Buke and Gase: Scholar (Brassland) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, November 26th, 2020  

Buke and Gase



Jan 31, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Discovered by The National's Bryce Dessner and regular Shellac support band of choice (there's even been a live collaboration with bassist Bob Weston), this Brooklyn duo broke through somewhat with 2013's excellent General Dome and have taken their sweet time preparing their third full-length album.

Scholar is a deeply unusual record. It refuses to go where you want, or expect, and this can confound, frustrate, even, but you're compelled to go with Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, so tantalizing do they make this path less travelled.

The jerking funk-folk of "Pink Boots" throws back to General Dome's stunning opener "Houdini Crush," and here Dyer is taking a strong feminist stance with lyrics like "Behind the kitchen utensils/You're still servicing" while later in the same song we recall Kathleen Hanna's Le Tigre and their pronounced, synthesized thrust.

Scholars has a far deeper field of vision than its predecessorsthe slinky, sensual "Derby" is, conversely, arranged roughly, brutishly but in a way that sounds fresh rather than alienates. This constant shifting, movement, and divergence is emblematic of the album. When they lean into the possibility of "pop" as on "Wrong Side," with its simple beat and repeated, memorable vocal"A wide range of ways to be/That's just right for me/That's just right for my body"they defy once again with algebraic construction, and like several of the songs here it phases not only from one mood to another but into whole other genres and sets of instrumentation.

You can imagine they could toss out a top 10 hit with some easeyet, admirably, choose to remain adventurous, bold, and hard-edged.

That's not to say that Dyer's increasingly confident and expressive vocals aren't beautiful, pleasing, and sometimes spectacularyet she chooses to mutate melody, molding it into ever more contorted and surprising shapes.

The brief, angular instrumental interludes provide little respiteboth "Qi Ball" and closer "Ranger" are menacing, their incompleteness something of a nerve-shredder.

The "easiest," smoothest song here comes late on with "Flock"but even here no quarter is given: "I wanna play in muddy water/And find myself dirty again" cries Dyer, compromise seemingly not in their repertoire.

While the namesake buke and gase instruments they have relied on in the past do crop up here of course, this is an album that moves beyond any expectation you may have for this band and into an entirely more textured, unexpected realm. It has a sense of purpose and intent that only seems to be emphasized by its artful presentation. (www.bukeandgase.com)

Author rating: 7.5/10

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