2011 marks a full decade since Manhattan‘s Gang Gang Dance began unleashing their trademark mash of neo-tribal futuristic, ambient noise jams onto the world, but it wasn’t until the release of 2005‘s critically acclaimed, GOD’S MONEY that they really began to gain some full-blown attention. This was also the year that we caught their now-infamous performance at Seattle‘s Chop Suey, known for ending abruptly in a pseudo-riot. 2007 brought the 3-song EP, Rawwar and an abstract DVD/CD titled, Retina Riddim, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the next proper full-length was finally delivered by the group. This follow-up, titled St. Dymphna, proved another critical success, but a lot had already changed within that 3 year span between albums. Somwhere along the line, the electro-static left-field sounds of cohorts like Animal Collective and Black Dice -both of which shared a practice space with GGD- transitioned from an obscurity where only freakout music weirdos like ourselves wanted to listen to it, to a place where Grizzly Bear albums were debuting on the Billboard Top 10 list. Gang Gang Dance may have garnered less prominence than fellow pals like TV On The Radio, but they were still part of what was being considered a new and important must-watch NY CITY “scene”/”movement”. It was the first time that anyone was really paying attention to what they were doing on a scale large enough to place new and unfamiliar expectations on them. The creation of St. Dymphna was delayed by inner conflicts, alternate responsibilities, and a lack of funds; forcing them to play one-off shows just to finance more studio time. So… it took three years for the follow up, but when it came the response was great and they vowed to get to work on the next album almost immediately, with an implication that it would arrive much quicker than the last. Now, nearly another 3 full years later, their latest album, EYE CONTACT, is slated for a May 10th release. Stream it in it’s entirety below, a full week before it’s release, and determine for yourself if it was worth the wait.
I conducted an interview with Gang Gang Dance founding member, Brian Degraw back in March for an upcoming print magazine. At that point, there was very little information released about the project, other than the sprawling 11 1/2 minute lead-off track “Glass Jar” streaming on the front page of GANGANGDANCE.com. Other than that audio sample and the information that the group had signed on to 4AD records, there was some curiosity about what the new album would sound like. Last year saw the band releasing the Kamakura EP, however, by consisting of nothing more than a single 15 min. track that was originally recorded back in 2007, it could hardly be used as a sufficient gauge for their latest work. As planned, the initial recordings for EYE CONTACT did begin in the Joshua Tree area of California back in January of 2009, but some of it was damaged after their gear was destroyed in a fire at an Amsterdam club. Further work took place at scenic and relaxing areas of New York state. These more serene locations were intentionally used to affect the sound. Despite the fact that Jesse Lee replaced original drummer, Tim Dewitt back in 2008, he did so after the completion of St. Dymphna. This means that, although he was present for live performances, EYE CONTACT gives us the first real example of his effects on the bands compositions and the change is somewhat noticeable. There’s a lot less bug-zapping, electric crashes coming from the rhythm section on this one, allowing the melodies to come into the forefront more and using the beats more like a traditional framework than an exoskeleton. At points, Lee‘s drumwork introduces signatures that are reminiscent of John Mcintire‘s work with post-rock pioneers Tortoise. Another addition is longtime GGD friend, artist/photographer, Taka Imamura as an official member. How his influence has specifically altered the dynamic of the group, I can’t say, but the quintet has definitely taken some new directions with this release, even offering up the closest thing to an R&B smooth jam that they will probably ever create, with the song “Romance Layers“. Another new direction for the group comes with the cover art. Ever since original member, Nathan Maddox was fatally struck by lightning in 2002, his image and/or eyes have appeared on the cover of every one of the group’s releases. That’s why it’s surprising to have those eyes absent from the cover art of an album titled, of all things, “EYE CONTACT“. As for the my interview with Degraw, I can’t go into too much detail, because it is still yet to hit the printers. What I will say is that, after asking him if he could describe how the new album sounded by using a visual description, he answered by saying that it was “Like a very darkly colored egg that bleeds iridescent colors once you crack it open.”
EYE CONTACT gets it’s physical release on May 10th in the US and May 9th in the UK.
Here’s the full streaming audio now. Here you go… it’s everything time.
Let us know what you think.