Gang Gang Dance
May 17, 2011 #36 - Music vs. Comedy
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.
Eye Contact is certainly a challenging listen, and lays down the gauntlet for the listener with the ethereal, musique concrète of opener "Glass Jar." It's an astounding 11-minute track that tantalizingly builds to a taut rhythmic crescendo, showcasing some downright gorgeous vocals from Lizzie Bougatsos that resemble a tribal incantation more than actual singing.
The taut, rhythmic thrust of "Adult Goth" is buttressed by buzzing synths and celestial, Eastern-tinged percussion. Bougatsos channels Björk in her breathy, overwrought vocal delivery, simultaneously inscrutable and captivating. The track metamorphoses into a schizoid electro number, with all the unhinged ambition of a This Heat composition, as the vocals become progressively more disembodied, belying the warmth of the keyboard gurgles lurking beneath.
The astounding "MindKilla" slyly approximates the malevolent detachment of the Fever Ray album. Bougatsos even shares Karin Dreijer Andersson's child-like wonderment in her invocation of the "Hush Little Baby" nursery rhyme mid-song, juxtaposing it with violent, near-industrial instrumentation beneath. It's a jarring dichotomy, but one that succeeds spectacularly in the context of the wildly ambitious song.
Eye Contact's sole misstep is the warped R&B appropriation of "Romance Layers"; but even in failure, the band takes a staid trope and seemingly places it in a blender. That, in a nutshell, is what makes this album such a stunning listen. It's a surfeit of musical ideas turned inside out, effortlessly jumping from genre to genre without needlessly overreaching. They've showed glimmers of brilliance before, but Eye Contact is easily Gang Gang Dance's crowning achievement. (www.ganggangdance.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 9/10