Arriving on stage nearly two hours after the originally announced time, as Gang Gang Dance did Monday at the Rock and Roll Hotel, is one way for a band to demonstrate its insouciance. But then the band has to hold the crowd's attention past midnight, which is a little harder than just being late. About 30 fans boogied loyally until the quintet concluded its set, but there were plenty of defectors before the final note sounded around 12:40 a.m.
The hour was surely a factor, but that wasn't the only reason the crowd slowly dwindled during the 80-minute show. A Brooklyn band with roots in D.C.'s '90s art-punk scene and a strategic alliance with Osaka tribal-thump jokers the Boredoms, Gang Gang Dance can make an urgent, mesmerizing noise. But it also has a penchant for soundscapes that are more meandering than hypnotic. Over the course of its 10-year career, the group has become more groove-oriented. But the groove didn't prove any more reliable on stage than on the outfit's new album, "Eye Contact."
Gang Gang Dance draws on house, hip-hop and world music, although those inspirations are usually buried in its densely layered style. On Monday, the band's influences bubbled closer to the surface. "Adult Goth" strongly suggested Dead Can Dance, heavy on keening soprano and rock-the-Casbah clatter. (Vocalist-percussionist Lizzie Bougatsos provided all of the former and much of the latter.) "House Jam" was art-damaged disco, and "Mindkilla" emerged briefly from a wispy intro only to transform itself into a techno banger. As Bougatsos shifted from singing to dancing, the song became little more than a pulse.
While that was the show's starkest passage, there were plenty of other times when most of the musicians didn't seem integral. The framework was Brian Degraw's array of samples and synths, while both Bougatsos' random percussion and Jesse Lee's jazzy drumming primarily embroidered the beat. Josh Diamond's guitar seemed to play about as significant a sonic role as the dancing of "vibes manager" Taka Imamura. The moments when it all came together were rare, but that was apparently by design. Musically, Gang Gang Dance is not much of a gang, and is only occasionally moved to dance.