Gang Gang Dance RAWWAR [EP]

[The Social Registry; 2007]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: indie prog-rock, post-rock
Others: The Crainium, Black Dice, The 90 Day Men, Battles

New Yorkers Gang Gang Dance and I, despite calling the same city home, haven’t seen each other in awhile. After watching the band open a show back in ’04, I’d been so bored with their set that I didn’t bother to check out any of their material, not even 2005’s universally lauded God’s Money. For me, GGD’s complex collages were never uninteresting, but simply too opaque for me to care after my first disinterested impression. But popping in the band’s new disc, a three-song, 20-minute EP titled RAWWAR, I was a little surprised -- were Gang Gang Dance always this friendly?

The record leads off with “Nicoman,” a “live favorite” that reminds me of nothing so much as The 90 Day Men’s Panda Park, a small-stage approach to prog that also rears its head on releases by bands like Battles and Black Dice. It’s the “Dance” part of the band’s name that I’d found lacking before; on RAWWAR, it’s laid out in spades. “Nicoman” rides a downright funky beat and some of Lizzi Bougatsos’s most straightforward vocals; she almost sounds like M.I.A. in a couple places. However, Bougatsos has never been a traditional rock frontwoman, and her other contributions here are understated and primarily textural -- she coos and howls all over the album’s most fractured cut, “The Earthquake That Frees Prisoners.”

Unfortunately for the structure of the RAWWAR EP, the record’s best song is clearly “Nicoman,” its first and shortest. “Oxygen Demo Riddim” is a charming little dance-synth instrumental, but isn’t terribly captivating. And “The Earthquake That Frees Prisoners” bears the burden of being both the longest and least compelling tune here, hopscotching between rhythms atop a spoken word narrative without gaining much traction. There’s a fine line between “eclectic” and “identity crisis,” and RAWWAR ultimately does little to prove where Gang Gang Dance fall. Nonetheless, RAWWAR is at least half solid by my count, and gives listeners another beguiling peek at GGD’s hazy, warped, and jittery trip.

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