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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact: A

“I can hear everything. It’s everything time.”
I’m kicking myself right now for opening this review with that line, because I know that so many other publications will quote it to begin their own reviews. Despite this, I have made a concerted effort to have it lead into my review, because there is nothing that I could say about Gang Gang Dance’s newest album, Eye Contact, that isn’t already encapsulated by those seven words that begin the group’s fifth release. At once emotionally cold and uncomfortably intimate, Eye Contact is the most jarringly eclectic dance music you are bound to hear this year.

That line comes to introduce first single, “Glass Jar”, a sprawling, eleven-minute behemoth that, like Destroyer’s recent “Bay of Pigs (Detail)”, begins with a cavernous atmosphere of reverberating synthesizers before getting into a groove that is all the more worth the time waited. The guy who utters those words reappears throughout the song’s six-minute build up. He lets out a passionate “Yes” as a musical palette slowly materializes, comforts with a “Don’t worry” and informs us it’s “Dream time” at various points in the song. The aura in which this guy says these things is so precious, it almost feels as if he’s commenting on your lovemaking while he’s in the same room as you. And while that is a radical way to look at “Glass Jar”, it is representative of the song’s humor and its willingness to drop all pretenses, like only the best modern hippies can.

And this is not even with the mention of Liz Bougatsos, the actual lead singer of Gang Gang Dance, whose inimitable coo appears when the beat to “Glass Jar” finally drops. While I could probably count the number of lines she sings on Eye Contact that I understand on one hand, her voice is so emotive that she is just as rapturous as a foreign ingénue as she is as a comprehensible frontwoman. Her indecipherable squeals on tracks like “Chinese High” and “Sacer” sound like an extra instrument, imbuing each track with a new, valued layer of depth. Her vocal presence tends to ground Eye Contact’s songs firmly in the realm of dance music, tying the gleefully disparate ends of “Mind Killa” with the utterance of the song’s title for example. Despite that clear hurdle of comprehension, you will find yourself singing her notes back to her, adding nonsensical words to reconcile their meaning within each song.

But Eye Contact, as that guy so well explains, is a time for everything, and, if you’re getting the impression the album is just some hipster electroclash, it’s far from it. “Glass Jar” does sound like the work of a high-minded outfit of Brooklynites, but it fades into the subversive refrain of a recording of an Italian singer, an intriguing choice of transition into the slippery Eastern guitar melodies of “Adult Goth”. The entire album flows like a DJ set, three interludes giving listeners context before another glorious dance track erupts through their speakers. This dense style of songwriting is most evident in “Mind Killa”, a veritable microcosm of chaos and creativity. It surges seamlessly through about five musical movements, all unique and all infectious. If the song were remixed to about an hour’s length, you wouldn’t need another song to play for a crowded dance floor. Elsewhere, Eye Contact wonderfully contradicts itself from track to track, experimenting with Caribbean jams on “Chinese High”, a spooky organ that would soundtrack a Nikki Minaj-hosted haunted house on “Thru and Thru” and the voice of Hot Chip’s Alex Taylor on the soft rock of “Romance Layers”.

Eye Contact may sound strange on first listen, but its many talents grow stronger with time. The album may very well be a time for everything, but it’s surprisingly manageable, the group very professional in making sure its innumerable elements are all kept in check. The album is very dense and its styles always fascinate and keep the senses sharp with wonder. It’s not as difficult to digest Eye Contact as you may think from this description, but, even if you find that it is, it’s all the more better. Sometimes the senses need to be overwhelmed. Keeps ’em fresh.


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