“I can hear everything, it’s everything time”. And so begins the fifth album from Gang Gang Dance, a genre defying band with an interesting past and no doubt a bright future. Based in NYC, they have been toying with sound for ten years, across three labels. Now with 4AD, Eye Contact is a tightly produced, adventurous journey over fifty minutes and ten tracks. It’s a trip around the world playing out in one coherent set, not skipping a beat and leaving you wondering where you will end up next. Broken up into four parts separated by infinity symbols as track titles, some parts of the soundscape contained within this magical LP feel like you are indeed diving into an infinite abyss, through a wormhole where the destination is a lush tropical party on a beach, where the time is always happy hour.
UK label 4AD seem a good fit for the band, having artists such as Ariel Pink, Deerhunter and tUnE-yArDs on their roster. The transition from ‘lo’ to ‘hi’ fi is a delicate one, running the risk of alienating long standing fans. But handled with care by band and label, this logical step can prove essential and help expose Gang Gang Dance to a wider audience. And while ‘purists’ may wallow in dismay they too must realise they heard it for the first time, once, also.
The beginning of this voyage is a slow burning lead up, brimming with anticipation in the knowledge of what lies ahead is going to be a treat for the ears and for the mind. ‘Glass Jar’ at eleven minutes long is the perfect opener. Lead singer Lizzi Bougatos enters the fray at six minutes, swirling and sparkling synths glistening like the milky way before the percussion picks up and slowly recedes over the remainder of the track. This leads beautifully into the first interlude of what sounds like yoga chanting, invisioning the blissful atmosphere of a WOMAD festival before we slide into ‘Adult Goth’. Bougatos’ vocals Pokies demostrate the range and skill that would give the likes of Kate Bush a run for their money, with a Bollywood feel and staccato guitar riff rounding out this track.
‘Chinese High’ with its sampled indecipherable looped vocals at the start has a definite island feel, steel and bass drum beat resonating throughout. Bassist for Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Tim Koh, features on the track offering a counter melody bass line complimenting the Asian influenced sounds. ‘Mindkilla’ is a standout track, heavily layered with pure pop sensibilities and playful lyrics but underlying a darkness amongst distortion and synth driving hard through the heart of it. ‘Romance Layers’ takes things down featuring Alexis Tayler from Hot Chip, retro sounding but still firmly planted in the 21st century. As with many tracks here it is oozing soul which is no mean feat from a band which sounds like Gang Gang Dance. The final track is ‘Thru And Thru’ and a worthy way to close out the trip of an album Eye Contact is. Stomping percussion is the feature stand out of this one, along with those ethereal vocals, it sounds like it could have been on the soundtrack to Orwell’s 1984. Middle Eastern sounds dominate the final part of the track, as it does part of the album itself, finishing with a robotic voice whispering Big Brother-like “Live Forever”. This is an album that will do just that.
Capturing the sound of our world today, pulling in global influences, shaking them up and regurgitating them into their own very unique sound, Gang Gang Dance have created music like no other. Eye Contact is a kaleidoscope of colours and cultures, each track unique and yet part of a cohesive whole, playing out like a DJ set. This band can hear everything, and it seems like all the good bits are found here on this LP.
Dave Roberts – June 12, 2011
Gang Gang Dance (USA)
From the album, ‘Eye Contact’, 4AD