Gang Gang Dance | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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No album I've heard this year has confounded me more than God's Money (The Social Registry), the second album by Gang Gang Dance--and I mean that as high praise. The New York quartet feeds a battery of percussion, woozy synthesizers, and broadly ethnic-sounding female vocals into an early-80s avant-rock aesthetic. They started out using a heavily improvisational approach: their debut, Revival of the Shittest (2003), had a wide-eyed experimental bent that featured scrabbling percussion, loose but sickly grooves, effects-heavy guitar gunk, and warbling voices. That album didn't sound like the work of a fully realized band, but God's Money is a minor masterpiece--the appealingly intuitive and exploratory feel of the previous album has been combined with a real sense of purpose. If I didn't have access to a lyric sheet, I wouldn't have guessed that Liz Bougatsos sings in English; her vocals, which recall the high-pitched tonal quality of Indian "playback" singers, are murked up by echo and other electronic effects, and though sometimes her melodies are clear and direct, at other times they just add more coloristic layers to the overall sound. Many of the pieces throb with tribal beats, guitar noise ebbing and flowing over the elastic grooves; they don't follow a conventional verse-chorus-verse structure, but they do noticeably evolve--rising, falling, contracting, expanding, and generally moving on whenever a particular idea seems played out. Normally when Americans try to do world music it sounds like imitation, but Gang Gang Dance seems to belong to some undiscovered country. Bloodlines and Weird Weeds open. Fri 6/3, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --Peter Margasak

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