing it almost inevitably loses that, and to make matters worse, a lot of the remixers seem to have really missed the point of Battles' music in the first place. Sure, they've made it their own, but they haven't added anything of value, and subtracted a lot of substance as a cost. It's incredibly disheartening to hear Battles's music reduced to such generic tripe. In other words, shuck this fitty album.

3.5 / 10Sarah
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