Sights & Sounds: Rhythmic Patterns

BATTLES – Gloss Drop

THE GOOD: The indefinable Battles return with their sophomore album.

THE BAD: There are some changes within the band’s line-up, but these don’t necessarily spell “doom and gloom.”

THE NITTY GRITTY: Vocalist Tyondai Braxton has departed, leaving a gaping hole in the group’s unique sound. But the rest of that distinct style remains intact. The band (now a trio) continues to crank out a strange mix of everything from hip-hop to math rock, calypso to jazz pop. At times, we get mad circus music. Other cuts give us the tightest funk.

Gloss Drop is a mostly instrumental set that challenges the senses. Tracks like “Futura” and “Wall Street” are intense but seamless pieces; razor-sharp jagged works that are rhythmically tight and stylistically free. Random vocals are handled by an eclectic group of guests ranging from contemporaries such as Kazu Makino of Blonde Redhead to synth legend Gary Numan.

The end result is an electronic-leaning concoction that doesn’t shy away from either dance floor vibes or the occasional ripping guitar. Unpredictability and malleability are both key terms here.

BUY IT?: Yes. But this is not your ordinary jam session. Only the musically adventurous need apply.

CSS – La Liberacion

THE GOOD: Brazilian indie rockers CSS come back with a vengeance.

THE BAD: Those not impressed with the band’s first two outings may not come back for Liberacion, but they should. CSS sound more focused and rejuvenated.

THE NITTY GRITTY: After flirting with everything from post-punk to disco to thrash to do-it-yourself electro, CSS seem to be going for more accomplished melodies and tighter structures this time. The record kicks off with the danceable one-two punch of “I Love You” and “Hits Me Like A Rock,” making Liberacion sound more like a Robyn collection than a CSS set (absolutely nothing wrong with that).

Later on, old habits begin to pop up (again, nothing wrong there). The title cut is a quick catchy punk anthem sung in the band’s native Portuguese. “Red Alert” finds sneaky riffs and rhythms holding a tense jam together. “F*** Everything” is a terse throwback to the trashy spirit of CSS’ humble beginnings. The end product is a bold step forward that hasn’t abandoned its roots.

BUY IT?: Yes. After the slight slump of 2008′s Donkey, La Liberacion is easily the group’s best yet.

LADYTRON – Gravity the Seducer

THE GOOD: Liverpool, England’s second coolest band ever returns with an atmospheric fifth set.

THE BAD: Gravity is good, but could be the band’s weakest effort.

THE NITTY GRITTY: That being said, the record should not be dismissed entirely. For even when these lads and lasses aren’t delivering their best, the electronic outfit still offers something moody and memorable.

Gravity is more about its surroundings and less about powerful individual songs (the record even boasting three instrumentals). Its beats and textures are more subtle than 2008′s Velocifero; the music giving itself room to breathe. There are still moments though that will immediately grab hold.

Opening cut “White Elephant” brings us in with a nice sway. “Ace of Hz” is classic throbbing Ladytron – the pulsating beats, keyboard blips and Helen Marnie’s chirping vocals all blending flawlessly. “Melting Ice” is hypnotic in its execution, melodies and liquid rhythms twisting and turning.

But some parts feel unfinished. Both “Moon Palace” and “Altitude Blues” lose focus; the tracks sounding hopelessly hollow. “Aces High” is simply a voiceless retread of the aforementioned “Ace of Hz.”

BUY IT?: Yep. Even Ladytron on an “off” day is worth the effort.

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