I came into this album, not knowing what to expect. I would consider myself a casual fan of Brian DeGraw’s (a.k.a. bEEdEEgEE) band Gang Gang Dance, but with a band as experimental as they are, their sound is difficult to pin down or predict. Furthermore, when I see a solo project announced that is not due to that member leaving the band, I am hopeful that they will do something that will be markedly different from their work with said band. In that respect SUM/ONE is a disappointment not straying nearly far enough from Gang Gang Dance’s sound to justify it being a solo release.
This may not be a problem for fans of previous Gang Gang Dance albums, who might have feared a significant departure from the sound of 2011’s critically adored Eye Contact. This might be less of a problem had the album hit the highs of that album but whilst never being bad per say, it isn’t as interesting as Eye Contact.
The album’s struggle for identity is clarified by one of my favourite songs ‘(F.U.T.D) Time of Waste.’ The vocals on this track come from Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, and DeGraw seems to be catering to Taylor with the track frequently coming dangerously close to sounding like an adult rated Hot Chip B-side. The track is pretty fun, but it wasn’t really what I wanted and left me feeling somewhat cold. I was looking for what a bEEdEEgEE track might sound like incorporating Taylor’s vocals and creating something unique to this album. Not all the guest vocals are so problematically dominating; I was particularly impressed by the use of CSS’ Lovefoxxx on ‘Flowers.’ The song felt like a bEEdEEgEE song, which is what should be happening on a bEEdEEgEE album; unfortunately, the main signifier of a bEEdEEgEE song can be its messy sound.
My main problem with SUM/ONE is one that often plagues many artists that consider themselves experimental. That tag alone does not excuse an artist to throw everything and a kitchen sink on a song. This album could have been so much more had its sound just been cleaned up somewhat as I do like a lot of these sounds but they’re just too hard to connect to when there are so many going on. SUM/ONE is still an interesting and good album, but you have to feel had DeGraw been more fearless it could have been fantastic.By Harry Rosehill