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gesture is

[Office of Analogue and Digital; 2012]

By ; October 26, 2012 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Train wheels creak and squeal and an announcement is made concerning the movement of a particular armored division by railway. This static-y military communiqué, which serves as the intro to GANGI’s new album gesture is, feels appropriate as the band attempts to make multiple inroads across different genres throughout the record. Images of crossing tracks and vehicles moving in different directions seem as apt a description as anything for the Los Angeles-based psych rockers’ sophomore release. As the band melds indie rock theatrics and electro-pop sensibilities, they find themselves at a hesitant crossroads, not completely sure in which direction to move.

On opening track “Railways nos. 1-27,” splintered saxophone and subtle electronics run rings around a repeated vocal mantra while the band explores their love for all things psych-pop before the song explodes outward with shards of guitars and saxophone flying out like shrapnel.  “Outside Ones” flirts with gentle Moon Safari-esque electronic touches before dropping into a beat that hits like a hammer to the chest. Singer Matt Gangi’s vocals twist and fixate on the beat as guitars and a lightly fuzzed bass run wild in the background. It’s much more accessible than, say, Animal Collective, but more erratically impulsive and prone to meandering musical detours than fellow electronic wiz Matthew Dear. gesture is feels, at times, to simply be a re-imagining of the band’s favorite albums and never really rises above those meager expectations.  There are moments though when the clouds part and the band nails that perfect mix of electronics and crisp indie rock production, like they do on “Gold,” with its electronic luster and bouncy pop veneer, and GANGI seem less a band trying to come into their own and more an already established commodity.

But for every step forward, there is a parallel step back. The title, “Hindering the Sight of Threatening Events” sounds as though it should be the soundtrack to some great apocalypse, but the sputtering tribal percussion and laid back vocals seem miles apart, and the song feels like an odd compendium of what the band thinks “indie music” should sound like. From the overlapping bar conversations to its dull beat, “Perfect Citizen” plays out as the band’s bastardization of the best bar band you’ve ever heard, minus the six beers it took for them to sound that good. There’s no lack of differentiation though on this song, but the surface seems so flat and lifeless that it takes a good deal of effort to resist reaching out and hitting the skip button.

All is not lost though, as the band has one more quiet (or maybe not so quiet) miracle up their sleeves. As cluttered as it sounds, “Battle Hymn of the Culture and Consciousness Industries” does in fact hold up under its massively wordy title. The band develops a fog of electric guitar drones and spoken word samples that form around the dripping found-sound percussion, and the song rides a slow burn of restrained freneticism through much of its eight plus minute runtime. The swells of cascading dissonance that tumble down as the song reaches its peak sound eerily like some gravel-voiced choir, ready to pass judgment on those that pass by. The album may be running exhausted from the outset, sprinting heedlessly in all directions, crossing genres without heeding sanctioned boundaries, but even with the missteps that occur, gesture is holds enough value for those who cherish their indie rock with some heady psych tricks thrown in for good measure.

There is a palpable sense of restlessness as each track attempts to delve further inside one genre and then into another. And while the band doesn’t quite have the chops yet to pull off these creative detours every time, it does seem hard to fault them for throwing everything into the mix when it’s done with such a pronounced love of the material. It’s obvious that the band has a clear idea of where they’re going, and if that means appropriating some well-worn musical tricks from their influences, then so be it. I just wish there was more individuality on display across the album–a more centralized idea for the band. But maybe that’s the point; maybe they just need to shake out the crazy and try to understand what makes each other tick first. Then they can come back with a stronger sense of themselves as a band. I’m expecting one hell of a third record, guys. Don’t let me down.


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