Spanish Dance Troupe
By: Robert H.
Every once in a while I have the embarrassing experience of running upon a great new band that turns out to be a great old band that's been producing quality work for five years or more. Such is the case with Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. I first came upon them several months ago when they opened for Luna in Providence, and in my excitement at seeing Dean Wareham and the boys I dreaded listening to these upstarts with the ridiculous name. My concern only grew when they set their keyboards at center stage, to be played by a rail-thin version of Shaggy who looked like he had just hauled them from his mother's basement. Then they started playing and absolutely kicked my ass. The leader, Euros Childs, banged on the keyboards nearly shaking them off the stands and proved to have a whipping voice that was clued in to every cadence in the tunes. The rest of the band was cued by his energy and provided a cohesive but mercurial shock of sound to complement it. (Although the keyboards were center stage, they were not center sound.) I was sold.
Turns out Gorky's Zygotic Mynci has been producing albums for years and are an institution in the UK as enduring, if not as popular, as the Charlatans. In 1995 they topped the UK independent charts with Bwyd Time and followed it with their first US release in 1996, Introducing Gorky's Zygotic Mynci. Evidently starting as an attempt to mingle traditional Welsh stylings and language with more modern means, they have moved on and won themselves a sound entirely their own, as Spanish Dance Troupe will readily attest.
Spanish Dance Troupe is an incredibly diverse album. The first two songs set the tone: "Hallway" is a gorgeous opening ballad that's a little Beatles-tinged and evolves musically throughout, providing an easy but complex tapestry. It is shockingly followed by "Poodle Rockin'" which bounces quirkily in a style reminiscent of Pajamarama-era Roxy Music. After touching—no, stomping—both ends of their repertoire, they spend the next 13 tracks exploring the sound in between, staying a little closer to the low key "Hallway", but pouncing to the rocking end when needed. A few songs are unremarkable but pretty instrumentals, and one is a completely goofy throwaway that reminds you of the band's name (fortunately it lasts less than a minute) but in general GZM hits it on the mark every time. They have a sense of catch like their Welsh brethren Super Furry Animals, but rely on more traditional instrumentation (next to the keyboard is Euros' sister Megan on violin) and have a much wider conception of the pop song. This is a group of musicians that has obviously listened to a lot of music all of their lives and have completely internalized its lessons. (The influences seem more seventies-ish than anything; some listeners should be forewarned.) Instead of merely regurgitating it, however, they are led by their Welsh roots to an unusual synthesis that sounds familiar but is intriguing all the same.
The album includes standouts too numerous to mention, but "Spanish Dance Troupe", "Murder Ballad" and "Freckles" are must listens and will sell the album to anyone who still appreciates a well wrought ballad or pop song. All in all, Gorky's Zygotic Mynci has afforded me the best surprise of the year, and in my opinion they produced one of the best albums of 1999. Which leaves me the task of trying to find all their old stuff.