Gang Gang Dance's new, introspective album Kazuashita has an experimental edge

Gang Gang Dance — for the uninitiated — make music that sounds like at least eight world music tabs are open at the same time in a browser window. These Brooklyn-based experimental musicians have never heard a percussive beat that they didn’t want to incorporate into their sound, and their live shows, fronted by singer Lizzi Bougatsos, are strange experiences that rework the songs from their albums into longer soundscapes that meander and drone.

All that changed with the release of their newest album, Kazuashita in June. Introspective to the point of being meditative (especially for this particular band), the music doesn’t scream for attention but instead fits in with the aesthetic of the band’s past albums and EPs, while also offering listeners the chance to see a newer side of the band. The trio’s globetrotting aural aesthetic takes a backseat to woozier, slowly shifting compositions.

Bougatsos’ distinct vocal delivery is still a part of the mix, but whereas earlier her yelps, swoops and other sounds added texture to the lush scape of each song, here they finally grow into an instrument of their own, especially on songs like ‘Lotus’, the first single released before the album, and ‘J-Tree’.

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The change is evident from the album cover itself, a gorgeous landscape photograph by David Benjamin Sherry, bathed in shades of red. The visual is a break from the illustrations and images of previous releases, which are colourful, inscrutable, and often jarring. Unsurprising, as the band are frequent collaborators with other musicians and artists including Nate Lowman and the late Dash Snow.

Kazuashita is the band’s first album in seven years and since then a lot has changed both in the music landscape, but also in the world at large. The promise of the internet and globalisation have given way to xenophobia and narrowly defined worldviews. Where world music—ranging from tribal influences, underground collaborators and mining the connective tissue that is the world wide web for far flung sounds and traditions—was once seen as the promise of the internet (after all, MIA and Santogold built their early success on exposing the then booming blogosphere to sounds that were alien to most Americans), those freewheeling days are now in the past. The music seems to reflect this changing mood, while staying true to the trio’s weirder impulses, shifting between eras, geographies and genres.

As a result, the new album arrives at a different time and reflects the current moment. ‘Lotus’, the lead single is dubby and non-confrontational, the kind of music to get lost into. Underpinned by a percussive beat that sees the cymbal take centre stage, the song serves as a primer to the rest of the album.

The other songs too, take the laid back, smooth calm of the lead single for a 42 minute immersion into a singular aural landscape. There’s an experimental edge to the album, which sees the music shift genres—sometimes shoegaze and other times psychedelic and everything in between. It’s no surprise that this change of pace can sometimes seem to sound almost religious or at the least ritualistic, conjuring up images that rely on elements of tradition and repetition.

Songs shift registers and beats often, each defying expectation, but sprawling in unknown directions. On title track, ‘Kazuashita’, the sound of a surveillance state gives way to ritualistic chanting, before a tabla finally gives way to a beat that could underpin the next Tron soundtrack. It’s in the transitions between each of these seeming disparate elements that the band shows their skill. During their seven year hiatus artists like Grimes have successfully brought genre-defying pop music to the mainstream, but this album is a reminder that the Brooklyn trio were making similar music for much, much longer.

Ultimately, the music on this album is richer than their previous offerings, with layered tracks that build and branch off to create an original palette for Bougatsos. With each new release, a band can choose to retain their formula, honing it over time (as Beach House did earlier this year, albeit without the large gap between albums), or as in the case of Gang Gang Dance, change will still retaining the essence of the band.

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Updated Date: Aug 21, 2018 09:12:36 IST

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