A whole heap of jealousy towards the residents of Los Angeles last weekend, since the Boredoms followed up last year’s 77-drummer extravaganza in New York with 88 Boadrum there on 8/8/08. I’m sure you can guess how many drummers were involved this time round, and as soon as I manage to hunt down an MP3, I’ll try and post some links.
New York wasn’t entirely deprived on this auspicious day, either, since 88 Boadrum was enacted there, too, with Gang Gang Dance filling in for the Boredoms as the band at the centre of the melee. Neat timing, then, for a new GGD album to turn up in the office, on the Warp label in the UK, no less.
There are definite congruities between the Boredoms and Gang Gang, chiefly a fascination with the ritualistic, transcendent possibilities of music, and, not unrelated, a big thing for drums. But if the Boredoms appear heroically embedded in their own world, Gang Gang have always seemed a little self-conscious on their adventures, not least because – fairly or unfairly – they’ve often been painted as the epitome of Brooklyn’s ineffably hip, art-conscious underground scene.
“Saint Dymphna”, their fourth album, finds GGD apparently keener than ever to show themselves as a voracious and eclectic troupe; there is even, in what might cruelly be interpreted as an attempt to parlay favour with some of the blogosphere’s more intimidating cultural theorists, a guest spot from London grime MC, Tinchy Stryder.
The thing is, Stryder’s guest spot works, as do most of the other stunts on this ambitious and rather fine album. Ostensibly, a lot of “Saint Dymphna” is a kind of super-produced, precision-tooled, pop and dancefloor-primed rebooting of tribal psych. I’ve been playing it all week, and the constant ebb and flow makes it quite tricky to identify separate tracks. But on the other hand, it is a record that lends itself to a great landslide of references.
So amidst all the contrasting beats, from the fervid drum circles to programmed sputters that recall a goth-tinged Timbaland, various bits of “Saint Dymphna” make me think of contemporary New York bands like Outhud, or a friendlier Black Dice. There are elements of Bjork, quite late Can, Yoko Ono, and a fantastic grasp of how variegated global rhythms can mix with ultra-modern western electronica that makes me think of the Sun City Girls on DFA (or, God help me, the sort of fusion that Transglobal Underground always strived for).
The outstanding track, though, is called “Vacuum”, and features a prominent melody that seems to closely echo the siren riff from My Bloody Valentine’s “I Only Said”, hazily reconfigured over a backing that’s somewhere between ambient dub and kosmische synthprog. The hyper-creative drift of “Saint Dymphna” as a whole is pretty gripping, but this one’s the keeper.