Music Reviews
Eye Contact

Gang Gang Dance Eye Contact

(4AD) Rating - 8/10

The new album from New York’s Gang Gang Dance, their first for 4AD, begins with the words "I can hear everything, it's everything time”. This ushers in the sound of the remarkable 11 minute electronic apocalypse of Glass Jar, a magnificent, spiraling, sprawling album opener, which proves an early climax on this, their category-defying 5th outing. Unlike their recent output, 2005’s dark-ambient masterpiece God's Money or the grime world beat of 2008’s Saint Dymphna, Gang Gang Dance chose to undertake a more fully realized writing and recording process for Eye Contact to produce their highly original and distinctively percussive Eastern groove. Recorded with new drummer Jesse Lee, who replaces founding member Tim DeWit, the album was written in the peaceful Californian desert and recorded in a spacious converted-church studio in upstate New York. The result is an album that plays like a voyage or single composition, taking twists and turns within gloriously maze-like arrangements.

Although New Yorker's may talk about this band in the same breath as their good friends and spiritual brothers in the shadows of Animal Collective and Black Dice, that doesn't truly describe their sound. Wielding gigantically layered primal kaleidoscopic atmospherics, Gang Gang Dance are simply a little bit scary and a lot bit good. The electronic soul of key track Chinese High opens with a stuttering piece of spoken word sampling reminiscent of a ghost talking to themselves underneath a refrain, but once it kicks off it’s well-structured, visionary stuff.

The band’s secret weapon is the ethereal alien vocals of Lizzi Bougastos. Like another instrument, her voice is the arc around which the melodies are intertwined, weaving in and out and over their propulsive genre-splattering jazz percussion. Songs gradually build celestial wonder and cosmic euphoria and the album flies by in a seductive mélange of non-specific non-Western influences, tribal drums, and Frippertronic guitars. There are free-improvisational aspects (which Gang Gang Dance have become renowned for in the live setting) and unpredictability remains within their soundscapes, yet there is also a sense of well-defined structure throughout. While no commercial crossover will be gained from Eye Contact, Gang Gang Dance have released one of the most captivating albums of the year, each song different yet cohesive, challenging and ultimately highly rewarding.