Bang Bangz, Bang Bangz EP
For all the layers of sound on Bang Bangz’s debut EP, there’s a quiet, somber darkness that’s worked through the whole thing, from start to finish. Simply put, it’s a “night” album, but it’s not a “whoo, I spent all night partying with my bros” album — rather, this is music for the night after that, when the ramifications of what happened that first evening are finally starting to sink in. You’re not at a bar or a club or wherever; you’re sitting in the dark on a bridge, drinking alone and watching the lights blur by beneath you.
That’s what this feels like to me, at least, and it’s a very good thing. I’m enjoying the hell out of the trio’s lush-yet-gentle dreampop haze, as they — Mario Rodriguez, Elizabeth Salazar, and Vik Montemayor — move along through the shadows. They start off with a majestically overfuzzed shoegaze roar on “Why” but quickly downshift into drifting, heavy-lidded soul that works just as well, stepping along in a narcotic haze that’s gauzy but never sleepy. That’s the band’s strong suit, really, the ability to dance back and forth across the line between dreampop and dark electro-ish stuff, all the while keeping things intriguing.
There’re plenty of influences popping up here and there, like the New Wave tinge of “Sound Off,” which sounds to me like a fuzzier-headed Franz Ferdinand, or the Miike Snow-ish start to “Black & White,” which also has a sky-facing, epic feel to it. Beyond that, I find myself thinking of a less-gritty Portishead at times, or even of the Gorillaz (see Rodriguez’s 2D-esque vocals on “Photograph”). Even still, the band’s doing their own thing, to the point where if I hear something else that’s dark and electronic, this is what pops into my head.
One of my favorite things about the EP, by the by, is the chance to hear guitarist/singer Rodriguez stepping off to the side a bit from his “regular” band, Tax the Wolf — that band’s sometimes-frantic, sung/yelled prog-rock is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s cool to hear Rodriguez do a husky, low-key croon, too.
On the bad side, there’re times when Rodriguez’s and Salazar’s voices, while great in their own respective spaces, don’t seem to mesh together as well as they should; while I really, really like the song “Since Last Night” as a whole, for one thing, there’s just something “off” there about the way the pair’s vocals fit together. It makes me think of when you hear a band record an album, and it’s obvious they weren’t playing together, y’know? I’ve got no idea if that’s happened here, in a few spots, but that’s what it sounds like to my ears.
Mind you, note that I said this happened in a few spots — it’s certainly not everywhere on the EP. On “Night Souls,” for example, Salazar takes the lead effortlessly, seeming to spurn the daylight-dwellers so she can run in the shadows, and Rodriguez floats perfectly in the background; it all clicks into place like it’s supposed to.
And mostly, that’s what happens for Bang Bangz, and it’s a very, very cool thing to witness. Let this EP creep its way into your skull, then go out and roam the streets in the dark; you won’t regret it.