Melissa Auf der Maur (Smashing Pumpkins, Hole) talks Buke & Gase’s General Dome
I love music and I’m friends with many musicians. We run in the same circles and gravitate towards the same places, even when fleeing the big city and “hiding out” in small towns. That’s why, a couple of days after seeing their first headlining gig at Bowery Ballroom in NYC, I ran into Buke and Gase — Aron Sanchez and Arone Dyer — at a local lunch spot in Hudson, New York. As they handed me a fresh-off-the-presses CD of their new album, General Dome, I told them I wished I had a music site to review it on, because I was so taken by the show. The following week, I got invited to write for the Talkhouse. And here we are.
Actually, General Dome was recorded in a room at Basilica Hudson, a former glue factory, now my new arts and performance space in Hudson. Dyer and Sanchez needed a place to rehearse for a tour, I had an extra room and they ended up staying for a few months, recording their next album there. Even hearing some of these riffs on repeat blaring through the cracks in old doors for months on end, I swear I am still pretty objective: Buke and Gase makes music that is ORIGINAL and PURE. These sounds could only come from these two people.
Some basic info worth keeping in mind: B&G is a two-piece band and they make their own instruments: Dyer sings and she plays a baritone ukulele beefed up to six strings — the buke — Sanchez plays a “gase,” a guitar that has some bass strings. She has a tambourine on her toe, he has a kick drum. They are electric with lots of pedals and processed sounds.
I love Polvo and I also love Mastodon. Point being, I love experimental pop and heavy prog equally — oddball time signatures and dissonance, songs that don’t follow traditional formats or styles. I imagine the way those bands make music is an obsessive process, and that’s a lot like Buke and Gase. — based on what I heard coming through the studio walls, those two rehearse and loop a riff like nobody I know.
“Houdini Crush,” the opening track of General Dome, starts with a simple eighth-note bass stomp; some soaring phaser-glassy guitar swells slip in and then clear out for a strong introduction of the female voice of the band. Not sure on the exact lyrics, but as the title suggests, it is about a mysterious man who slips in and out of sight. The syncopated tambourine and kick drum hit at the same time —a minimal but very satisfying jangle-whomp, something to hold on to while the rest of the music moves unpredictably. Halfway through the song, we arrive at a very catchy reoccurring melody with lyrics about tied hands. This is also when the very striking and effective B&G instrumentation tendency presents itself for the first time: Dyer doubles her vocal melody on that glassy, high-pitched buke. It’s just like doubling vocals with vocals, but better — it creates a really piercing, emphasized melody line. The rest of the song wanders down some alleyways of odd, then back to the chorus, then back to the sweet intro. There’s always something poetic when a song ends where it began.
The title track is a simple build-up of rhythm guitar parts and the kind of whispy spoken-word that Kim Gordon put on the indie-rock map, the kind that I believe is a natural instinct of any tomboy in a rock band — the choirgirl showing her anti-choirgirl other side. The song builds for a solid three minutes, then for the final minute, that whispy voice turns fierce and strong: “…I’ll be the last one to deny real proof…” The lyrics are abstract, they make you wonder what kind of woman Dyer is, what makes her want to sing and share what’s inside.
As music should be, it’s a bit of a mystery why “Split Like a Lip, No Blood on the Beard” is by far my favorite track. The guitars are both extremely rhythmic and angular-wacky. Dyer seems to use all of her vocal styles in this one, and as for the story in the song? “She’s a nice a girl, but never mind. Wouldn’t want to be any other way outside these walls….” Again subtle, and makes me wonder what kind of woman she is. The end of the song tells us a bit more: “I never notice when it’s too good to be true.” She sounds like a woman who reaches for the sun and has faith in something “good.” The music sounds like that too, enhanced by the technical proficiency of her musical partner Sanchez.
When I made that trip down to NYC to see their album launch and U.S. tour kick-off, I had not seen them in a big-city venue with a powerful PA before, and the POWER of it was almost industrial-sounding, very heavy for just two people sitting on chairs and tapping their feet. Watching them gave me a rush of inspiration, a high, that made me want to dive, or join, in and try to keep up, like jumping a frenetic old freight train hurtling somewhere unknown. But in Buke and Gase’s case there’s really tasteful snacks and treats on board — not the LSD/Bison Vodka mix of Mastodon or the high-powered bong toke of Polvo… Does this make sense to you? If it does, you should listen to General Dome.