Music

Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact

Gang Gang Dance injects pop music with new life, leading the quest for newer sounds from ageless sources. Eye Contact is here to solidify the group’s heavyweight majesty.


Gang Gang Dance

Eye Contact

Label: 4AD
US Release date: 2011-05-10
UK Release date: 2011-05-09
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

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. Overall, the new album is a thick slab of synth-ridden melody that may be poppier but no less inspiring.

This is Gang Gang’s first album for 4AD, which has recently ushered other bands, like Ariel Pink, Iron & Wine, and tUnE-yArDs, into bigger more fully formed sounds. The common trajectory from lo to hi-fi sometimes loses fans who call themselves purists. No matter what, to put Eye Contact in a similar trajectory of Gang Gang Dance’s waltz into maturity sells it short with a worn narrative. The three albums, starting with God’s Money and ending with Eye Contact are a solid trilogy that are really of a piece. If anything, Eye Contact is the crowning achievement in its consistency and unrelenting thickness. Thick is really the most apt word to describe the sound on this album. Gang Gang Dance has always been a group of eclectic and sophisticated sound connoisseurs, a record collector’s band whose jubilance can appeal likewise to the novice. Here they weave together sounds into a seamless patchwork, rich in layers and excitement.

As the members’ hosting of the 88 Boadrum concert in Brooklyn around the time of the last album attests, Gang Gang Dance is a band that celebrates rhythm. Eye Contact finds the band breaking in a new drummer for the recording, Jesse Lee, after Tim DeWitt left the band. Since the new album is more song-oriented, we also see vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos take a more central role. Her vocal parts come closer to melodies you can sing along with, front and center in the mix, like on the second single, “MindKilla". But really the band’s strength remains the masterful weaving of the vocal parts into the thickly layered slab of synths, bass, and percussion, so that everything coheres. Instrumentally, the album is synth-heavy; there are less obvious guitar parts than on St. Dymphna, which had nice reggae influenced guitar interludes. Here the guitar is more heavily processed. Where the last album saw Gang Gang playing more with hip-hop and electronic-influenced styles, now they tilt strongly towards world music for inspiration.

The sequencing of the album is seamless, a major strength of the group on St. Dymphna as well. Three transitional tracks, marked with infinity signs, suture the four major phases of the album: the album warms up slowly on the 11-minute opener and epic first single, “Glass Jar", but quickly unleashes a frantic onslaught for a straight four songs of Eastern/Caribbean inflected rhythms before bringing it down with some reflective R&B and dreamy pop and finally closing out with a stomping percussive track.

“Glass Jar” perfectly stokes anticipation with swirling synths and rippling cymbals so that when the rhythm comes in and Bougatsos starts singing, despite the steadiness, it is incredibly climactic. The long build and soaring culmination produce a light-headedness that is the welcome dominant feeling of the rest of the album. An interlude of yoga chanting leads us into “Adult Goth", which has a staccato guitar riff and Bollywood percussion. Bougatsos’s voice is in the upper register, almost nasal, and climbs into the forefront of the track -- she even toasts over the bridge. There is more room between the high and low end, so that the drums and bass reverberate out in rings under the melodies. Next, “Chinese High” picks up on the island feel, with a steel drum driven melody. The highlight of this track is the low and dirty bass drum that pulses throughout the song to give it a grinding feel.

The second single, the Dune referencing “MindKilla” combines jagged synths coming in at all ends with droning bass and a reggaeton beat for a dark feel. Still, “MindKilla” is as catchy as Gang Gang Dance gets and seems the obvious single for the album. Though it sticks out melodically, it is not the album’s highlight. Placed in the middle of the album, “MindKilla” actually brings down the hectic rush of songs into the more chilled out middle swath of songs. “Romance Layers", a duet with Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip, is the dark horse of the album. It’s an almost note perfect sendup of ‘80s synth slow jams, but without a central vocal part. Think Prince but not nearly as monumental. What could be a dated sound in the synths is actually reinvigorated. The track works so well because it provides needed respite after the crazy rush of sensory overload.

The weakest song on the album is “Sacer". Though Bougatsos has taken on a seemingly more concentrated role throughout the album, this song could be seen as a showcase of her vocals. But this is where I find her style going too far into the childlike squeaks of Björk-land. Luckily, however, “Thru and Thru” returns the album to its brilliance with a stomping track of Bollywood style percussion. This is the late night song that rises and falls like a second wind. It’s epically dramatic and complex, a fine way to close out.

Eye Contact is obviously a risky strategy in its attempt to encompass everything. The album opens with the words, “I can hear everything. It’s everything time” and goes out with a strange, warped injunction, “Live forever.” But Gang Gang Dance pulls off the gamble with a huge payoff. The group is a long-awaited fulfillment of the promise of early postpunk worldbeat like the Slits (in fact Bougatsos could be heir to Ari Up). Gang Gang updates and rounds out this sound to make it eminently pertinent and exciting. Eye Contact solidifies the group’s heavyweight majesty. Gang Gang Dance injects pop music with new life, leading the quest for newer sounds from ageless sources and mixing it all together in a critically irresistible way.

9
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.