Buke And Gase
Bryan Mack, February 11, 2013
Listen: “General Dome”
Let’s save the talking points for the end and just dive right in: Buke and Gase puts out clangorous-yet-pretty, subtle-yet-bold not-quite-rock music. I can hear echoes of post-punk, Kate Bush, no-wave, folk and the Jesus Lizard in their confoundingly catchy sound. If you listen to the album without reading all the extra information about the band (which I’d recommend) you would be forgiven for thinking that this came out on Touch and Go or Amphetamine Reptile in the ’90s. And yes, that is most assuredly a compliment.
General Dome, their second album, is full of dissonant stringed instruments, banshee howl vocals and pounding drums. However, it’s equally full of complex song structures, surprisingly catchy melodies and moments of transcendence. “Hard Times,” a lovely, melodic track, is begging for an acoustic take with a twinkling piano melody and more focus on singer Arone Dyer’s fluid vocals. “Twisting the Lasso of Truth” would have fit perfectly onto an early Yeah Yeah Yeahs release, all trebly guitars, alternate howls and coos and minimal drums. “Cyclopean” takes the best impulses of Death From Above 1979 and smoothes them into a jerky, halting groove. The band I am most reminded of is the Dresden Dolls: they have a theatric air about them, but it’s forgivable in light of their melodic gifts and skill for hitting you repeatedly in the face with their instrumental force.
Fans of those ugly Chicago post-hardcore outfits like Big Black, Jesus Lizard, Laughing Hyenas and the like may decry the band for wearing their influences on their sleeve. Sure, they frequently grind and pummel like the best of those acts, but there is always a melody flitting around the dissonance. Arone’s voice, frequently floating in the highest register, perfectly cuts through the din and provides some grounding amidst the morass. And, as much as they beat you with ugliness, their instrumental playing features some deft guitar and bass lines and some excellent clean, pretty tones to balance out the violence.
Okay, but I can’t write a review of these guys without mentioning all the extra baggage. What’s with that name, you ask? Well, it references the two instruments they play: a custom-made metal bass ukulele (Buke) and a combination bass/guitar (Gase.) They make their instruments. They are a two-piece that plays everything live, including the percussion (something called a Toeburine? Yeah, they’re goofy.) They are named Arone and Aron. All of this will either annoy you or immediately draw you in for the quirk factor. The thing is, if you ignore all the superfluous bullshit and just listen to the album, you’ll be more impressed by their songwriting and their playing than their story. And that’s what’s most important, now isn’t it?