10cc-loving collective delivers what might be the trip of the year.
Andrzej Lukowski 2010
Gayngs represent a somewhat unlikely confluence of any number of recent musical trends, foremost amongst them the resurgence in hipness of such über-processed AOR acts as 10cc, Hall & Oates and Steely Dan. Indeed, producer Ryan Olson’s stated purpose when founding Gayngs (alongside Solid Gold’s Zack Coulter and Adam Hurlburt) was to create “a collection of drugged-up keyboards and slick bedroom production almost exclusively inspired by 10cc’s I’m Not in Love.” Relayted, Gayngs’ groaningly-titled debut album, shies away from actually covering said song, though the fact it includes a creepy cover of Godley & Creme’s saccharine enormo-hit Cry does make you wonder why they bothered being so coy.
That’s not the whole story, though. Relayted is not without a scent of fromage, but it is, on the whole, artier, sexier and stranger than the output of Olson’s bemulleted heroes. It owes plenty to modern RnB production, and is certainly more leftfield in tone and taste than anything 10cc ever made.
And finally, it seals musician Justin Vernon’s position of a sort of contemporary indie Zelig; recent times have seen him crop up on all manner of projects, from his own Bon Iver to a guest slot on Anaïs Mitchell’s acclaimed new folk opera Hadestown. Here he gets (sort of) sexy, duetting with Coulter on nine of the 11 tracks, and even rapping (quite well) on Prince-pastiche closer The Last Prom on Earth.
So it’s very, very 2010. But is it any good? Well, if you like treacly, textured, atmospheric and extremely druggy songs, where discordant saxophones glide soporifically through a pink-purple glow of narcotic keyboards, the piecing vocals of Vernon and Coulter flapping lazily overhead like stoned alien birds... then you are in for a treat. This is lush, involving music that takes stated influences and sculpts them into something genuinely there. The caveat is that it’s virtually hook free: Cry aside, there’s barely even a chorus or repeat verse on the whole record – polished it may be, but it drifts formless and intangible as a cloud of pot smoke.
But that’s a statement, not a criticism: accept that Gayngs have co-opted 10cc’s sound but not their pop nous, and you might have just found yourself the trip of the year.