A remarkable fifth LP from the otherworldly New Yorkers.
Mike Diver 2011
Scientific sorts estimate that the average human uses only 90% of their brain’s potential. Gang Gang Dance, across their previous albums, have routinely explored the mysterious missing 10%, resulting in uniqueness that’s failed to fully propel the New Yorkers up from the underground. Eye Contact, album five and their first for 4AD, is unlikely to change that – there’s nothing that might be considered a crossover single. But take the safety catches off, sling the stabilisers aside, and dive into their magnificent depths and you might find a record to fall in love with several times over.
If anything, GGD’s last LP, the Warp-released (in the UK) Saint Dymphna, was their push towards commercial recognition. It featured a collaboration with Tinchy Stryder, preceding the pint-sized Brit-rapper’s current chart dominance; and Hot Chip weighed in with a remix that could have opened a few more doors for the outfit on this side of the Atlantic. But despite great reviews, the album and its makers seem destined to sit in the shadow of the breakthrough likes of similarly singular oddballs like Animal Collective. Eye Contact could therefore be heard as something of a retreat from the coalface of commercial sensibility, opening as it does with a 12-minute track sure to miss out on notable radio coverage due to its length. A shame: Glass Jar is magnificent, a spiralling, sprawling masterpiece of mischievous melodies that worm their way in deep, built from glistening foundations and climaxing, amazingly, too early. It could last an hour and still be as special.
The vocals of Liz Bougatsos won’t click with everyone – like The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, aka Fever Ray, she manages to sound like the woman who fell to Earth, utterly alien but wholly beguiling as she squeezes syllables into the limited spaces left by her bandmates. Together they weave a soundtrack to future parties, held on space stations spinning around the outer rings of Saturn. Little here seems to be connected with terrestrial movements; and when there is a flash of something comfortably graspable, like the oriental clinks of Adult Goth and the fairground pulsations of MindKilla, they’re surrounded by the otherworldly presence of Bougatsos. Only Romance Layers really seems born of this world, its neo-soul-goes-sci-fi strut a distant, deformed cousin of D’Angelo’s seductive tones; or Grace Jones, the Star Trek years.
Three incidental numbers flesh out what might otherwise seem to skimp on content, on paper: but even reduced to its seven songs ‘proper’, this is one of the most captivating, exciting, original albums of the year. GGD have delved into what, to almost any other artist, is the complete unknown to produce another set offering rich rewards to those who let it work its magic without reaching for the skip or shuffle button. Their relationship with corners of the cranium that we don’t regularly reach continues to produce remarkable results. Beam it into the stars and watch the replies flood in.