Gang Gang Dance’s new album title fixes you in their gaze. The opening line, “I can hear everything, it’s everything time”, a spoken epigraph, sets expectations. Terms of engagement are pretty clear: if you’re not willing to open your ears and accept whatever they choose to throw into the mix, this ain’t the album for you.
The mushrooming reputation of Gang Gang Dance has grown with their eclectism, over four albums since 2004, culminating in Saint Dymphna three years ago which was rooted in dubstep sounds. It’s a little surprising, then, that ‘Eye Contact’ cues up something that sounds rather than 90s rave. ‘Glass Jar’, the first and longest track, pitches straight into a soundworld that is familiar and comfortable to those who grew up on the Green and Brown albums. Liz Bougatsos’s vocal float above and behind layers of electronic mist, beats pattering down on all sides.
But ‘Glass Jar’ turns out to be only a starting point, despite being the kind of track many bands would use to end an album. ‘Adult Goth’, with its wry and not entirely inaccurate title, is clearly a song written by people who listened to All About Eve as well as Spiral Tribe. It’s wildly over the top, with buzzsaw electronics, ridiculous piano, unnecessary guitar soloing in unjustifiable places, and an exceptionally overwrought vocal from Liz. It zooms in, with uncanny precision, on the point where the tackier end of 80s goth pop bled into the 90s dance scene, which may well be an era you’d do anything to avoid revisiting. Depending on your stomach for kitsch, it’s either exuberant and irresistible, or a track that will put right off your dinner.
Later, the songs become quite bizarre. ‘Chinese High’ is a blizzard of treble, horn-effect keyboards and a vocal, sung presumably by Bougatsos, in a comic, high-pitched, Oriental accent. It delivers a double punch to the solar plexus, followed as it is by ‘Mind Killa’ which wields gargantuan rave beats and some more of that Chinese accent, but this time even squeakier. It’s a song that no-one who braves the listen is likely to forget, orgasmic cries dissolving in tortured electronic sqeaks and deep voice men singing some that sounds like “Bomp! Bomp! Bomp!” At this point, it becomes clear that that Eye Contact is a fearless beast of a record, venturing where no one else has contemplated going, possibly for very good reasons.
‘Sacer’ another track that doesn’t contemplate a middle ground, features a prancing, keyboard, which sounds as though its being played by a dressage pony, and Julianne Regan vocals, which sound as though they’ve slipped through time from a recording session of 20 years ago.
Eye Contact is in fact not unlike Ariel Pink’s recent work in its wholehearted embrace of throwaway commercial music. However, while Ariel Pink reinvents sounds in the process of reproducing them, filtering his music through cheap cassette effects, Gang Gang Dance make no apology for confronting the listener with an unholy mix of musics. Just as they warn us upfront, there’s no hiding place. Either you give in, or you get out. But they’re clearly having such a good time, it’s very tempting to join in the madness.