“Accessibility” is rarely the first word used to describe New York indie-worldbeat outfit Gang Gang Dance. The group’s music is an often random, sometimes even alienating blend of disjointed Asian-Latin rhythms, heavy synthesization, and general noise that, while whimsical, often teems to the point of suffocation. Tracks like “Vacuum” and “House Jam,” both from 2008’s Saint Dymphna, are typical Gang Gang Dance fare, pairing unpredictable percussion and piercing, jarring synth accompaniments with lead vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos’s fluctuating voice.
There is, however, no way to describe Gang Gang Dance’s fifth studio album, Eye Contact, without touching on its accessibility: how easy and quickly one can listen to and absorb its writhing soundscapes, and how effectively it amalgamates all of the group’s disparate influences into one gorgeous pop offering. That’s not to say Gang Gang Dance has watered down its style; rather than some strategic reach toward mass appeal, Eye Contact represents a pruning of the superfluous. At merely 10 tracks and barely 50 minutes of music, the album discards much of the group’s redundant experimentation, instead concentrating on their lush, tropical sound.
It helps considerably that Eye Contact moves at a fast pace, as Gang Gang Dance prefers the suspense of twisting motion over slow ambience. The album’s songs are snake-like, coiling and taut as they build from one melody to the next. A track like “Sacer,” which pairs naked drums with layer upon layer of melodic cacophony, is nearly six minutes in length, but feels half that, throwing around a mix of organic and synthetic elements effortlessly while Bougatsos provides sweeping vocals. Album highlight “MindKilla” finds Bougatsos channeling gypsy-like chanting, screeching and moaning atop a chunky, sliding synthline.
What truly defines Eye Contact, however, is the 11-minute odyssey “Glass Jar,” an exotic and captivating tour of the group’s world rhythms and ever-shifting melodies. A meld of contrasting genres (electro-pop, North African folk, and Bollywood music, to name just a few), the track is a perfect microcosm of Eye Contact, where Gang Gang Dance’s music is intimidating, graceful, and sensuous all at once. When Bougatsos sings, “I care for you like a mother,” it carries all the warmth, regret, and mystery listeners have come to expect from Gang Gang Dance, perfectly distilled into their most accomplished album to date.