Gang Gang Dance Gang Gang DanceEye Contact
Nostalgia and Utopia are two states that, as Baudrillard says, pursue a slippery objective: a past impossible to recover in the first case and an idealised and almost impossible to realise future in the case of the second. A big part of the popular music of the past century oscillates between nostalgic and utopian (or dystopian) impulses, so that right now it seems like we’re living an eminently nostalgic moment in music, as a consequence of the astonishing ease with which the whole of musical history has become available on the Internet, almost pulverising the distinctions between musical past and present.
But things are never that simple, and so, for example, hauntology was driven from the start by nostalgia provoked by the unfulfilled promises of past Utopias, while on the other hand we can still find bands like Gang Gang Dance, who operate with a diffuse Utopian spirit reflected both in their way of working, based on improvisation, and in their combining of musical elements coming from different sources both in time and space.
Starting as they do from improvisations, it’s impressive that the results on “Eye Contact” sound so pop, even though it’s only on the surface, as, in spite of the continuous melodic hooks, the album’s songs have no traditional pop structures. It’s obvious how well the band members know each other, and that’s the direct cause of the fact that each and every one of the tracks, within the flexibility of their structures, seems to have an irrefutable internal logic. So, the most interesting part of the album is to see how the songs flow and grow in intensity, how some elements talk to others, and how they inevitably explode in moments of ecstasy. The best example is “Glass Jar”, the eleven minutes with which the album kicks off, waking up the listener and remitting to the cosmic excursions of the 70s. Here you can already hear that Jesse Lee’s drums, the most recent addition to the band, make the songs more solid and tense, becoming one of the key elements for the feeling that everything being in its right place on the record.
Already on “Saint Dymphna”, the band showed their interest in dance music and some of the sounds of the hardcore continuum in particular, which they have now incorporated as elements of their particular sound. In that sense, “Mindkilla” is the best example, with its euphoric and sometimes brutal synths, which make it, strategically located halfway through, the highlight of the record and possible one of the best songs of the year. Although maybe their biggest audacity on this occasion is their approach to 80s mainstream R’n’B, sublime on “Romance Layers” –a collaboration with Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor– that sounds as warm as the productions of the iconic Compass Point Studio. It’s precisely that warmth, encoded in R’n’B lustre –also present on the bright opposite of Cocteau Twins that is “Sacer”– that causes the band to expand their emotional palette and makes them even more irresistible while at the same time reaffirming their validity for the new musicians of the Simon Reynolds-dubbed “zones generation” (a reference to the Altered Zones website), a generation on which Gang Gang Dance had a big influence with their previous album.
On the album we hear traces of oriental, African and European music. Having a list of influences from different continents is quite common these days, but it’s good to remember that it’s something that can be done without the exotic stereotypes not only by Panda Bear with “Person Pitch”, but also GGD with “Saint Dymphna”, despite the fact that that focus is very much determined by the reflecting of a spiritual feeling in their music, which brings them closer to new age, so detested earlier on and now in part recovered by the aforementioned new generation. It’s precisely in that sense that “Eye Contact” can be seen as a Utopian record on which optimism avoids nostalgic melancholy in order to investigate new possibilities for pop. It is, therefore, the most direct and enjoyable album by Gang Gang Dance, and so far the most personal one by a band that enjoys looking forward, purifying their sound with every release.