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bEEdEEgEE – 'Sum/One' album review

Gang Gang Dance's Brian DeGraw goes solo with an elegant trip through electronica

Don’t worry: no keyboards were broken in the writing of this review. The typographic monstrosity at the top of the page is the name of the new project by Brian DeGraw, best known for his work as a member of neo-psychedelic New York band Gang Gang Dance. It’s a pseudonym the artist coined from the cot – as early as first grade, a young DeGraw was signing drawings ‘BDG’.

DeGraw took off from his customary urban haunts in New York City to write and record the album over the course of a year, in the crisp air of Woodstock. The outcome could well be described as ‘organised chaos’: an oxymoronic style that DeGraw seems to have learnt from his work with GGD. While he has kept hold of their distinctive synths and occasional bursts of crooked melodies, he now channels those eccentricities in a more refined and thoughtful manner, creating a more accessible, composed sound.
‘Sum/One’ has a droney elegance to it, managing to siphon off an organic sound despite its diverse digital explorations through acid house, techno, trap and audacious pop. Its throngs of cascading soundscapes and memorable melodies incorporate a slew of cameos: Douglas Armour, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, CSS’s Lovefoxxx (who does a convincing impression of Beach House’s Victoria Legrande on ‘Flowers’) and DeGraw’s Gang Gang Dance bandmate Lizzi Bougatsos. The track featuring Armour, ‘Empty Vases’, reaches compelling heights and is ‘Sum/One’s real centrepiece, although Alexis Taylor’s signature serene vocals make ‘(FUTD) Time of Waste’ the main contender to fill the dive bars of Dalston before too long. It’s not just the ‘featuring’ tracks that are solid, either: ‘Bricks’ is impressively abstract, with a heavy beat composed of bass booms, clicks, and percussive flicks that collide determinedly.

There is the occasional wrong turn, such as the rather bizarre ‘(intellectual property)’, which offers little other than a vaguely political title and 62 seconds of hazy filler. The fact that DeGraw looks disconcertingly similar to Steve Carrell in his latest press shot is a little distracting too – but those quibbles aside, 4AD’s final release of 2013 is an album that threatens to reshuffle at least a few of the ‘best of the year’ lists. Hopefully bEEdEEgEE is more than just a fleeting side-project. Buy this album here

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