Out of the silence comes a man’s voice to assure us: “I can hear everything. It’s everything time.” And so begins a journey – an electrifying pilgrimage into the very heart of ‘everything’. This journey masquerades as Eye Contact, the latest output from notorious New Yorkers Gang Gang Dance, and ‘everything’ is a concept that the band embrace dearly; their albums are expansive, delightfully incongruous and draw inspiration from a wide pool of ideas. A group of percussive experimentalists at heart, they’ve been known to dally recklessly with techno beats, imported rhythms, electronic indie-rock and saccharine pop hooks and somehow – either through ritual or by sheer force of will – turn them into something whole and unique.
The Gang Gang Dance faithful will be happy to hear that Eye Contact is as loose, outlandish and playful as the band has ever been, with singer Lizzi Bougatsos fearlessly leading the dazzling, psychedelic parade. Newcomers to the band’s discography, though, will have their mettle tested early on; opening track ‘Glass Jar’ is quite the baptism of fire. Clocking in at over ten minutes, it slowly builds through a web of echoic keyboard tones that urge the listener to submit to a trance state before erupting to a frantic climax that’s both hypnotic and intense. Matching its brilliance at only half the duration is album standout ‘Adult Goth’, which twins tribal beats with electro sounds that bubble, stab and swirl to wonderfully grimy ends.
From there on in few handholds are offered to the wary. Recent single ‘MindKilla’ eventually broadens into an infectious gloop of staccato keyboards, bass and percussion with all the exuberance of a Brazilian carnival, but it opens with stuttering, spacey tones overlaid with Bougatsos’s infamously slurred and distorted vocals, an ethereal wailing that brims with emotion and ghostly passion, even if the words are rarely readily distinguishable. ‘Romance Layers’ is easily the album’s most accessible track, creating an almost pantomime version of early Madonna and ’80s, glittery pop – albeit with a trippy case of ataxia. Sultry drum beats and twinkling synths complement the faintly preposterous soft-jazz sound suprisingly well, and a guest turn from Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor adds another dimension to the vocals.
While antidotes to Eye Contact‘s many highs are seldom encountered, ‘Sacer’ is an instantly forgettable and surprisingly mundane piece that lags behind the rest, while the short, impervious interludes ‘∞’, ‘∞∞’ and ‘∞∞∞’ could stand to have been replaced by a couple of meatier tracks. But what’s a Gang Gang Dance album without such impenetrable antics? Marginally more comprehensible than God’s Money and just as crowd-pleasing as Saint Dymphna, it’s as divisive a record as they’ve ever made. There may be little in the way of evolution beyond the band’s established and rewarding formula here, but there’s plenty to delight their loyal devotees and expand – or melt – the minds of fresh pickings.
[4AD; May 9, 2011]
Tagged gang gang dance