Wednesday March 6, 2013

Melissa Auf der MaurBuke & Gase

Melissa Auf der Maur

Hole, Smashing Pumpkins

A musician and photographer born in Montreal, Canada, Melissa Auf der Maur is the former bass player of Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins. In 2004, her first solo album Auf der Maur was released by Capitol/EMI worldwide. 2010 marked the release of Out of Our Minds, which includes an album, the OOOM fantasy film, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and the OOOM comic book. MAdM is the creative director of the Basilica Hudson, an arts and performance space in Hudson, New York. You can follow her on Twitter here

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Album

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. Talkhouse

Buke & Gase

No one really asks those kinds of questions… the what-kind-of-person-are-you-that-you-make-these-sounds-and-write-these-words questions. Too tough, or maybe they’re afraid of what kind of answer they’ll get. Maybe it’s the kind of thing that you’d just have to learn by spending time, or maybe making it up for yourself, which people tend to do anyway regardless of how well they know someone. I change often and right now I’m the kind of person that’s currently full of maybes (at least in regards to writing this response).

“Split Like a Lip” is the most “promising” song, i think, it’s upbeat, light-hearted, triumphant, ball-z… not serious feeling, but confident. Somehow Aron and I differ on what makes an attractive song in this particular place: fun versus interesting. But that’s a main factor in all our work together, the push and pull of two people trying to make something happen in a way that makes both of us happy. Like we’re making musical children and we can see their resemblance to ourselves in little ways, this song has His This, that song has My That, etc… sometimes a song is more of one than the other, but usually it’s an efficient balance of the both, or at least that’s preferable. Anyway… Split feels like the brighter side of both of us.

I remember the first strands of the song, where Aron was sooo into his part during improvisation, he was addicted. We probably toyed with that idea for about an hour straight, yet I couldn’t find my place in it. Even after a few weeks of going back to that original riff I had a hard time feeling it as intensely as Aron did, it was so “his”. But eventually we ran our heads into that wall so many times I jumpstarted the words, as the melody already existed from our original improvisation. I started to care about whoever was saying the things I was saying, and, together, we began to feel good about it, or at least we had gotten onto the same plane of existence. So the song developed in this relieved sort of “ahh - yes, i remember what enjoying working with you is like” way… so i think that’s where it gets this promising feeling, like there’s still hope… regardless of the meanings in and around the lyrics, Aron and I were enjoying piecing this song together after all.

-Arone Dyer

on 06-03-2013 15:53