Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact – review


Eclecticism is a given in the age of the shuffle, where all musics exist concurrently in a kind of perpetual online "now". Still, New York's Gang Gang Dance are magpies of the most heroic order.

Begun a decade ago as a kind of audio art project in New York's fertile gallery scene, Gang Gang Dance have now released five albums of increasingly user-friendly music that draws from vintage synths, ritual incantation, world music, dance culture and the aggressive ethereality of bands such as My Bloody Valentine. Their 2008 album, Saint Dymphna, featured a pre-fame Tinchy Stryder and generated a great deal of critical heat, charting in many end-of-year lists. Hot Chip and Klaxons lined up to praise them ("the Pied Pipers of Never-Never Land", swooned the latter's Simon Taylor-Davis). Florence Welch loved them so much she paid extensive homage to their "House Jam" on her track "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" and was forced to pay royalties.

Gang Gang Dance's ecstatic fifth album, Eye Contact, is an even more lush and spangled work that fits snugly with their new label, 4AD, once home to the likes of the Cocteau Twins, whose post-verbal dreamlands Gang Gang Dance also distantly evoke. Eye Contact may be this enigmatic outfit's most danceable and blissed-out to date, but it pointedly opens with an 11-minute epic called "Glass Jar", whose spacey amniotic wafting eventually resolves into an inspired jam. One track, a warm sample of singer Lizzie Bougatsos's late uncle singing in Greek, is a minute long, and called "∞". Other interludes are called "∞∞" and "∞∞∞" – the sort of behaviour you might expect from an outfit who were sufficiently rarefied to have taken part in the Whitney Museum of American Art's 2008 Biennal.

This sort of pretension can easily grate. But Gang Gang Dance are, at heart, something of a party band with a squelchy streak a mile wide. "Romance Layers", for instance, glides like a 70s soul offcut; Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor provides the distorted vocal, like a wobbly sigh. Indian and Chinese pop are bright and sweet reference points, emphasising this band's joyful bent.

Elsewhere, as on the thumping key track "MindKilla", Gang Gang Dance can sound just like Basement Jaxx, combining deranged world-pop dancefloor antics with the creepy lullaby vocals of Bougatsos, who simultaneously recalls Kate Bush, Björk, MIA and the Knife's Karin Dreijer Andersson. The visually arresting video comes courtesy of one of the Boredoms, Japanese pioneers of this decade's tribal avant-pop.

In less masterful hands, all these source materials might combine to create a tokenistic cacophony. But Eye Contact is a woozy internationalist powwow that works, laced together by vintage synth sounds, jazzy shimmers and hedonistic polyrhythms. Everywhere there is beauty laced with a little threat – not least on the album's cover. It features a menacing-looking insect, bejewelled in water droplets, straddling a flower.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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