Release Date: Jun 22, 2018
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
After a run of albums that were widely appreciated but not as revered as they deserved, Gang Gang Dance seemed poised to rule this decade. 2011's Eye Contact was experimental pop at its finest, rewarding listeners in the short-term with ecstatic hooks but also rewarding patience with the jaw-dropping 11-minute odyssey that is the perhaps-untoppable opener 'Glass Jar.' Whatever their follow-up was going to be, it couldn't come soon enough. And it didn't.
Following 2011's widely lauded Eye Contact, Gang Gang Dance largely disappeared as the bandmembers pursued solo projects -- Brian DeGraw's 2013 album as bEEdEEgEE, SUM/ONE, was the most prominent -- and just lived their lives. A seven-year gap between albums could be career suicide for many acts, but Kazuashita proves that in this case, it was a rebirth. The importance of taking a break to return better than ever echoes throughout the band's sixth album, from its hopeful title (a Japanese play on words that means "peace tomorrow," inspired by the name of one of their friends' children) to its sanctuary-like sounds.
The world's an ugly place, for sure, but New York art-pop innovators find beauty in nature on their triumphant sixth album Arty New York trio Gang Gang Dance's music has always been ahead of its time. Today, the back-catalogue of an obscure musician living on the other side of the world is a few clicks away. Scouring a lost, ’80s African jazz bootleg is as easy as picking up an Ed Sheeran LP in Sainsbury's.
The first thing to note about Gang Gang Dance's sixth album, and their first in seven years, is how lush it all is. Like all the best shoegaze it creates a surreal sense of space, and even the glitchiest moments on the album maintain this space, making Kazuashita a sonically warm, inviting listen. J-TREE opens with a syncopated riff and light percussion with layers slowly adding on: first Lizzi Bougatsos' vocals, then a sweet sounding guitar line, then big bass notes and more syncopated percussion, then reverb-heavy piano notes that sparkle out of the mix gorgeously.
With their magpie musical fusion and love of global pop sounds, you might expect Gang Gang Dance to feel right at home in a world where Drake peppers his work with Nigerian Afrobeat, London grime, and Jamaican dancehall, and where K-Pop is a global phenomenon. Yet there remains something charmingly out of bracket about the New York band on Kazuashita, their first new album in seven years, as if they had teleported in from a benevolent pop universe where Sigur Rós and Cocteau Twins rule supreme and the pursuit of musical beauty is an end in itself. There is, it soon becomes clear, nothing sharp, stark, or edgy on this album.
Experimental American outfit Gang Gang Dance return with their first album in seven years, and with a pantheon of abstract instruments, invigorating rhythms and a heady, shoegaze-inspired production courtesy of Ariel Pink collaborator Jorge Elbrecht, it ranks among the most colourful works they've done. 'J-Tree' sets the album on its path with a percussive, balearic beat partnered by a skipping synth line. With gliding vocals and bleary guitar licks it swiftly establishes an ethereal mood; this is the kind of utopian music that should be played as the sun sets on a tropical island.
But not as sexual as them. Or nocturnal. It has within it a more secretive, Zen-yearning quality, that pines for a beyondness beyond bodily accentuation. The lyrics are noisy, made out of graffiti. The sound is proggy, with dungeons that we must escape from in order to reach the babbling brooks and ….
Gang Gang Dance's lengthy hiatus was unexpected for a band that seemed unstoppable, especially since the release of their subliminal 2007 'Saint Dymphna' followed by the critically acclaimed 'Eye Contact' four years later. Now, seven years since that last release, 'Kazuashita' comes with a lot of anticipation. 'Kazuashita' holds the elements that made the New York band so blissfully monumental to begin with: a global voyage of electro anchored on a bed of experimental shoegaze-rock.