Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact

They’re not always successful, but the sheer gumption of the exercise is admirable.

Rating:

A change of record label is a useful jump-off point - a chance to align yourself with the peculiar nature of your new imprint, perhaps just cosmetically, or to effect a complete switch of style. For their first album for 4AD, New York’s Gang Gang Dance appear to reflect the heavyweight indie’s ambition, shifting emphasis from their niche, math-rocky work for The Social Registry to a grand synth-led music that’s almost accessible. The electronics had always been there, but now they’re dominant. These are pop tools and ‘Eye Contact’ is very nearly a pop album.

So, of course, new listeners are welcomed with a 12-minute epic. ‘Glass Jar’ is magnificent; emerging from an appropriate sample about it being “everything time”, it proceeds to chuck in all the synth majesty at its disposal, erecting – like – skyscrapers of sound, mixing crashing drums, new age electronics and a vocal from Lizzie Bougatsos that pierces glass. Eight and a half minutes in, the keyboards have morphed into robot steel drums and you truly have heard everything. That’s a hard act to follow, but ‘Eye Contact’ musters a brave effort, with drama ratcheted up throughout and a bucketful of ideas keeping each vast symphony lively.

“Vast” is pretty much the watchword here, as we witness Gang Gang Dance turn their noses up at subtlety, preferring towering synth runs on ‘Adult Goth’’s tribal rhythms and battered beats, and pantomime aggression on single ‘Mindkilla’. ‘Sacer’’s flashy synths are pure 80s big-bucks show-offs on a song that manages to marry the chord progression from Take That’s ‘Never Forget’ with the sort of fluid keyboard swoops that graced Pet Shop Boys ‘Behaviour’. It suits ‘Eye Contact’’s brash nature to shove these jigsaw pieces together, and large, splashy electronica makes a change from shy-boy plink-plonking. But, what’s this? Shy plink-plonker Alexis Taylor turns up on ‘Romance Layers’ to lower the crash-bang-wallop to a pleasant burble, gently sparring with Bougatsos on some smooth soul-funk, Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle’s ‘Saturday Love’ for the electro-goth cadre. It’s a surprise, but just about fits in. And it’s certainly not as shocking as the refrain from The Wonder Stuff’s raggle-taggle ‘Sleep Alone’ turning up on ‘Chinese High’.

Bougatsos’s jumpy, high-pitched banshee cry brings Björk to mind over and over, and those vocal tics against crystalline shards are the stuff of Glasser, but – as ‘Mindkilla’ passes in a blizzard of Teutonic clatter and bulging electronic whacks – one band sneaks into the cerebral cortex. It’s Propaganda, German synth-noiseniks of the mid-80s, pumped up to imperial bluster by the never-knowingly understated Trevor Horn. In moving sideways and marching forwards, Gang Gang Dance have also looked backwards to a big sound that was itching to be revived. In line with Horn’s grand folly, they’re not always successful, but the sheer gumption of the exercise is admirable. Just don’t expect to relax.