Gang Gang Dance tunes to more radical forms to let the new music echo the current cultural climate.
Gang Gang Dance albums function like reports from the vast cultural fields that fascinate the New York experimental group. For its previous outing, 2011’s Eye Contact, the group produced a seamless synthesis of underground electronic music and non-Western dance genres that flowed as a psychedelic pop voyage. These distinctive areas of interest pop up once again throughout the musical trip on the band’s first album in seven years, Kazuashita, as Gang Gang Dance tunes them to more radical forms to let the new music echo the current cultural climate.
Gang Gang Dance veers slightly away from the process of improvisation that inspired the dazzling ebb and flow of Eye Contact. The transition between songs remain superb in Kazuashita; interludes that organize the record into sections give it the feel of a DJ mix similar to the previous album. However, the group doesn’t shy away from employing abrupt musical turns to steer a song into a new direction. After spending half of its eight-minute running time soaking in the cleansing warmth of New Age atmosphere, the title track suddenly switches into a cluttered breakbeat that throws in pieces culled from Bay Area hip-hop and bass music.
The mutated bass beats that the group’s Brian DeGraw crafts under his bEEdEEgEE project provide a solid reference for some of these contrasting musical ideas of Kazuashita. The twitchy breakdowns during the back half of the album bring together fragments of various underground dance scenes that inform DeGraw’s solo output. The shifty percussion and the cold, metallic tones in the middle of “Young Boy (Marika in Amerika)” echo the desolate grime beats of his peer Nguzunguzu. The rubbery, loose-fuse sounds pinging across “Snake Dub” recall the tastes of UNO, a New York label that released early material of Arca, among others.
These clutters of digital sounds steal attention as they emerge from a stretch of amorphous drones and dazed riffs. “Lotus” stands as a rich piece of dream pop with Lizzi Bougatsos embracing the shine from the song’s glistening guitar riffs. But the more chaotic electronic sections in the songs slotted between the first and second interlude leave a bigger mark from either their strength in impact or sheer oddball qualities. The soft and harsh ends of Gang Gang Dance work less collaboratively, not fully compromising nor defining itself into more pop shapes. It’s not so much coexistence, but more a scene of digital moss taking over the analog surface.
Shamanistic voices appear again, as they did in the group’s previous release, though Kazuashita features a set of rather bleak transmissions that provide additional texture for its trip. The ominous interlude “( novae terrae )” includes a stark monologue explaining Earth as a world of destructive violence. “J-Tree” features the most memorable with a man describing a resistance force armed with intimidating weapons. He then answers a question about natural land, expresses his awe of nature’s creatures, only for the song to return to its emotional musical journey.
More than any electronic sputter, these voices cut through the ambient daze. Yet the vast openness in the music of Kazuashita refrains from framing these political voices to express any particular purpose. Though Gang Gang Dance has always been better creators of documents than statements, Kazuashita leaves a sense of ambiguity as to what exactly the group aims to say or if it aspires to say anything at all.