Ghostly Debut Good for Dancing in the Dark

Gang Signs recently tweeted that they would like to describe their music “as the highs and lows of buying shoes online”.  Internet shoe shopping obviously fills them with restless desire and haunting obsession if their self-titled debut EP is anything to go by. This Vancouver -based trio released their synth electro-rock creation on August 28. The band is made up of Matea Sarenac a.k.a. DJ Wobangs, Peter Ricq from Humans and Adam Fink. They make dark lo-fi electro music full of simmering desire and loneliness. The EP opens with the spooky “Counting On You (Intro)”. Sarenac’s ghostly voice whispers over the pulsing electro beat and is the perfect counterpart to Ricq’s sometimes raspy, sometimes robotic vocal stylings. The intro sets up the tone of the EP. It is ominous late night dance music. The intro bleeds into the full-blown “Counting On You”. Sarenac and Ricq repetively chant “Are you on your way here?” to an absent lover. It’s like a succession of late night text messages, each one getting a little more frantic as there is no response. It’s that battle between wanting terribly to see someone and not wanting to freak them out. Gang Signs lose that battle in this song. The lo-fi production just adds to the claustrophobic feeling of the music.

Obsession seems to be a common theme in this EP. “Prequel” has Sareac and Ricq repeating the affirmation “gotta keep going” over and over again. If nothing else, it’s a marvelous walking song. I made fantastic time as I power-walked down the streets to this song. “Running” is another song that features a hypnotizing mantra. It feels like they are trying to convince themselves rather than a listener to “get up, get up” and keep going. The rough and relentless electro beats make a pleasing contrast with the echoed, almost passive vocals.

“LA on Monday” is the single release from the EP. It’s a seedy pop tune with Sarenac singing like a sultry owl in the background. You might wonder how sultry an owl can be but you obviously have never been winked at by one. The song conjures up an image of Los Angeles straight out of a David Lynch film – girls in pearl necklaces, drunk on the beach with an eerie feeling of being haunted. It is not the light and sunny song that such a title might indicate. Obsession and lost love hang heavy in the air. Infectious drums and a grimy, sexy bass-line make this one of the highlights of the EP.

Some of the songs could have ended up sounding a bit repetitive but the vocal pairing of Sarenac and Ricq keeps things interesting. They sing together with a kind of flat desperation. Their ghostly vocals suggest loneliness and desire at the same time. “Going to the Sea” is a good example of Gang Signs contrasting lyrics full of longing and world-weary vocals with a pulsing synth and lascivious dance beat.

Gang Signs’ EP is a self-assured debut with a distinctive sound. I tried hard but it just didn’t remind me of buying shoes online. I must be doing it wrong. Their EP is available for download from their bandcamp page. The release party is on Friday 31st at The Cobalt (details here).

Jessica O'Brien

Jessica O'Brien

Jessica O'Brien fills many the happy hour as contributing editor and writer for the Vancouver Weekly. She can be found eating all the nibbles at book launches or getting lost in tiny secondhand book stores. Follow her on twitter @jesso_brien