Though he writes for his band, Gang Gang Dance, through improvisation, there’s been no doubt that Brian Degraw has melodic inclinations, as most of the experimental crew’s music, particularly the last two LPs, is at least tuneful, sometimes even going as far to utilize a direct song structure, as on 2011’s “Mindkilla.” The band’s increasing accessibility has certainly increased their reach, but still, never has Gang Gang Dance been anything but a visible fringe group, a common ground for people to meet in the middle of their own genre preferences.
For his first solo album, using the moniker bEEdEEgEE, Degraw departs from improvisation to more of a Western popular music tradition, still characterized by the grab-bag assortment of percussive sounds, the twitchy electronics and razor sharp intuition of its creator.
Still, though parts resemble Gang Gang Dance, particularly “Overlook” with its choppy marionette vocals from Abby Marchant, and the album’s most dynamic cut, “F.U.Y.D.,” which allows Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip to marry his instantly recognizable voice and ease in tapping into a memorable refrain with the more sprawling tendencies of Degraw, who can’t help but pepper in the the keyboard yelps that are Gang Gang Dance’s most familiar fall-back sound.
As viscerally exciting as the GGD leaning moments are, the songs that deviate the most make bEEdEEgEE seem essential for Degraw’s growth as an artist. “Bricks” oscillates rapidly in a stuttering tornado, flinching and glitchy, all orchestrated so that the space created by brief moments of silence are just as important as the sounds that share the space with the song.“Flowers” features CSS’ Lovefoxxx and dives head-first into chillwave’s wake, but emerging as a bastard of low tech and high fidelity, a little reminiscent of Blondie, and very much in new territory for Degraw.
In an interview with Exclaim, Degraw explains that the album came from a year separation of Gang Gang Dance, and it is hard to imagine the band returning the same, if only because Degraw seems to start a new path on Sum/One that can’t be reversed. Taking a project that put a great importance in the process and becoming something more interested in the finished product is a logical progression. It is growth. And bEEdEEgEE makes it apparent that Brian Degraw has a future with or without Gang Gang Dance, as this solo album can rival any of his previously released heights.