(A version of this review appears on kevchino.com.)
Buke and Gass: Riposte
When you pop the new album from Buke and Gass into your CD player—or, more likely, upload it onto your iTunes—don’t be afraid to crank it.
The members of Buke and Gass certainly aren’t. The Brooklyn duo’s first full-length effort, Riposte, is best turned up a little too loud. Riposte is as relentless as it is eccentric, a booming, anthemic album with anger on its face and whimsy in its heart.
Buke and Gass take their name from the two improvised instruments that bandmates Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez strum whilst singing and manipulating various pedals and percussion pieces with their feet. Dyer, whose reedy vocals form the centerpiece of the album, plays a modified baritone ukelele, called a buke, while Sanchez hammers away on a gass (rhymes with “base”), a guitar-bass hybrid of his own creation. This DIY aesthetic is most apparent in the duo’s live performances, oft-lauded for the sheer volume and complexity made possible by the two musicians’ unorthodox setup. If it weren’t for their reputation—or their name, for that matter—you’d hardly guess the group’s made-from-scratch origins from Riposte. The album is crisp and unwavering, its jagged edges wielded with restraint, its many instrumental and percussive layers compiled with an eye towards power and precision. The only evidence of the idiosyncrasies at Riposte’s core can be heard in occasional snippets of conversation and musical noodling taken from the band’s recording sessions, a subtle nod to their peculiar process.
Like many of their contemporaries—the Dodos and tUnE-yArDs come to mind—Buke and Gass are enamored with polyrhythms, reveling in the jarring pulse of mismatched beats. They’re made of harder stuff, though, than many of their fellow avant-folkies, an indebtedness to post-punk evident in the music’s uncompromising demeanor and the undercurrent of menace that runs throughout. Dyer writes with dark, paranoid imagery, delivering manic lyrics in a nimble voice capable of jumping from shout to whisper in an instant. The group eschews traditional song structure, unafraid of odd time signatures, abrupt changes in tempo, or long forms. At their best, they reveal a knack for writing hooks that pull at your gut.
Riposte hits its peak somewhere around track 7, when it becomes apparent that Buke & Gass have only one speed. Dyer and Sanchez’s unrelenting energy can wear thin; Dyer’s lyrics, too, can be opaque and hard to grasp. Riposte is nevertheless a remarkable effort, one that grabs you by the collar and demands a second listen. And a third, and a fourth. So go on—turn it up.