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Eye Contact
Gang Gang Dance Eye Contact
Released 6 May 2011

Gang Gang Dance,
Sean Maffucci
Label 4AD
Length 47:49
Genre Electronic
Website ganggangdance.com

The album as a cohesive statement of an artist’s intent has become less prevalent in the age of ever-evolving digital accessibility. Somehow it takes balls to release the grand plan for the now in a large chunk known as the album with people mostly preferring to control the pace of releases through previewing material on some obscure fan site or secreting drips and drabs of mp3s over a couple of years. The belief in the album as a bold piece of work has all but given up the ghost. But along comes Manhattan beats machine Gang Gang Dance’s new record Eye Contact to renew this belief.

Keyboardist Brian Degraw’s dance outfit have launched an ambient, trippy and break beat opus that invades the mind and the soul in equal measures.

The opener, 'Glass Jar' is a grand, sprawling work that swings effortlessly from a dreamy soothing start to an up-tempo melodious synth and drums monster. Siren like vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos adds to the euphoria as she sings in twisted squawk, "I care for you like a mother". Immediately you are reminded of a more dance driven incarnation of other 4AD artists like Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. This track sets the epic tone and masterful mixing of rhythms for the rest of the album.

The multi-ethnic influences come to the fore in second track interlude '∞' as the Middle Eastern folk chant tangles with an ambient synth. This mellowness is in direct opposition with the drama that takes up the reins on 'Adult Goth'. This could be Bjork backed up by Orbital soundtracking some Euro Thriller as keys pound out a tension building melody. The scale and widescreen effect of the composition and wild vocals makes the track one to anticipate greatly if ever you see the band live. The pace is kept up by the softer synth chords on 'Chinese High'. The beats bounce with glorious rhythm and again the artists uses world music patterns, this time of the far eastern variety as the title would suggest. Surprisingly a Chaka Khan like keyboard solo comes in near the end to add to the layered fun.

'Mindkilla', another high point of the album, has Bougatsos in M.I.A and Fever Ray mode as her vocals are at her most piercing and effecting. For a band renowned for their exciting performances they are really adding some meat to any perceived superficiality. This is relevant and pulsating upbeat dance music for all listeners whether old skool or modern.

'∞ ∞', the second interlude piece doesn’t really add much to the album other than keep the flow consistent and trippy, whereas 'Romance Layers' cuts through the electro-clash towards something approaching an Eighties soul love song remixed and layered to become something spacey. It works for the most part as the drums throb to a keyboard groove and the deep soulful singing of Bougatsos. 'Sacer' finds the listener back in a serene flow as the vocalist does her best Liz Frazer impression and the chiming guitar reaches for the ether amongst the blips and beats. Again it elevates the album out of the ordinary. As the music is stripped down we can appreciate the twisted treatment of the vocals as it seamlessly glides into a third interlude/link '∞ ∞ ∞'.

The record ends in typical high drama as the drums follow a military beat and the singer is indecipherable squealing top form on 'Thru And Thru'. The keys are also on heavy duty as the song reaches a climax with all instruments building together. The album fittingly ends with an eastern horn battling against the spray of cymbals as an automated voice says, "Live forever". As a statement on the album’s longevity that might be sometime of an exaggeration but I feel that this will be something that will be remembered for a reasonably long time to come.

Gang Gang Dance have produced a set of songs that are invested with a sort of epic grandeur more associated with serious concept albums but they do more than enough to pull this off without losing the excitement and fun of intelligent dance pop music. This is one for the end of year polls without a doubt.

- Tim Gannon