Gang Gang Dance, God’s Money

Yancey Strickler

By Yancey Strickler

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Warning: this record is not for everyone. It is at times difficult and meandering, its grasp on melody irregular and unusual. Several tracks consist of little but polyrhythmic percussion and psychedelic feedback. Singer Liz Bougatsos 'voice is often both sharp and too meek. It's not music for an iPod Shuffle: taken out of their album context, many of these songs sound half-finished. It could be classified as a new age record. And, perhaps most offensively, the band members are hippies. Yet despite all of this, it is, without question, one of my absolute favorite records of the past few years.

God's Money is an extended exercise in patience. The album's obvious standout — "Before My Voice Fails" — is also its core: the songs preceding and following it are context for that peak, the table-setters that magnify its delirious melody and swerving movements. Live, the band performs this album in its entirety without a break. And it's on stage that the true nature of the record becomes clear: there are no melodies, rhythms or even songs, at least not in a traditional sense but to split it apart is to mistake the proton for the atom — there are no bees, only the hive.

The album begins with colliding sound cultures: tribal drum patterns in the first track, Arabic and freak-folk dancing the Seven Veils in the second. And then, like a mirage, there's the impossibly lovely "Egowar," a composition constructed around a descending wind chime and the staccato chirps of a pan flute. (When I saw them live a few months ago, a light show kicked in at this moment. I suddenly felt like I was in the middle of a kick-ass Robert Phoenix column.) After several false crescendos (droning loops building and building only to mutate into pan flutes without warning), "Egowar" segues into "Untitled (Piano)," itself an ambient segue, and then "God's Money V," a meaty, beat-driven segue, and then, finally, "Before My Voice Fails."

"Before My Voice Fails" is very Kate Bush (or, for you younger folk, Bjork). The melodic pattern feels counterintuitive — her voice hits sevenths when we expect major chords, the melody goes orange when we expect left — but then, four minutes in, everything coalesces and explodes, the only true release of the album. The band seems drained after the moment, winding down slowly and carefully, the closing "God's Money IX" something akin to an ambient industrial love song.

Gang Gang Dance aren't only worthy of a cult following: they deserve a bona fide occult. Although I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what this album says or means, greater truths lurk just beneath the surface, even if it's only how to get from point a to chi or where in Brooklyn to get the best hummus. But when it's delivered like this, the message hardly matters.