Grace Notes is a weekly exploration by Jason Morehead of signs of common grace in the music world. We hope to alert you to wonderful music, some of which will be spiritual in nature but all of which will be unique and worthy of your attention. Each week we will share brief reviews of albums worthy of your attention and maybe a video or two.
Gang Gang Dance
My initial reaction to Gang Gang Dance was marked with ambivalence. Their early material left me confounded, but Saint Dymphma piqued my curiosity in 2008 with its My Bloody Valentine-esque atmospherics. It’s now 2011 and the Manhattan group has released Eye Contact, a truly confounding and utterly fascinating album of deconstructed pop, electronica, world music, and heaven knows what else. Listening to Eye Contact is akin to sending your radio scudding across the stations and listening to whatever fragments and snatches of songs are picked up along the way, such is the album’s kaleidoscopic nature. And yet, the band manages to wrestle it all together in a fashion that is as graceful and compelling as it is brain-melting. It can be an acquired taste, due in large part to Lizzi Bougatsos’ vocals and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. But on a track like “MindKilla”, which seamlessly melds the cold synthetic pop of bands like Ladytron with the ghostly guitar work of Pornography-era Cure, and sets it all to a frantic dance-house beat, I find it’s far more rewarding just to give in to the band’s frenzied, chaotic sound and hang on for the ride.
My “relationship” with M83 followed a similar trajectory as my “relationship” with Gang Gang Dance. I could understand why people were so enamored with the epic-ness of Anthony Gonzalez’s music, but those first M83 albums felt cold and sterile to me. It wasn’t until 2008’s Saturdays = Youth, with its atmospheric sounds drenched in 80’s nostalgia, that I warmed up to M83’s sound. In either case, I was excited for M83’s newest album, a two-disc release titled Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (due out October 18 on Mute Records), and now, having heard “Midnight City”, I’m very excited. One thing that I appreciate about M83’s music is that there’s nothing really subtle about it: Gonzalez wears his heart on his sleeve and it shows in the song’s massive guitars and synths, processed vocal chirps, and pulsing electronics. And as for that scorching sax solo in the song’s final moments, it’s easily one of my favorite musical moments of 2011 to date.
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