Gang Gang Dance

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Gang Gang Dance (2004) , 6/10
God's Money (2005), 7/10
Saint Dymphna (2008), 6.5/10
Eye Contact (2011) , 6/10

New York's Gang Gang Dance, fronted by Liz Bougatsos and featuring guitarist Josh Diamond, keyboardist Brian DeGraw and drummer Tim DeWitt, specialized in jam-oriented electronic psychedelic tribal music a` la Animal Collective and Residents.

Following the collection of demos Revival of the Shittest (2004), they debuted with the murky cauldron of Gang Gang Dance (2004). The first track consists of a-cappella screams processed to become beats and sound effects, swinging Caribbean jazz for female vocalists, abstract musique concrete, and a distorted percussive dance. The second track begins with an actual song, although sung in a childish register and set in a malicious soundscape. The song quickly disintegrates and eventually reincarnates into a twisted robotic ballet that picks up speed and escalates to a frenzied bacchanal.

The EP Hillulah (Social Registry, 2005) collected live performances.

They rediscovered the song format for God's Money (2005). The "songs", however, are far from conventional. After the brief overture God's Money I (Percussion), consisting of random chants and percussion, the gang pens the syncopated dance of A. Glory In Itself B. Egyptian, with an actual melody in the keyboards and the girlish singer emitting more or less related sounds over a convoluted pseudo-Caribbean rhythm. That's before everybody loses control and the song decays into a surrealistic trip. The nine-minute Egowar unwinds a Japanese-style aria over a dense percussive locomotive. That's before the music falls into a pool of boiling lava. The building bricks of Nomad For Love (Cannibal) are each a contradiction in terms: operatic vocals that end up chatting casually, Afro-syncopated drums that sound cold and inhumane, psychedelic keyboards that are geometric and cerebral.
Even more surreal are the instrumentals, like Untitled (Piano), which is paradisiac ambient music for tinkling clouds, or God's Money V, basically a post-modernist remix of Afro-funk music. Rhythmic and vocal currents eventually mutate into a majestic waltz in Before My Voice Fails. The closer, God's Money IX, translates all the experiments of the album into an alien language.

Then, as announced by the EP Rawwar (The Social Registry, 2007), they also rediscovered the groove for Saint Dymphna (2008), their most accessible release yet, that basically manufactured dance-music out of dub, grime and Afro-funk and spiced it with bits of rap (the grotesque and propulsive Princes), post-rock (Bebey, a jam for a plethora of out-of-context instruments), and dream-pop (Blue Nile). The funniest skit is First Communion, a trotting hoe-down launched by a quasi-house progression, followed by Inners Pace, whose loop of warped sounds mutates into a mixture of mechanical carillon, gamelan polyrhythm and horn fanfare. One can't help feeling that mostly this album is an experiment in rhythmic fusion and confusion. For example, the pulsating base of Afoot liquifies and is drained of its energy until it is reduced to a rattling abstraction. House Jam is the one serious attempt at a song, a sort of house-inspired take on Kate Bush and Bjork. It all ends peacefully in the gliterring tapestry of Dust, that hides a perennial turmoil of sounds under its apparent steady flow.

Eye Contact (4AD, 2011), featuring new drummer Jesse Lee, was, in a sense, Liz Bougatsos' album because Gang Gance Dance dispensed with the disorienting carousel of sounds and focused on the tune (and therefore the singing). The music is not particularly ambitious but carefully crafted around a simple stylistic reference point with emphasis on pan-ethnic melodies and floating synthesizers. Adult Goth is an exotic syncopated dance fronted by a shrill female voice and arranged with pervasive electronic effects, and Chinese High a Chinese ballet with atmospheric keyboards a` la lounge pop. The lively, childish, club-friendly MindKilla actually sports an intricate rhythmic counterpoint. The mellow jazz-rock of Sacer, and the mellow synth-soul of Romance Layers are just filler (or misguided attempts at topping the charts). Thru and Thru closes the album with quasi-symphonic exuberance and the usual references to Kate Bush and Japan. However, the highlight is the one exception in this parade of facile tunes: the eleven-minute psycho-cosmic jam Glass Jar, whose synth evolutions evoke Gong's early albums before turning into kitschy techno music.

The EP Kamakura (Latitudes, 2011) explores futuristic ethnic dance the way Brian Eno and Talking Heads did in the 1970s.

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
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