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Gang Gang Dance - God's Money

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Artist: Gang Gang Dance

Album: God's Money

Label: The Social Registry

Review date: Apr. 27, 2005

For a sixth century B.C. mathematician best known for his geometric formulations, Pythagoras is experiencing quite a resurgence of late – if only by implication. Considered by many to be the first to study music in a disciplined fashion, Pythagoras saw music as a reflection of the harmony of the cosmos. If each sphere of the cosmos sings its own note, as Pythagoras suggested, creating a celestial symphony he called the Music of the Spheres, Gang Gang Dance has effectively extracted the chaos in that order and exploited it, with the appropriate nods in the direction of logos and mythos.

Carving out a space between cabaret and ethno mimesis, God’s Money effectively offers another document of this Brooklyn-based band’s ongoing evolution. But in the years that have passed since the recording of their self-titled LP, relatively little has changed – thematically, at least. The band’s aesthetic remains thoroughly Pythagorean: coarse collage with a penchant for (addiction to?) symmetry. Trend-seekers abound, and in the last few years, this look – at least in album art – has become an obligation for any band that might describe itself as being on the cutting edge of anything. The ungodly proliferation of collages hinting at Jung’s mandala archetypes and anal-retentive graphic design chic has made the whole thing far too comfortable. If anything can be said for Gang Gang Dance, it’s that the band retains that element of discomfort that gives collage its élan, lessons learned from art-rock cabaret predecessors like Henry Cow.

Despite drawing from obvious sources, God’s Money makes sure those sources never sound familiar. Fragmented, reverb-heavy dub rhythms and billowy bass lines dominate. On “Glory in Itself/Egyptian” they act as a propeller as much as an anchor, sped up and disfigured by singer Lizzi Bougatsos’s delayed birdcalls and staccato synth melodies that hint at the ‘Easternness’ suggested by the title. Bougatsos’s voice seems perpetually on the brink of disappearance, presiding over the record as if it were last rites. Elsewhere, the Casio-driven celestial harmonies of “Untitled (Piano)” evoke the penetrating minimalism of Terry Riley without straying too far from Final Fantasy; on “God’s Money V,” a mix of organic and electronic percussive clatter and synthetic detritus takes four minutes to wrap itself around a four-note bass line.

At its best moments, God’s Money employs a sort of musical alchemy, integrating diverse and unusual musical elements into a unique and transformative vision. But the listener is allowed only limited access to these transformations. Vaguely ethnographic jams simulate various traditional musics without really resembling them, while the relative flatness of the dynamic range turns God’s Money into a field recording of sorts. Though the band’s live performance does not rely on an overwhelming or overly complex presence, much of the music’s textures seem lost here.

This record is hardly made for a listener; subsequently, the listener is turned into a voyeur. This technique (or lack thereof) imbues the recording with the immediacy of a real event rather than a studio concoction, or, even, a commercial art object. On the other hand, such an archive exists to preserve material rather than advance it, and it’s disappointing that Gang Gang Dance seems uninterested in treating their own recorded material as much more than fodder for an ongoing collage project. God’s Money is a document as much as it is a finished product, a collage whose pieces don’t always connect, whose sounds frequently point toward an abyss rather than a finished picture.

By Alexander Provan

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