Rare is music that can evoke a time and a place in the mind of the listener. Rarer still is when that time and place are of an otherworldly nature, subtle and peculiar, yet strangely settling. Of course, such music is often difficult to embrace, but with enough patience it is often the best. Gang Gang Dance's second LP, God's Money, is an experimental/tribal freak-folk attempt at delving into such music, and it does so with varied results; able to reach both dizzying peaks and fumbling lows.
A variety of instruments seem to pepper the mystic haze of God's Money, but on the whole this album is driven almost entirely by two things: drums and vocals. Of course, there are plenty of otherworldly noises flittering about between these two key instruments - mostly synthesizers, chimes, flutes, keyboards, and extremely warped guitars - but the momentum and rhythm of the album is commandeered by tribal and trashcan drumming, and by Lizzi Bougatsos (former vocalist of Angelblood), whose ethereal hymns and occasional frenetic squawks unveil the ghostly and animalistic nature of this album, demonstrated in equal amounts on the superb second-track, "A Glory In Itself/Egyptian".
"Egowar" is a haunting highlight, where a drum figure marches steadily over a mire of organic noise, guided mainly by short bursts of pan-flute and by Bougatsos' unintelligible vocals. The result is an atmospheric, harmonious and calming wall of sound. The music carries like an ocean; fluid, heavy, natural, and prone to collapsing against the shore of itself before washing back out to sea to continue its natural cycle. This 'collapse' is marked initially at the 4-minute mark, where a small clutter of noise builds on itself before the song relapses back into its harmonic groove.
However, as mentioned, this album is not without its less satisfying moments. Album opener "God's Money I (Percussion)" does little to reel in its listeners, guided by unentertaining drumming and Bougatsos' lackluster wails, which, purposeful or not, aid in killing the song. "God's Money V" is a far from engaging, being nothing more than a clatter of trashcan drumming, and final track "God's Money IX" isn't the climactic ending one may have hoped in an otherwise ascension-prone album.
Fear not, though, prospective buyer, as all three of those missteps are seemingly wiped from memory by the albums peak and definite highlight, "Before My Voice Fails", which reaches Icarus-like heights without ever burning up in its dramatic and beautiful ascent. The song opens with a salvo of icy and ghostly synths, which appear in a chorus-like fashion throughout, and are followed soon after by Bougatsos' most mercurial and arcane-sounding vocals yet. At the 4-minute mark, the song ascends into a glorious and operatic music of the spheres, grazing the stars with primordial strings and a far-from-failing voice.
All in all, God's Money proves itself to be a haunting, sometimes cathartic experience, and will be of definite interest to fans of Animal Collective (especially their darker work on Here Comes The Indian), and the Boredoms' Vision Creation Newsun. One can only hope that Gang Gang Dance will improve even further upon their unique yet simple sound, perhaps reliving the apex of "Before My Voice Fails" within the span of an entire album, or in a more likely scenario, finding their way onto a different yet equally as rewarding tangent. Whichever way they go, it would be wise to keep at least one eye peeled, and to go see them live, which, from what has been said, is an apparently amazing experience.
8.0 / 10
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