Gang Gang Dance make their comeback with ‘Kazuashita’, a fusion of cultures and sparkling eeriness
After a long hiatus of seven years since they released their acclaimed album “Eye Contact”, the Manhattan band Gang Gang Dance has released its comeback record "Kazuashita”. This Japanese-named record marks the sixth studio release of the legendary band since its inception in 2001. Known for their strange, yet satisfying, fusions of several music styles from around the world, Gang Gang Dance combine these elements here as well resulting in a beautiful and sparkling, yet eerie and uneasy-sounding unit of songs.
The album kicks off with a strange and short instrumental titled “( infirma terrae )”, that features heavily manipulated vocals. This achieves the desired effect of setting the eerie mood of the record as the song segues into one of the more prominent tracks – “J-TREE”. At first, it sounds like a rip-off of the cult hit “Heartbeats” by the legendary duo The Knife. The chord progression and tempo follow a similar pattern to the 2003 hit, but soon enough, the song diverges and develops into its own beast. The vocalist Lizzi Bougatsos’s singing here sounds like an otherworldly blend of voices of Yukimi Nagano of Little Dragon and Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins, mentioning in her lyrics “tata”-music. This could be a reference to an Armenian style of music, which judging by the band’s love for foreign sounds, wouldn’t be much of a surprise. The lead single off this album “Lotus”, is even more lovely, as Bougatsos’s vocals compliment the dreamy, distant instrumentation backed by a reverberating guitar sound similar to that of Romy Madley Croft of The xx. It has a very captivating effect that seems to reflect the majestic cover art of this album the most.
Another thing to note here is that this is a pretty record that tries to be political. On the song “J-TREE”, the ending is marked by an excerpt of an interview during a protest about a pipeline in an Indian reservation in 2016. With this, and the interlude “( novae terrae ) ” the band uses spoken word as a manifesto for these troubled times we live in. But, the album’s overall atmosphere doesn’t give off much of a political vibe. The lyrics are, most of the time, hardly intelligible (and I mean it in a positive way), which makes Bougatsos’s voice sound like an additional instrument, rather than an articulate human vocalization.
The most politically charged song would have to be the lovely-sounding “Young Boy (Marika in Amerika)”, a track that seems to target America and its constant issues with racism. The lyrics “Young boy in the daylight/ You look so pure just playing/ Young girl so innocent/ Beat by big hands for no reason” seem to be a reference to the police brutality people of color face quite often in the US. The following track “Snake Dub” is another instrumental track, that reminds one of a trippy, experimental take on an M.I.A.-type beat. Utilizing a myriad of sounds such as doors screeching and birds chirping make this a standout track.
The other three songs are also quite good but do not capture one’s intrigue as much as the previously mentioned ones. The title track is a sprawling 8-minute track that sounds quite bi-polar with the crazy beat coming in after a few minutes of ambient synth sounds. The song and album’s title “Kazuashita” is a nod to the band’s frequent collaborator Taka Imamura, whose child bears the same name, carrying the meaning of “peace tomorrow”. This ties in with the band’s approach to current-day politics on this album and explains a lot of the speech excerpts and lyrical meanings.
The songs “Too Much Too Soon” and “Salve on the Sorrow”, while pleasant, are slightly less memorable than the rest of the material. This is not much of an issue, however, as the flow and atmosphere of all the tracks together flow seamlessly and brings forth one unified experience akin to those of more ambitious bands such as Pink Floyd. The main concern one may have with the album is that it is not very gripping, and it takes repeated listens to discover all the beauty in it. Luckily the band makes it so that the music here evokes so many powerful and contrasting emotions that makes “Kazuashita” a truly memorable record, if not for basic listening pleasure, then at least as some next-level background music for chilling out. It is a release that open-minded music fans should not miss this year.
Key tracks: J-TREE, Lotus, Snake Dub, Young Boy (Marika in Amerika), Kazuashita