Gang Gang Dance’s Saint Dymphna: New York to the Bone Gristle


Sure, New York City could use a Boredoms figure, someone to make Christo-sized art-punk statements out of Magic Marker scribble and Magik Marker noise fragments. It was fun to paint Gang Gang Dance in such broad strokes when they served as proxy conductors for this summer’s 88-drummer Boadrum performance (disclosure: I was drummer No. 24), especially since both bands are elusive rhythm bandits rumbling toward ecstasy, two kindred spirits trying to gate-crash Nirvana through repetition, collage, drone, and feral ejaculations. But GGD aren’t the Boredoms—they’re New York to the bone gristle. And in this city, “Looking for the Perfect Beat” always trumps being “Noise Ramones.”

So, on Saint Dymphna, the quartet’s second proper full-length, they play new-school Malcolm McLarens, erecting a phenomenal, pavement-cracking dance record out of the sublime frequencies of non-American music: reggaeton, grime, and various strains of Central African music. But while McLaren plundered his influences, GGD finesse and transmute theirs, forcing armloads of data into the broken-glass-and-dog-shit prisms of the Williamsburg streets, selecting the funkiest drum breaks in Planet Rock and grafting them to gnarled loop-pedal symphonies. To drive the point home, their songs run together like DJ mixes or slow down like someone put their thumb on vinyl—hell, the press release has the phrase “club potential” in it. All beats seem like theirs for the taking. A title like “Bebey” can at once conjure Cameroon guitar legend Francis Bebey and Hurricane Chris’s “Ay Bay Bay,” because both makossa and contemporary hip-hop push it forward (along with Erasure and free jazz and scales that could’ve been peeled off a Shona mbira). “First Communion” is the lo-fi, street-punk, ESG version of reggaeton (totally necessary, if not inevitable); “Afoot” is dub via German techno and junk percussion; “Dust” is chopped-up African drums and the Orb. Gang Gang Dance could be Forest for the Trees if they weren’t such brilliant multi-trackers, with New Balanced feet firmly planted in the noize-rock gutters.

These tracks are meticulously constructed to engulf and consume, making layers out of the Casiocore and stone-drones that contemporaries like Black Dice and Growing use to build careers. And, somehow, Saint Dymphna is their pop move as well, so sometimes there are guitars that echo Modest Mouse or My Bloody Valentine (check out the almost-parodic Loveless swirls in “Vacuum”). It’s a dance record that demands to be embraced by art brats, club rats, and Stereogum readers (the equivalent of McLaren’s college-radio loyal) alike. And when was the last time we got that? “Buffalo Gals”? Big Audio Dynamite? M.I.A.? When was the last time we got that in New York City?

Gang Gang Dance play Santos’ Party House October 24