Album Reviews

Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact

(4AD) UK release date: 9 May 2011

Gang Gang Dance’s biggest strength is their re-playability. Their fourth album Saint Dymphna made a sizeable initial impact, but it continually revealed itself thereafter. A trip down their back catalogue proves their iconoclastic image, with elements still waiting to be discovered.

In fact they’ve been so unclassifiable as to find themselves in an odd situation; they’re at the most talked-about stage of their career, cresting on a previously absent wave of anticipation, but they still dare not repeat themselves. Do Gang Gang Dance retreat deep into their arty incantations to preserve identity? Or do they open their arms even wider for the more inclusive audience available? Both would be respectable options, but a band like this one never takes the easy way out. Instead, Eye Contact smashes perceptions with a titanic show-stopping opener, which collapses into a beatific, interlocked, indomitable jam.

That aforementioned showstopper is Glass Jar, a massive, candied, psychedelic swirl, a little masturbatory perhaps until the drums drop. It twinkles, glistens, teases and tussles until, at around the seven-minute mark, the band drop their acrobatics and settle in to a smoothed-out groove. The listener might be hoping for euphoria by way of a bass crash, but Gang Gang Dance ups expectations with the sweet power of musicianship. The remainder of Glass Jar stratifies into an ocean of rhythm – skittering breaks, electronics pulsing at rigid calibration, and Lizzi Bougatsos’ precise howl at the core. In a way it sums up the entire ethos of a band like Gang Gang Dance, they move with phalanx-like discipline, but the result is always full-bodied pop.

This is an album for the geeks; each of the sounds on Eye Contact brims with creativity – synths shriek, guitars beam, basses grind and percussion is pounded into dust. It all demands a response; nothing is taken for granted. The production gives special emphasis to each of these parts some spotlight. The spaces between the sonic forces are just wide enough for immersion into the full range of the band’s scale. It’s the kind of record in which you can spend an entire listening focusing on one particular ingredient; like the sharp relationship between the bass and drums, or Bougatsos’ expertly-paced vocal runs, for a different perception on an already multifaceted record. Many albums earn immersion based on atmosphere or heart-wrought lyrics, but what makes Eye Contact so swimmable is the simple glory of a lot of brilliant parts meshed together into a perfect conclusion. These songs might be intangible, but they sure are pleasurable.

The grandest genius of Eye Contact is that it doesn’t have to be an aloof experience. This is some of the most welcoming music Gang Gang Dance have ever pieced together – less diffuse but still rewardingly complex, without any of the clutter that could occasionally overwhelm less patient parties. It’s their best and most accessible work to date, while somehow not sacrificing any artistic credence. Its only weakness? The band still has a hard time sounding anatomical. That’s primarily to do with their soupy and distinct manufactured sounds, and the fact that the sole human element of the band, Bougatsos’ operatic croon, is constantly strung-out in obtuse, otherworldly textures – which to be fair, are both reasons a record like Eye Contact remains so delightfully strange.

So maybe the fact that the music can sound a little cold is an acceptable circumstance – a mighty fine argument given the weight of the rest of the record’s resolute artistry. However if Gang Gang Dance could one day solve that issue of biology within their current sonic repertoire, they’d be operating on a truly magnificent level. Still, none of that will change Eye Contact from being very interesting for a very long time.

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More on Gang Gang Dance
Gang Gang Dance – Kazuashita
Gang Gang Dance @ XOYO, London
Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact