Monday, December 6, 2010

Buke and Gass @ Sneaky Dee's, December 4, 2010

Buke and Gass (Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez). Photos by Colleen Hale-Hodgson
If you're a fan of the popular WNYC radio show Radiolab you may have heard of the peculiarly named Brooklyn-based duo Buke and Gass. The group was featured in the April 20, 2010 edition of the show entitled "The Loudest Miniature Fuzz," where they talked about the bizarre but wonderful music they make with their homemade instruments - a modified baritone ukulele and a guitar-bass hybrid. They brought their wacky setup to Toronto's Sneaky Dee's last night, where, sadly, only a small crowd of people were there to witness the eccentric sounds come to life.

Local one-man outfit Doldrums opened the night with a noise-heavy electronic mosaic of vocal-layering and synth psychedelia (sometimes I like to call live performances like this one "push-the-button rock"). With some clever sampling and creative, chopped-up drum-machine riffs, Doldrums makes for some immerse listening, and would be something good to see live after some fine-tuning (the beats were out of sync with the electronic swirls several times, and the sound was way too loud for the small crowd and small venue). That said, the voice layering was fun and well done, and I'm digging the recorded material on MySpace (or is it My_____?), so check that out if you can.
Second openers Talk Normal (comprised of drummer/vocalist Andrya Ambro and guitarist/vocalist Sarah Register) followed up with a reverb-fuelled set featuring rollicking rhythms (which I especially enjoyed) and guitar drones under stark lyrics. The experimental spirit of the performance made it notable, but I feel that a more in-depth exploration of their natural dynamics (the space between loud and quiet, drone and melody) would elevate the music past other similarly grungy rock outfits.

Buke and Gass's setup is the epitome of DIY-spirit; Arone Dyer (the Buke) sits with a sound pedal beneath one foot, a ring of bells tied around her ankle, and metal jingles fashioned to her other shoe. Aron Sanchez (the Gass) keeps the beat with a kick drum, which is filled with two tambourines that chime with every beat. All of their instruments (including the amps) are homemade.

Aside from the marvel of seeing these musicians multiply their two person sound into that of a full, five-piece band, Buke and Gass are a delight to watch. Dyer is has an affable and magnetic personality. She'll laugh at her own jokes, tease her band mate, and encouraged everyone to dance like no one is watching. The acoustics in Sneaky Dee's is not the best, so her voice was often drowned out by the clamour of their instruments, but from what I did hear her voice is high and sweet and full of character.

Dyer displayed some mad uke skills.
Buke and Gass make twangy, genre-bending music; they are at times folky, often rock and punk influenced, with a touch of pop to round everything out. Their sound is unique, much like the instruments they play, but they use familiar song structure and well-honed musicianship to build catchy songs that draw the listener in, then let them linger on the complexity within each strummed string.

These days, "experimental" is often synonymous with "electronic," but Buke and Gass manage to explore without dipping into synthesizers or sound boards. While the homemade instruments may come off at first as a novelty - something notable only because it's different - they add a fundamental shift in the texture of the music, allowing for sophisticated arrangement while keeping the feel organic. See this band live, give the album a listen - I dare you to tell me otherwise.


NPR Music has a "Tiny Desk Concert" with Buke and Gass that's worth a look. Also, if you're so inclined, you can purchase either their debut album Riposte (which just made it on to NPR Music's top 50 favourite albums of 2010 year-end list), or you can pick up their EP, +/-, which, true to B & G spirit, is presented in lovely homemade packaging.

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