Eye Contact CD
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Eye Contact is the fifth studio album from New York experimentalists Gang Gang Dance, once more featuring w hole heap of percussion, synths and the unique vocals of frontwoman Liz Bougatsos. Includes the sprawling 11 minute opening track "Glass Jar".
Scientific sorts estimate that the average human uses only 90% of their brain’s potential. Gang Gang Dance, across their previous albums, have routinely explored the mysterious missing 10%, resulting in uniqueness that’s failed to fully propel the New Yorkers up from the underground. Eye Contact, album five and their first for 4AD, is unlikely to change that – there’s nothing that might be considered a crossover single. But take the safety catches off, sling the stabilisers aside, and dive into their magnificent depths and you might find a record to fall in love with several times over.
If anything, GGD’s last LP, the Warp-released (in the UK) Saint Dymphna, was their push towards commercial recognition. It featured a collaboration with Tinchy Stryder, preceding the pint-sized Brit-rapper’s current chart dominance; and Hot Chip weighed in with a remix that could have opened a few more doors for the outfit on this side of the Atlantic. But despite great reviews, the album and its makers seem destined to sit in the shadow of the breakthrough likes of similarly singular oddballs like Animal Collective. Eye Contact could therefore be heard as something of a retreat from the coalface of commercial sensibility, opening as it does with a 12-minute track sure to miss out on notable radio coverage due to its length. A shame: Glass Jar is magnificent, a spiralling, sprawling masterpiece of mischievous melodies that worm their way in deep, built from glistening foundations and climaxing, amazingly, too early. It could last an hour and still be as special.
The vocals of Liz Bougatsos won’t click with everyone – like The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, aka Fever Ray, she manages to sound like the woman who fell to Earth, utterly alien but wholly beguiling as she squeezes syllables into the limited spaces left by her bandmates. Together they weave a soundtrack to future parties, held on space stations spinning around the outer rings of Saturn. Little here seems to be connected with terrestrial movements; and when there is a flash of something comfortably graspable, like the oriental clinks of Adult Goth and the fairground pulsations of MindKilla, they’re surrounded by the otherworldly presence of Bougatsos. Only Romance Layers really seems born of this world, its neo-soul-goes-sci-fi strut a distant, deformed cousin of D’Angelo’s seductive tones; or Grace Jones, the Star Trek years.
Three incidental numbers flesh out what might otherwise seem to skimp on content, on paper: but even reduced to its seven songs ‘proper’, this is one of the most captivating, exciting, original albums of the year. GGD have delved into what, to almost any other artist, is the complete unknown to produce another set offering rich rewards to those who let it work its magic without reaching for the skip or shuffle button. Their relationship with corners of the cranium that we don’t regularly reach continues to produce remarkable results. Beam it into the stars and watch the replies flood in.
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Top customer reviews
new 4AD album 'Eye Contact'. At its best it twists and turns
and coaxes and confuses like a huge exotic colourful bird
spreading ribbons of fire across a great night sky (listen to
the magical opening track 'Glass Jar' if you don't believe me!)
This is dazzlingly sensual music; a very rich repast; music sewn
together from snatches and patches of the rarest of dream materials.
Singer Liz Bougatsos has an extraordinary voice. It matters little
that we fail to grasp most of the words; she makes a beautiful noise.
Although highly structured the band's compositional and instrumental
skills display a wonderfully anarchic democracy. The textures are rich;
the beats often floor-shakingly huge; the shades and shadows of subtly
realised multi-cultural thematic elements seamlessly integrated.
'Adult Goth' is a veritable prog-come-Arabic-dance-come-riot of a song.
Ms Bougatsos hits some stratospherically high top notes without any
hint of her tottering on her heels. They slice through the the air and
bury themselves deep in our brain tissue like hot silver bullets.
'MindKilla' is a cut-and paste-Latin-nightmare-from-Hell. The almost
demonic vocal distortions juxtaposed with ebullient high-energy
nerve-shredding rhythms make for the kind of thrill-a-minute ride
which every good dancefloor deserves.
The spirit of The Small Purple One seems alive and well in the deliciously
barmy (and balmy) 'Romance Layers'. Sweet soul music from Alpha Centauri.
Final track 'Thru and Thru' comes on like a robot Kylie in one of her frantic
( but little known ) lost-in-the-desert-dressed-in-a-big-white-sheet-moments.
Mad as a box of frogs and completely blinking marvellous. Huzzah!!!
As gloriously far from the middle of the road as it is possible to be.
Listen to the single "Mindkilla" with its huge slabs of synths and propulsive drive which will storm Mediterranean disco floors where you will be able to sing along to the funkiest version of the lyrics of the children's rhyme "Hush little baby don't say a word mama going to buy you a mockingbird". The album like Gang Gang Dance brilliant EP Kamakaru has at its commencement a huge 11 minute anthem to die for entitled "Glass Jar" commencing with ambient voices and sounds woven into poetic harmonies. It quickly turns into an almost Vangelis style operatic synth workout and at around six minutes develops with fast paced cadences into a joyous dance track. This reviewer has heard nothing quite like it this year and it's simply stunning. But the enjoyment doesn't end here, far from it. The song "Adult Goth" could be a modern Bond theme with its massive sonic ambition and sounds going off into the stratosphere. Alternatively "Romance layers' is a duet with Hot Chips Alexi Taylor and a deep funk workout which for some reason reminds me of a song by Shalamar. It is the albums most accessible track and could be a huge single. Throughout the seven songs are interspersed with slices of music entitled questions (?) and these are none mere throwaways with ?? the best of the bunch underpinned by an almost electronic wall of sound. The one slip on "Eye contact" is possibly "Sacer" which is a bit too close to Bjork for comfort, but they make up for it with the poptastic "Chinese High" which no doubt Yeasayer would have killed their close relatives to include on last years "Odd Blood".
The album ends gloriously with "Thru and Thru" by which time you seek out the remote and immediately press track 1 and play it over again. It goes without saying that "Eye contact" should be the sound of summer of 2011 and busy hands should now direct the mouse or track pad to another part of the PC screen and press the word "Download" as a matter of urgency. Truly irresistible.
Though this album has definite aspects in common with the current yawnsome 80's influenced scene, it largely sidesteps the wholesale substandard rip off that other popular bands pump out. GGD have succeeded where most others haven't even attempted.
They've put a novel spin and their own perspective on this album and created something that veers from the Sisters of Mercy Floodland era "Adult Goth" to the vaguely Amp Fiddler-esque funk strut of "Romance Layers" to the Prodigy-like, rave horns a go-go, staccato "Mindkilla", through to the CT/MBV/early Lush pastiche of "Sacer". A rollercoaster of an album, no two songs are the same.
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