If you like landscapes with your soundscapes, this one's for you.
Keira Burgess 2008-10-17
Being equally concerned with musical and artistic endeavours, the members of Brooklyn-based Gang Gang Dance are firmly embedded within the New York scene derided recently by Santogold in 'L.E.S. Artistes'. But it’s hard to find any pretentiousness to dislike in their fourth album St Dymphna, a celebration of all the dance genre not only has encapsulated, but can possibly encapsulate with a little imagination.
Former studio mates of Animal Collective and Black Dice, the band share their love of the avant garde, while simultaneously aiming for the inclusive. This is especially evident on St Dymphna, the most accessible and danceable collection of their career so far, on which experimental instrumentation is included, but vitally not at the expense of rhythm.
Founders Tim Dewitt and Brian Degraw have been gifted with an almost telepathic rhythmic relationship according to their bandmates, and this correlation of ideas is satisfyingly evident on tracks like Inners Pace. An amalgam of widely varying rhythms ebb to and from the fore, allowing the listener to create a different aural experience for themselves each time.
It is this masterful layering of sound, largely credited to Dewitt, that makes the album both interesting and accessible. Vacuum leans towards classic shoegaze, with foreboding guitar reminiscent of the Cocteau Twins' Violaine, while First Communion and single House Jam give away the band's N.Y ties with their distinctly DFA tinged bassline. Alongside these references to the modern, the more expected eastern flavours and African drumming are also present; most overtly in opener Bebey and the closing Dust.
A truly transcontinental collaboration presents itself in the form of Princes, featuring East London grime artist Tinchy Stryder. The track effortlessly combines an easily recognisable grime beat with bongos, keys and a string break. Add to this the adaptable vocal of Liz Bougatsos and you have the epitome of a perfect contemporary hybrid.
As is often the case with albums of this ilk, it takes a good few listens to really appreciate and understand the intricate workings of St Dymphna, but the effort is worth the reward. If you like landscapes with your soundscapes, this one's for you.