Envy not the artists assembled on Dross Glop, the CD compilation of experimental kingpins Battles’ four LP remix series, for the task they were given was challenging in sound and sensitive in nature, carrying a lot more weight than the typical remix project. Battles’ full-length debut, 2007’s Mirrored, was an album rich in repetition, of patterns and sections that could easily be manipulated, bent, and twisted. It featured tracks that were simply begging for remixes (“Leyendecker,” especially), which were then delivered on the same year’s Tonto+ EP. Dross Glop‘s source material, last year’s still-solid Gloss Drop, offers very little room in the way of obvious re-interpretation. It’s a collection of frantically kinetic and varying songs captured by a band, that, at the time, was in the midst of a drastic reconfiguration and re-evaluation following the departure of vocalist/guitarist Tyondai Braxton in 2010.
The carefully curated list of artists tasked with these remixes seems to realize this, and instead, they latch on to one of the more behind-the-scenes aspects of Gloss Drop, that being the considerable expansion of Battles’ collaborative nature. This manifests itself successfully when the remixing artist seems to dominate their track with their own personalities or idiosyncrasies, but the final result still remains something that still might appear in Battles’ wheelhouse of tricks. What results is less of a traditional remix album, and more of an album-length, proper companion to Gloss Drop. Not enough of its own thing to be considered the third Battles album, but unique enough to raise itself above collector curiosity.
The complexity of the songs on Gloss Drop lead most of the artists here to zoom their lenses in on small sections of the original work. Gui Boratto’s take on “Wall Street” that kicks things off consists almost entirely of sounds and riffs from the original track’s second half, and plunks them down over an insistent four-on-the-floor pulse. The Field’s Axel Willner applies his usual chop-and-loop approach to “Sweetie and Shag,” centering his take on, of all things, a sub-second sample of guest vocalist Kazu Makino (of Blonde Redhead) inhaling. Battles’ hip-hop appreciation first appeared through Joell Ortiz’s microphone mauling of “Leyendecker” on Tonto+, and reappears here in The Alchemist’s inspired take on “Futura,” which focuses almost entirely on the sinister (and underused) ascending organ lines that popped up in the original song’s first third.
Dross Glop does suffer from being a bit too frontloaded, and contains just a few tracks that deviate so far from the source material as to seem remixes in just name only. A nearly prohibitive wall is thrown down in the middle of the album by the double whammy of Shabazz Palace’s “White Electric” remix (which is basically just a new Shabazz Palaces song. Ultra bonus, there) and Kode9’s riff scrambling two-step version of “Africastle.” Silent Servant’s following version of “Inchworm” might be the biggest offender here, completely ditching every element that made the original one of the more unique tracks in the Battles catalog (with it’s reggaeton beat and uber-tropical vibes) and instead pumping out standard grade minimal-techno. Not that such sounds don’t have their place elsewhere, but along with Kangding Ray’s perplexing seven-plus minute remix of “Toddler” (a track that was but a sub-90 second interlude on Gloss Drop), they sound just a little too ordinary sitting next to tracks like Gang Gang Dance’s slightly annoying yet engrossing version of “Ice Cream” or Hudson Mohawke’s synth drenched, starry eyed run through “Rolls Bayce.”
The entire project comes bathed in an aura of mutual respect, made no more apparent by the four-LP series that preceded this CD compilation, each one featuring more unique sculpture artwork from Battles member Dave Konopka. This goes a long way towards making some of the missteps a little more forgivable. Ultimately, Dross Glop cements the versatility of the second version of Battles, establishing them as both a powerful singular and collaborative force.