Apparently, God’s Money is no good around here anymore. Three years removed from that patience-testing yet awe-inspiring release, Brooklyn’s Gang Gang Dance now worship at the altar of a new deity. As the patron saint of outsiders and social taboo, Saint Dymphna couldn’t be a more appropriate muse for the band, who have always been something of a love/hate proposition. And with the stellar set she has inspired on this outing, they should have little to no trouble finding more of the former.
Finally, fully embracing the `Dance’ in their name, Gang Gang have taken their trademark ritualistic sprawl and sharpened it into something sleeker, sexier and altogether better. The Eno-meets-Timbaland production is spacious yet tight. Songs are given room to breathe but deny you the same courtesy when they do so. Many songs even seem to interlock with one another like the pieces of one enthralling sonic puzzle.
Take the knockout one-two punch of “Bebey” and “First Communion” for starters. The first song’s taut tribalism will have Battles seeing green and then red for not thinking of it first as it swells and constricts before literally bursting into the continuous crescendo of the second. When Lizzi Bougatsos’ hungry, animalistic howls of “You can’t wait” finally break the tension after such tantalizing buildup, you’ll be ready to explode, yourself. The rest of the album continues this playful bait and switch, veering from epically intimate to intimately epic and back.
Singling out individual triumphs in an album that succeeds so thoroughly and thrillingly as a whole often does it a disservice. That said, Dymphna proves just as striking and inviting in its smaller moments as it does collectively: the syrupy beats and languid chorus of “Blue Nile,” the Dan Deacon-styled outbursts of “Inner Pace” (again slipping key-like into the BPitchy “Afoot”), or the giddy aloofness with which guest MC Tinchy Stryder seems to exclaim “Oh shit! Gang Gang!” in future club banger “Princes.”
The most expansive and yes, Saintly achievement here may be slinky album centerpiece “House Jam.” The spliced backing vocals, stuttering dance beats, and Bougatsos’ seductively alien delivery of verse and chorus play like Kate Bush fronting The Knife. True to its name, it’s the kind of floor staple you’d imagine hearing at that trippy underground rave you keep hoping to sneak into one day, but know deep down would never play anything as cool as this.
Few albums this year have given way to such frivolous hyperbole as this one, and even fewer deserve it as much. This is the album that Gang Gang Dance have always had in them but merely hinted at on albums past. There will no doubt still be those select few who will still roll their eyes at the sheer audacity and scope of it all. That’s their loss. The rest of us will be too busy dropping our jaws. Oh shit, Gang Gang, indeed.