Gang Gang Dance

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The trajectory on which Gang Gang Dance has propelled themselves since their inception can only be described in terms of evolution. Four individuals with strong ties to the art community and almost boundless creative energy, they’ve oriented themselves into a musical collaboration whose direction is almost as unpredictable as it is purposeful.

The history of the band begins in 1996, when the Washington DC band, Cranium performed in a small dive bar in Brooklyn with Manhattan-ites, Russia. Following this show, Cranium’s Brian DeGraw and Tim Dewit stayed in touch with Russia’s vocalist, Lizzi Bougatsos. When Cranium finally disbanded in 1997, Brian and Tim moved NYC and the bond between the three grew stronger. They frequently found themselves visiting a college friend of Lizzi’s, Josh Diamond, who worked at the Pink Pony, which held improv music nights. Soon after, the four of them made a collective decision to make music together.

Although several different incarnations of Gang Gang Dance started to show up around this time, it wasn’t until Lizzi, Brian and Tim performed on Halloween 2001 at the request of good friend and owner of the American fine arts gallery, Colin Deland, that the band was truly born. Indeed, Colin and his wife, Pat Hearn, are a large part of why Gang Gang Dance exists today, since both of their respective galleries provided clubhouses for the members of the band in the idealistic atmosphere of NYC in the late 90s. When Pat sadly passed away in August 2000, Colin requested Brian, Lizzi, and Tim perform some songs Pat had written with her band in the 80’s at a tribute show. It was immediately after this that the trio decided Gang Gang Dance should be a permanent fixture in their lives, also asking Josh to officially join.

In preparing to become a legitimate ‘band’ - or their idea of what that was - they asked good friend Nathan Maddox to perform with them. From the beginning, the band stayed true to its roots of free form, noisy shows and recordings, steadily earning renown for their intense and challenging live performances. They recorded their self-titled debut LP in early 2002 through experimental Brooklyn label Social Registry, but before Nathan could see its release, he was tragically struck by lightning on a roof in lower Manhattan. Deeply affecting the band, they have ensured Nathan still lives on in their music, with either his eyes or his voice appearing on every Gang Gang Dance record since.

After Nathan’s premature death, the band consciously became more focused. Regular improvised rehearsals became the norm, each one meticulously recorded and archived. By the time the bands first proper LP, God’s Money, was set to be recorded, the band had a handful of actual songs that boldly forged their various avant garde influences into a remarkably coherent statement. Constructed from assorted fragments of Eastern scales, dub apexes and the inward looking gaze of noise aesthetics, God’s Money was Gang Gang Dance’s first definitive document of their own voice. Grounded by Bougatsos’ otherworldly vocals, the band cemented their position as purveyors of melodically guided experimentations that aimed as much for the emotional as the cerebral.

Following the release of God’s Money in 2005, the band’s constant touring and energetic live shows brought them to the attention of Warp records, who subsequently agreed to release the bands next full length, Saint Dymphna, in Europe. If the more melodic elements of God’s Money suggested a wider audience was not beyond the band and segue-way EPs Hilluah and RAWWAR offered signposts to new directions, it was with the release of Saint Dymphna in 2008 that the band truly streamlined their more outré influences into something approaching pop music. A mutant melting pot of Timbaland, The Pop Group, AR Rahman and elements of the UK underground (collaborating with Tinchy Stryder for the avant-grime of 'Princes'), Saint Dymphna cemented their status as one of the most essential and influential acts of their generation. The most clear evidence of this was provided when Florence Welch admitted to copyright infringement and gave a percentage of her publishing royalties to the band for Florence and the Machine's 'Raise It Up' – Florence did comment on the infringement, saying: "It's no secret. I've spoken about it in interviews before. I'm a massive fan of Gang Gang Dance and it was in homage to them."

After touring Saint Dymphna for a few months, Tim DeWit decided to leave the band to concentrate on his producing career, which left the door open for Jesse Lee’s entry as the drummer. With Jesse behind the kit, one may notice a tighter, more motorized beat; a tendency in-keeping with the band’s songwriting evolution. Now signed to 4AD, fifth album (inc. compilation album, Revival of the Shittest), Eye Contact arrives on 9th May and duly matches the incremental sonic progression Gang Gang Dance has made with each record. Leaning heavily on the melodicism hinted at on Saint Dymphna, Lizzi’s vocals guide the record throughout, embellished by typically intricate polyrhythms and unexpected influences. More so than before however, Eye Contact displays the band’s meticulous song craft. Indebted to dance culture, the pacing of the record is such that subtle passages and enigmatic samples give way to relentless locked-in grooves, very much shaping Eye Contact as a coherent statement of intent, defined by its purposeful construction and immaculate production.

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