Music

Bang Gang: Something Wrong

More isolated, Scandinavian acoustic fare from the progressive pop savant.


Bang Gang

Something Wrong

Label: From Nowhere
US Release Date: 2007-04-03
UK Release Date: 2005-05-23
Amazon
iTunes

Bardi Johannson, the Stephen Merchant-esque Icelander behind atmospheric pop project Bang Gang, has the self-absorbed look of a supermodel and, one imagines, a similarly doe-eyed following. He traffics in that kind of ethereal, slightly psychedelic pop music that, for those who fall in love with it, becomes a kind of mantra of romanticism, soft repetitions of universal truth. The singer's worked with Keren Ann, not only as a guest vocalist on his new record, but as a duo -- the two recorded an album together in 2006 as Lady & Bird. Perhaps partly due to her profile at home, Bang Gang's now received a fair amount of attention in France. In fact, these songs suit Ann’s similarly understated style. It may be that Johannson's collision of dreamy atmospherics and bubblegum pop are particularly compelling in the context of France's pop music landscape; for the rest of us, his looped sounds can seem a little overly reliant on atmosphere.

Following closely from his Find What You Get EP from last year (each of that disc’s four tracks appear on Something’s Wrong), this sophomore album is not so much an evolution as a well-recognized extension. The reason that all these songs sound so familiar is that their melodies are, more or less, permutations of each other. That and the fact that Johannson’s compositional method consists of repeating short two- or four-bar melodic ideas 20 or 30 times over the course of a song. Obviously the music’s what we’re meant to notice most, and what is supposed to transport us to some sort of desolate, post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The best Bang Gang songs are not only complete and successful in this programmatic intent, but could also be easily re-imagined as perfect fodder for remixing. The small thematic elements could easily be expanded into lush, attractive electronica -- the Mylo reworking of Sia’s “Breathe Me” comes to mind. Opener “Inside” sounds like it could be a refrain from an Annie hit-of-the-year, but in some disembodied version, with Ester Talia Casey’s breathy voice oddly compelling as it sings, “Find me inside every heartbeat”. “It’s Alright” is all soft ethereality, hardly existing in the static air; the continuing loop of low strings and Rhodes piano creates and sustains this atmosphere perfectly. Occasionally, Johannson shows us he can increase the viscerality of his compositions. “Find What You Get”, when it finally builds to a climax of crashing guitar fuzz, thrills with Blonde Redhead’s strung-out power.

There are a few places where these slow songs fail to ignite. The splayed cymbal emphasis on "Contradictions" comes to seem slightly ridiculous after excessive repetitions, and the standard jazz elements -- a short saxophone figure, tinkling piano -- feel a little foreign to the music's atmospheric heart. Bang Gang's cover of "Stop! In the Name of Love", the Supremes' 1965 hit, is more tribute than reinterpretation, and as such it sticks out like a stylistic sore thumb from the rest of the disc's material. It's not bad; it's just so clearly set apart from Johannson's own songs that you have to wonder at the inclusion.

Johannsen does have something distinctive in Bang Gang. It may be a little glacial or a little repetitive for some listeners, but catch you in the right mood, and it's difficult to deny the music's soft power. "Look at the Sun" ends the album on a sweet, sad note -- would you expect anything else?

6
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Music

Rush's 'Permanent Waves' Endures with Faultless Commercial Complexity

Forty years later, Rush's ability to strike a nearly perfect balance between mainstream invitingness and exclusory complexity is even more evident and remarkable. The progressive rock classic, Permanent Waves, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Music

Drum Machines? Samples? Brendan Benson Gets Contemporary with 'Dear Life'

Powerpop overlord and part-time Raconteur, Brendan Benson, grafts hip-hop beats to guitar pop on his seventh solo album, Dear Life.

Music

'Sell You Everything' Brings to Light Buzzcocks '1991 Demo LP' That Passed Under-the-Radar

Cherry Red Records' new box-set issued in memory of Pete Shelley gathers together the entire post-reunion output of the legendary Buzzcocks. Across the next week, PopMatters explores the set album-by-album. First up is The 1991 Demo LP.

Music

10 Key Tracks From the British Synthpop Boom of 1980

It's 40 years since the first explosion of electronic songs revitalized the UK charts with futuristic subject matter, DIY aesthetics, and occasionally pompous lyrics. To celebrate, here's a chronological list of those Moog-infused tracks of 1980 that had the biggest impact.

Reading Pandemics

Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.

Books

'Yours, Jean' Is a Perfect Mixture of Tragedy, Repressed Desire, and Poor Impulse Control

Lee Martin's Yours, Jean is a perfectly balanced and heartbreaking mix of true crime narrative and literary fiction.

Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
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.