Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I'm absolutely delighted he's back! Here's Piotrek's long anticipated return to my carousel in the role of my favourite music reviewer out there. Please read this intricate study on Gang Gang Dance's latest outing. Mr nosnobsallowed-Czarnecki has promised me to be a more frequent guest here from now on. Fingers crossed...

"Eye Contact" by Gang Gang Dance

There's a mutual dependency between the mainstream and indie pop. This secret relationship results in the little exchange of ideas and admiration. An example? Solange Knowles covering The Dirty Projectors or even teaming up with the avant-pop’ers Of Montreal on stage. On the other side of the barricade we've got The Knife and the band's front lady's solo project, Fever Ray or Hot Chip for that instance. These guys are clearly infatuated with the mainstream's approach to melody and harmonies, but are not willing to leave their weapons behind. The other thing is that pop “borrows” its ideas from the indie scene as it swallows everything that it finds on its way of the progression. Hence the dubstep wobblers in one of Britney's latest singles. Anyway, some of the regularities of the pop tunes like the “verse-chorus” structure are still going strong and remain unchallenged, There are exceptions here though: Beyonce's shouty “Run the world (Girls)”, for example. Unfortunately, those moments are still a rarity and if you're looking for some ambitious, aesthetically challenging pop music you should look away from the charts as far as you can.

So let’s take it down to the pop frontiers, where the experimental groups are brewing up the pop music's future hooks as we speak, making as many steps forward as cacophonous mistakes. Which brings me to the Gang Gang Dance's forth album, entitled “Eye contact”. The riotous musical past of the New York avant garde noisemakers seems to be tamed on this one. But don't expect them to storm the charts anytime soon or anything. The result of this move towards more formalised language is the most eerie record of 2011 so far and everything but regular. The irregularity is the main ingredient here.

Some might find it uneasy, desperately looking for some regular patters within it. Some may disregard it as a little bit off and out of tune. But, silly me, I like when music is a bit off. The vocal delivery not quite in tune, off melody and the production going a little bit outside the expectations is something I have a soft spot for. This would explain my love for Hot Chip and their electro weirdness. Yet, this record doesn't disconnect with the pop world entirely, remaining on the border of “catchy” and “danceable”. Just. Not to be accused of banality for even a second. It may seem that the band just let sounds happen, which effects in a beautifully crafted improvisation. Even though “Eye contact” is full of synthesizers and electronic tweaks it sounds very tribal, feverish, exotic and primal.

As the “Glass jar” lifts up its lid, it slowly releases a reluctant at first swarm of colourful sonic wasps. It takes a few spaced out minutes before these insects start to sting. Then the shamanic voice of GGD's singer, who sounds like Kate Bush with the ghetto swagger, joins and takes us for a trip into space, to the zero gravity environment, where she has more room for her vocal experiments. This is the moment when the album really kicks off, showing its true palette. Later there's another clear nod to the First Lady of the Looney Pop in the stadium sized “Romance Layers”. The squeak of Gang's singer's voice is accompanied by Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor whale-like chants here. The ethereal, funky subconscious pop of “Chinese high” takes a short detour via 80's rock. “Sacer” is incredibly light and spaced out tune bathing in waves of cold synths. But it's the “Mindkilla” that is the centrepiece of the album. A feverish kaleidoscope of manic African drums, digital stabs, sharp string slashes and vocal acrobatics. The recipe for this record evidently crystallises in this tune. The Arabic spiced and groovy “Thru and Thru” nonchalantly ends the album with digital voice asking “Do you want to live forever ?”.

“Eye contact” is so hard to pin down and describe with words, which is what I'm desperately trying to do here. But this it what makes it so pleasurable, so mesmerising and seducing. You experience “Eye contact”, rather than just listen to it. And this experience can be compared to looking at some creature from the depths of the jungle or the bottom of the ocean performing its hypnotising mating dance. “The organic version of The Knife” might be an accurate analogy, because “Eye contact” is the most uncompromising album that balances between the pop and experimental since Fever Ray's solo outing. Less dark and evil, but still very mysterious and spiritual. I wonder how this richness of sound would translate onto their live shows. I'm so craving to find out. I can only imagine how this music would travel over the festival skies this summer. And one more thing, be careful not to overdose “Eye Contact” like I did while writing this review, because it's very, very, very addictive. It will mesmerise you with its insect eyes before eating your soul and spitting out half digested. Avoid the direct eye contact and you'll be fine.


Piotrek Czarnecki