In 2011 Gang Gang Dance released their seminal work Eye Contact. Their debut for 4AD was the pinnacle of the band’s vision. Starting out in the early 2000s in the New York City scene, the experimental band had released very promising records in Revival of the Shittest, God’s Money, and the fantastic Saint Dymphna, before unleashing their magnum opus. The record was direct, yet subtle. It featured long-form compositions that were still immediate. It was hazy, and yet it appeared focused. It was a contradictory album, a paradox in many ways. And just as they produced such a defining work, Gang Gang Dance went into a hiatus that lasted for seven years.
Their return with Kazuashita is met with anticipation, and the band awakens the essence that made their music so unique in the first place. Even in comparison to their previous work, Kazuashita is the band’s most ethereal and transcendental moment. The notions of time and space appear to be secondary in this work. The soundscapes and the electronic foundations take over, molding the space in brilliant lights.
The structures that Gang Gang Dance implement are more loose, without however the band going into a complete improvisational mode. Moments like the start of “J-Tree” see the band using these means to make their ethereal presence more pronounced. Another example is the title track, one of the highlights of this work, which undertakes for the first part an ambient approach. At the same time, to solidify this spiritual offering, the band brings in the worldbeat elements, making the progression appear more unorthodox. That can end up in a completely ritualistic progression, but it can also expand a tribal-esque quality. Coupling these elements with non-traditional means in the psychedelic touches, reaching shoegaze territory, and the electronic renditions, the band creates a feeling of pure haze.
Typically, psychedelia and electronic rooted ideas come with an inherent harshness. But Gang Gang Dance produce a work that is both imposing and soothing. The soundscapes are huge, the feedback is ample, and the sound effects add to this depth. But at the same time, the experience carries an ethereal element that makes this journey appear mystical. The voice of Bougatsos within that setting is exquisite. With a very bright tone, she pierces through the haze of shoegaze, playful sound effects and synth waves, to provide an emotional voice for it all. It is the focal point regarding the emotion of the record, and whenever it appears, it forces the soundscapes to unravel around it.
In making a direct comparison between Eye Contact and Kazuashita, at first I considered that Eye Contact had a slight edge. The more defined structures and the immediate qualities of the record are still striking seven years later. But, there is just another layer when it comes to Kazuashita. The more introspective stance that Gang Gang Dance take in this instance reveals a much richer and more impressive depth. The relentless energy has given way to a form of meditation, that reveals a sense of peace and tranquility. The exploration that the band performs in this instance, crazy as it might seem, is more substantial and covers more ground, resulting in a monumental release.