Gang Gang Dance
(The Social Registry)
With 2005's God's Money, Gang Gang Dance staked a claim as one of America's most interesting groups—not that their earlier output wasn't interesting, but this album was when many more people started noticing GGD's brilliance. On God's Money, the New York foursome—Brian DeGraw, Lizzi Bougatsos, Josh Diamond, and Tim DeWit—created an amorphous sound world that oozed between the oneirically beautiful and the subliminally unnerving. It was a hallucinogenic bouillabaisse of dub, exotica, experimental electronica, and arch art-rock—like if Black Dice muted their harshness and assimilated more Southeast-Asian musical elements.
Saint Dymphna is a glossier-produced affair than God's Money, but GGD still come at you from oblique angles; applying gloss to them is like shellacking a gargoyle. They still Taser your categorizing muscles, with sounds as slippery and unpredictable as a jellyfish crossed with a butterfly. Initially, "First Communion" sounds like a blatant stab for a club hit, as Bougatsos's gremlin-ized vocals soar over space-age Afrobeat. But when you try to imagine people dancing to this track, you can't help seeing limbs pretzeling into painful configurations. When East London grime MC Tinchy Stryder motormouths along with Bougatsos's coquettish cooing over a Terry-(not Teddy)-Riley-goes-two-step backdrop on "Princes," puzzled looks rather than busted moves come to mind. Further expectation-shattering occurs on "Vacuum," which sounds like My Bloody Valentine circa Loveless submerged in molasses and hectic '80s-video-arcade ambience. "Inners Pace" begins as an abstract percussion and field-recording excursion and then morphs into a warped electro-pop/gamelan hybrid.
And so it bizarrely goes, until disc-closer "Dust" wafts in like something from side two of David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Its glassy, meditative dub constitutes the most beautiful, blissful thing GGD have done—a sonic ice pack after all the preceding strangeness.