Music

Gang Gang Dance: Saint Dymphna

It might be comforting, or maybe disquieting, to learn that Saint Dymphna is the patron saint of mental illness.


Gang Gang Dance

Saint Dymphna

Label: Social Registry
UK Release Date: 2008-10-20
US Release Date: 2008-10-21
Amazon
Amazon
iTunes

On 7/7/07 The Boredoms set up 77 Boadrum, a massive drum circle in a tiny park just below the Brooklyn Bridge. When New York State troopers capped the crowd at 3,000, fans spilled onto the streets of DUMBO and even up the bridge itself to enjoy the spectacle from way above the East River. The plan was make this spectacle a bi-coastal effort on 8/8/08, with the Japanese avant-punks leading 88 drummers into a perpetual drum circle in the La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles. This left the East Coast to wonder what New York band could lead 88 drummers on our shores and represent the tribal rhythms and avant-noise spirit of the Boredoms at the same time. Here’s where Gang Gang Dance comes in.

Perhaps unpredictably, Gang Gang Dance became the perfect choice to lead New York’s freaked-out drum-jam experiment. They’ve got all the elements ripe for obvious name-dropping references: eclectic neo-tribalism of Animal Collective, danceable funk of !!!, sonic exploration of Boredoms, Boards of Canada-style interludes, and Portishead-like trip-hop. And the band has proved that they can deliver on a New Yorker-approved arts level, as evidenced by their performance at Whitney Biennial 2008.

Saint Dymphna is not a scattered effort, though. Gang Gang Dance packages all the previously mentioned genres into a nice little, seamless package. In fact, nearly every track melds into one another as the band transitions from one genre to the next. Saint Dymphna has Gang Gang Dance stalking into the wilderness dragging their drums and organs along, making occasional pit stops in deep funk, dancehall, reggaeton, and London grime.

The most obvious stand-outs here are the danceable club anthems. “Holy Communion” commences with a steady build, easing into Liz Bougatsos’ sensuous howls; and then, about 50 seconds in, a distinctive funk riff blows the lid off the fucker. The result is a rapid-fire, bass-heavy, MIA-worthy freak out. “Princes” traverses a similar vein, this time buoyed by the fast-paced syncopated verse of London emcee Tinchy Stryder. Stryder’s particularly explosive first verse is introduced after a stunted piano riff over which Tinchy shouts “Oh Shit, Gang Gang” -- the beat drops and the grime-induced mayhem begins. The result is a peak to what is a impressively comprehensive effort from the Gang Gang crew.

At the bottom of the record is the drum-heavy ballad “Desert Storm” and melodic “House Jam”. The former is filled with tom-tom fills and has organs, cymbals, and synths being thrown in at all directions as Bougatsos works her way through the dissonance with her staccato lyrics. “House Jam” has a soothing manipulated vocal track which sways back-and-forth as Bougatsos does a Björk job on the leads; bleeps and such wander in the background of this tranquil number.

And if I could be forgiven for dancing about architecture a bit longer, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the eclectic, instrumental tracks on Saint Dymphna. “Bebey“ starts the album off with a gentle “whooping” which ascends into persistent “whipping”. A smattering of drum-rolls and manipulated organs propel the album into its incipient track, “Holy Communion”. “Vacuum” features those Boredoms Super Ae-style riffs which are part drone part rabbit-hole-inducer. “Dust” revolves around a simple riff with the kitchen sink in thrown in at separate intervals. Flutes, horns, bongos, plinking pianos, found and spaceship sounds all make a fitting conclusion to this wildly diverse record.

It seems a brave task to cherry-pick all these eclectic styles and produce a worthy amalgam. But Gang Gang Dance has irretrievably began what may be our generation’s perpetual drum circle. As we begin to sink into their incessant groove it might be comforting, or maybe disquieting, to learn to Saint Dymphna is the patron saint of mental illness. And seeking solace in these troubling times one might ask if this album, like the saint from which it is named, might bring us salvation or simply drive us off the deep end.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.

Music

Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.

Music

Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Film

Alastair Sim: A Very English Character Actor Genius

Alastair Sim belongs to those character actors sometimes accused of "hamming it up" because they work at such a high level of internal and external technique that they can't help standing out.

Music

Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers Head "Underwater" in New Video (premiere)

Celebrating the first anniversary of Paper Castle, folksy poppers Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers release an uplifting new video for opening track, "Underwater".

Music

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's New LP Is Lacking in Songcraft but Rich in Texture

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith's The Mosaic of Transformation is a slightly uneven listen. It generally transcends the tropes of its genre, but occasionally substitutes substance for style.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1996 Album 'All Set' Sees the Veteran Band Stretching Out and Gaining Confidence

After the straightforward and workmanlike Trade Test Transmissions, Buzzcocks continued to hone their fresh identity in the studio, as exhibited on the All Set reissue contained on the new box-set Sell You Everything.

Books

Patrick Madden's 'Disparates' Makes Sense in These Crazy Times

There's no social distancing with Patrick Madden's hilarious Disparates. While reading these essays, you'll feel like he's in the room with you.

Music

Perfume Genius Purges Himself and It's Contagious

You need to care so much about your art to pack this much meaning into not only the words, but the tones that adorn and deliver them. Perfume Genius cares so much it hurts on Set My Heart on Fire Immediately.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Confinement and Escape: Emma Donoghue and E.L. Doctorow in Our Time of Self-Isolation

Emma Donoghue's Room and E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley define and confront life within limited space.

Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump White House -- and then drags it all to Hell.

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.