Gang Gang Dance Retina Riddim

[Social Registry; 2007]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: “experimental rock”
Others: Sun City Girls, Black Dice, The Crainium

Gang Gang Dance is similar to a girl-fronted, pop-oriented Sun City Girls. Both bands’ love of "world music" leaks into their work in a gloriously bastardized manner, as they use nonsensical chants to approximate foreign languages and snatch rhythm parts from overheard third-world jams. The similarities end there. Whereas SCG sometimes need an editor, GGD use the studio as a band member, stitching together performance elements to create the final product. Through three full-lengths and a few CD-Rs and EPs, GGD continually evolved until they became a fine-tuned machine with 2004’s odd-pop masterstroke God’s Money. It’s no wonder the band has decided, like SCG, to branch out to the realm of experimental film.

On Retina Riddim, GGD present an interlinked experimental film and soundtrack with mixed results. The drum- and dub-heavy soundtrack does not stand up on its own, often pairing exhilarating moments with stretches of boring, repetitious techno. Their eye for detail provides a few great stitched-together moments — like the ritualistic band chanting paired with psychedelic noise — but the ho-hum passages outnumber the enthralling ones. The soundtrack music works as an integral part of the film, scoring and manipulating action. The film — a collage of moving paintings, archival band footage, natural documentary-style footage, and fuck-around antics — employs a similar editing method as the audio to greater effect. Weirdo pictorial inserts and strangely appealing collages move akin to the kaleidoscopic pictures on Ira Cohen’s Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda. The best moments, though, both sound- and sight-wise, come at the end of the video, when the band plays a free-flowing meltdown, and hallucinogenic, manipulated live video inter-cuts with natural imagery.

Retina Riddim is worth at least one viewing, but because it is unavailable for rental, it will likely crowd your media shelf if you purchase it. The album/movie should have remained limited and distributed only at shows. Like Sun City Girls, Gang Gang Dance do not know when to limit the supply of an item.

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