Release Date: May 10, 2011
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Hard techno stabs, soft-rock piano, polyrhythmic dance-floor clatter, steel-drum solos, New Age-y samples of burbling water: In Gang Gang Dance's search for bliss, all kinds of unlikely musical bedfellows hop into the sack. These New York avant-gardists emerged from the same early-2000s noise stew as Animal Collective, and like that band, they've moved gradually from hallucinogenic freakouts to tighter song form. Singer Lizzi Bougatsos weaves riddles of devotion ("Adult Goth") and recites nursery rhymes with demonic glee ("MindKilla").
“Accessibility” is rarely the first word used to describe New York indie-worldbeat outfit Gang Gang Dance. The group’s music is an often random, sometimes even alienating blend of disjointed Asian-Latin rhythms, heavy synthesization, and general noise that, while whimsical, often teems to the point of suffocation. Tracks like “Vacuum” and “House Jam,” both from 2008’s Saint Dymphna, are typical Gang Gang Dance fare, pairing unpredictable percussion and piercing, jarring synth accompaniments with lead vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos’s fluctuating voice.
Three years after the magnetic St. Dymphna, Gang Gang Dance has produced another manic and joyful album of worldbeat noises. Eye Contact plays like a dramatic cycle from morning to night: the feel of the album peaks and dips in energy in a perfect sequence to sustain energy and attention. Though it pushes more towards traditional song structure than Gang Gang has done in the past, the group does not give up its expert taste for noise, squeaks, pops, and maxed out bass.
New York’s experimental sonic collective continues to make challenging and rewarding music on Eye Contact. Its first for the legendary 4AD (home of innovators like Pixies and Cocteau Twins), Gang Gang’s fifth full-length merges everything from Animals-era Pink Floyd atmospherics, Yoko Ono’s avant-dance signatures and 21st-century synthetic beats on its epic 12-minute opener “Glass Jar” alone. Led by Lizzi Bougatsos’ high-pitched siren pipes, crystalline thumps (“Adult Goth”) invigorate while robot stomps (“Sacer”) seduce.
Gang Gang Dance started as free-form noiseniks; over the years, they've managed to mellow out without moving to the center-- evolving into purveyors of pan-cultural body-music, marrying club beats with lyrics about communing with the dead. Like Arthur Russell before them, they give equal floorspace to the spiritual and the sensual. By those loopy standards, Eye Contact-- the group's latest album-- is Gang Gang Dance's finest, weirdest, and most uplifting statement yet.
The new album from New York’s Gang Gang Dance, their first for 4AD, begins with the words "I can hear everything, it's everything time”. This ushers in the sound of the remarkable 11 minute electronic apocalypse of Glass Jar, a magnificent, spiraling, sprawling album opener, which proves an early climax on this, their category-defying 5th outing. Unlike their recent output, 2005’s dark-ambient masterpiece God's Money or the grime world beat of 2008’s Saint Dymphna, Gang Gang Dance chose to undertake a more fully realized writing and recording process for Eye Contact to produce their highly original and distinctively percussive Eastern groove.
It's been a slow burn for Gang Gang Dance as far as commercial visibility goes. The Manhattan-based experimental act has rather quietly released four albums to decent critical acclaim, but has failed to enter the same realm of success as such contemporaries as Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors. Will this change with the release of the band's fifth full-length Eye Contact? Perhaps.
Anyone who's spent any time with Gang Gang Dance's catalog understands that they never stand still as an entity, evolving in sound and personnel. No two records from their shelf sound alike, though the progression of incorporating music and grooves from other cultures has been steady, if often chaotic, amid the squelch and squeal of their sound collages (through 2005's God's Money, anyway). With 2008's Saint Dymphna, GGD embraced grime and dubstep in a weave of careening, skittering synths and beats that were almost songlike.
“I can hear everything, it’s everything time. ” With that pronouncement, the 5th full-length from astral dilettantes and sometime Brooklyn residents Gang Gang Dance slowly lifts from the launchpad with quiet grace into the 11-minute opener “Glass Jar. ” It’s all lens flares and gentle percolations of field-recorded spoken-word snippets, synthesized glissandi, tinkling chimes, and teased cymbals as the atmosphere thins from blue to bruise black.
In the past decade of writing music reviews, on and off, I’ve increasingly found myself faced with more and more records made using 30 different instruments, countless guest vocalists and displaying influences that don’t so much merge genres as forcibly encourage them to cross-pollinate. Which are superb things to listen to and be smug about in advance of everyone else getting to hear them, and utter buggers to make sense of in a few hundred words come review time. So a brief note for the uninitiated: every review of New Yorkers Gang Gang Dance's fifth record will probably mention quite how stupendous the diversity is on show here - and in the band’s back catalogue in general.
Finance is in meltdown, the earth keeps burping, technology is getting scarily sentient, paupers scrape for pennies on the porches of the mega-rich – it’s not surprising that music is taking a turn to the apocalyptic. [a]Gang Gang Dance[/a], though, are waving a lone placard that reads ‘THE END IS NOT NIGH’. [b]‘Eye Contact’[/b] is a piercing glimpse into an imagined Utopia of infinite possibility, as if they’ve focused their years of digital psychedelic jamming into a single beam, and fired it beyond a horizon peered at in vain by their peers.
For their fifth album, New York's Gang Gang Dance have plunged deeper into the cosmic pop swamp they created on 2008's excellent Saint Dymphna. Opening with the 11-minute-long Glass Jar, which builds from fragmentary synth washes into something resembling a modern-day dance anthem, and ending with the harsh beats of the urgent Thru and Thru, it's an album that can overwhelm on first listen. It doesn't help matters that Liz Bougatsos's voice is such an odd instrument, piercing through the clattering drums and eastern rhythms of Adult Goth like a laser.
A remarkable fifth LP from the otherworldly New Yorkers. Mike Diver 2011 Scientific sorts estimate that the average human uses only 90% of their brain’s potential. Gang Gang Dance, across their previous albums, have routinely explored the mysterious missing 10%, resulting in uniqueness that’s failed to fully propel the New Yorkers up from the underground.
With pop music – at least that of the radio friendly unit shifter variety – three devices are undeniably ubiquitous: earworm melodies, lyrical inclusion, and conventional song format. Think about it – if your song has a good hook, a direct and universal message, and a strategically placed chorus, it’s a fair bet that people will at least give you the time of day. Then there’s the brand of pop that, in renouncing the holy triptych of most Top 40 hits, chooses to embrace textural nuance, esoteric cultural influences, and alien milieus.