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Buke and Gase and So Percussion
A Record Of Danijela Bočev , February 19th, 2021 10:00

Hudson instrument builders Buke and Gase team up with Brooklyn quartet Sō Percussion for an album rich with the energy of cross-fertilisation

A most magical pairing occurred when Brassland Record’s noisy luminaries Buke & Gase teamed up with collab-friendly quartet Sō Percussion at the request of Ecstatic Music Festival in 2014. The supergroup’s long-brewing collaborative album A Record Of... is an amalgamation of elemental but refined percussive statements, a metamorphic banger of shifting moods, revealing more than meets the ear.

Sō Percussion are skilled collaborators, infusing Buke & Gase’s abrasive sound with some new oxygen. The New York duo’s usual cut-to-the-groovy-parts approach and everything-all-at-once creative overload here avoids falling into the volatile trap of becoming a sonic texture book of cool and fun curiosities. Against the backdrop of the airy, vibraphone-centred textures, emerges a sound like a tempered tantrum, a controlled micro-explosion of maximalist energy into a minimalist setup.

A Record Of... is a superb collaboration, reconciling jarring contrasts without compromising either party’s own character. It is the dynamic meeting point of pop and experimental, punk and classical minimalism, noisy and hushed, abrasive and smooth, delivered with stark clarity and precision.

Coming from the proggy-minded side of the late-00s’ weird America, infatuated with uncommon time signatures, delightfully odd polyrhythms and high tension-release dynamics, the handy duo of Arone Dyer (her) and Aron Sanchez (him) kept to their organic DIY roots, carving their own cult niche along with their titular self-invented instruments (a ‘buke’ is “a modified six-string baritone ukelele”, while the ‘gase’ is “a guitar-bass hybrid.”). Sanchez builds instruments for the Blue Man Group and Bryce Dessner, while Dyer used to build bikes. Later inventions included automotive steel, adding metallic sheen to the amplified handcrafts responsible for uncanny salvaged noise of their signature sound. Touring with Shellac or Deerhoof made perfect sense – as does a collab with a percussion quartet, sharing both elemental noise, fractured creativity, and the intelligent design of percussive minimalism.

“I'’m just so tired of being down on myself,” Dyer spills out this emotional manifesto of joy as a form of resistance on ‘Get Down’, with pure wilful feeling pushing through, transforming the conflicting outer layers of frustration, melancholy, and anxiety. Her bracing, charismatically melodic singing aims to stretch emotional limits and subvert moods (culminating in ‘Sleepwalk’). Lyrics are minimal, evocative, but oblique; loosely and curiously interwoven in the joyful noise. Walking the edgy demarcation lines between high and low on the emotional frequency scale, the composite emotional x-ray reveals an anarchic overlapping of the downward and upward spirals.

A Record Of... is an album that eats its own tail. The structure unravels in a circular, independent statement, opening with ‘Diazepam’ (“a reminder not to look to others to keep my sanity or pose,” as Dyer reveals), and closing with the track’s shorter edit. A statement of loving self-reliance, “it can be read as a response to this very stressful year”, she noted, or as “a reminder to hug yourself" - something, she would previously have found a contrivance. Even the cover resembles some weird self-hug abstraction.

Known to fall off the map, dabble in electronics or scrap the whole album of material if it wasn’t quite working out, the two Aron(e)s are uncompromising finding ways of working together most authentically. The end result always finds a way of exposing the bare groovy bones of their intense subjectivities in flux, shifting before they clash, with danger and surprise.

There’s something about Buke & Gase’s career trajectory and a certain passive-progressive creative ethos connecting the insular-pull and eternal restarting, the kind of self re-inventing from scratch (remaining – triumphantly or frustratingly – the same). Almost as if the fixation on beginning anew could delay the passage of time. Or at least help escape the linear trajectory of their heads. Repetition overload, similar to the effect of ‘semantic satiation’ (a psychological phenomenon in which the continued recurrence of a word causes it to lose meaning for the subject) leads to sonic estrangement, also aiding the vertical impulse. Like kids doing things they most enjoy over and over again, it fixates us in the moment.

A certain restart alchemy renews the abundant creative vitality this self-inventive duo serves generously in invigorating jolts, like sudden strokes of insight after a long search, the pure thrill of nailing down the pattern from what appears to be chaos, driving this wild pursuit. “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” The improvisational nature of Buke & Gase’s intuitive musicianship fits into the mathematical definition of randomness as a pattern, a subtle structure appearing only if observed over longer periods of time. Perhaps this covertly shared Reichian philosophy is one of the magic ingredients fusing the duo and the quartet here joining them so fluidly, each serving as a mirror to the other’s hidden potentials.

If we’re temporarily self-enchanted in our self-isolation, cocooned for comfort and preservation in crisis mode, this album serves as a reminder of the profound nature of collaboration, turning outward contrasts into subtler meeting points, drawing out layers only others make visible, facilitating our growth.