You're So Post-Post-Rock Right Now

Daniel J. Kushner, traipsing through sounds

Posts Tagged ‘music

Buke and Gase’s General Dome: Newer Name, Grittier Sound

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Album cover for Buke and Gase's "General Dome."

Album cover for Buke and Gase’s “General Dome.”

Sometime after the release of Buke and Gass’s Riposte in 2010–a striking first impression of a record—the industrious DIY  duo did something confusing:  they changed their name..slightly…to Buke and Gase.  On General Dome, the second full-length album released on January 29 via Brassland, what seems like a simple cosmetic change for pronunciation’s sake is emblematic of the band’s fuller realization of its own sound.

Buke and Gase’s music has always been what one could loosely call “avant-garage rock.” But that term is deceiving and overly reductive, and does nothing to explain what has made the music so compelling:   the interlocking edginess of the instruments—Arone Dyer’s amplified baritone ukelele (“Buke”) and Aron Sanchez’s versatile guitar-bass hybrid (“Gase”)—combined with exuberant, groove-laden melodies and serpentine rhythms that expand and contract like pulsating organisms.

Arone Dyer (buke), left, and Aron Sanchez (gase).

Arone Dyer (buke), left, and Aron Sanchez (gase).

Apparently, the musical feel of Riposte was merely an approximation of the ideal Buke and Gase sound, and not its full manifestation.  As noted in a recent press release, Dyer made the switch from the wooden ukelele heard on the debut record to a new instrument made, at least partially, from re-purposed car parts. The more one listens to “General Dome,” the more dramatic the resulting evolution of the band’s sound comes.

There is part of me that misses the anachronism of the old “Buke,” a humble acoustic instrument supercharged with amplification and effects pedals.  Its odd quality lent itself naturally to idiosyncratic hooks that churned with tension and shimmered pungently with equal measure.

From the album opener “Houdini Crush” onward, the homemade instruments sound like they’ve been welded together, their individual timbres now completely in sync.  If Buke and Gase created dense compositions with prog-like tendencies before, the music of General Dome boasts a crunchier core of harmonies and more streamlined song forms now.  “Hard Times” is as concise as it is catchy, featuring a chorus that is as undeniably pop as you’re likely to find.

Elsewhere, the band employs triple meter liberally, in songs like “Twisting the Lasso of Truth,” which projects a buoyant waltz before it begins to snarl with sudden rhythm changes.   The instruments mimic sardonic laughter, and the whole thing threatens to derail like a beautifully deranged carousel ride.

As a whole, General Dome is absolutely stunning in its rhythmic variety—the downbeat is constantly being disguised, obscured, and altered—without ever losing the continuity or momentum of each individual song.  To that end, the use of tambourine, bass drum, and jingling feet percussion are still integral to the sound; they lend a march-like quality to the propulsion of the music, particularly in “Split Like a Lip, No Blood on the Beard.”  Clever time changes populate the witty “Hiccup” with infectious results.

The musical chemistry showcased here, as in Riposte, is awe-inspiring.  With this new collection of songs, however, Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez have trimmed their sound–focusing on a meatier overall timbre and in the process, becoming a leaner, darker and grittier band.

Courtesy of NPR Music, this Buke and Gase concert at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge in October 2012 features the band’s honed sound.

Setlist is as follows: “Hiccup” –>”Cyclopean” –>”Misshaping Introduction”–>”Split Like a Lip, No Blood on the Beard”–>”Sleep Gets Your ghost”–>”Tending the Talk”

Written by winebrick41

February 7, 2013 at 12:59 am

Ascend at the Dead End: The Kaleidoscopic Sounds of Greenpot Bluepot

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On April 3, New York City-based musician Natalie LeBrecht—under the auspices of her solo project Greenpot Bluepot—released the album Ascend at the Dead End, a concise yet sprawling 32 minutes of kaleidoscopic sounds and complex textures. Co-mixed by Avey Tare of Animal Collective and Matt Marinelli (Beastie Boys, Lauryn Hill), the music itself details an all-encompassing dialogue between the artist and her sonic surroundings, a conversation in which the listener cannot help but be immersed.

Invoking a kind of detached, decidedly more ethereal Siouxsie Sioux, LeBrecht is buttressed by locomotive percussion and dizzying harmonies. In particular, the opener “Royal Parade” recalls the edginess of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Metal Postcard (Mittageisen).”

Throughout the album, Greenpot Bluepot uses open 4ths and 5ths in the vocals, somehow reminiscent of Byzantine chant. The influence of drone music is constantly reinforced, even while the geographical provenance of the tones, textures, and rhythms shift underneath.

This fluid movement sometimes occurs within the same song, as in “Ascend,” with its Asian and Middle Eastern allusions. “Hanged Man” builds on a simple medieval harmony of parallel 5ths—which would have been widely dismissed in the Baroque and Classical traditions—to create a kind of heretical liturgy: delightfully askew, almost vulgar.

There is also a subtle commentary about the universality, or perhaps interchangeability of our world’s innumerable folk traditions. Rather than articulate this verbally, however, LeBrecht utilizes seemingly omnipresent pentatonic melodies, which are a tangible reminder of the common musical language that unites us.

These elements could be have been disorienting and overwhelming, but the songs never veer away from accessibility. Even “Melting Sword,” with its static, sea-tossed harmonium dirge, stays rooted in the commanding pop vocalizations of LeBrecht. The enigmatic chanteuse possesses a predominantly straight tone that takes on a husky gravitas in the lower notes that thins out into an airy quaver in the higher range. And while the vocals are the chief mechanism driving the songs’ direction, the great paradox of Greenpot Bluepot is that the music triumphs expressly because the voice is not truly center stage. Ultimately, LeBrecht’s vocals serve to draw us back into the musical panorama she creates. The voice is simply another instrumental layer that melds into the instrumentation like the finely woven threads of an immense tapestry.

First and foremost, Ascend at the Dead End is a quintessential offspring of 21st century creativity—a swell of conglomerated musical information, the listening experience is a bit like encountering sounds via Twitter feed. Natalie LeBrecht seems to offer us the totality of musical history at once—snippets fly through our periphery, all demanding our attention simultaneously. We the listeners are left at a stand-still, in awe amidst the music’s perpetual motion.

Written by winebrick41

April 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm

The Social Network: Exhibit A on How Movie Trailers Can “Creep” In Through Music

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Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network

 

So like so many out there, I saw the The Social Network in theaters recently.  And also like so many others, I thought it was excellent: artfully done with an impeccable cast, an unassailable script by Aaron Sorkin of The West Wing fame, and of course inspired direction from David Fincher, whose past work includes the chilling Se7en.

But for those of you interested in the movie itself, you most likely knew much of that already.  And actually, I’m not interested in talking about the movie, per se.  (To get it out  of my system, however, I have to applaud Fincher and particularly Sorkin for what I believe to be the most important overarching decision they had to make concerning the movie: using a true story as a base from which to build a screenplay that creates an alternate reality of what really happened–a version that is most definitely embellished, exaggerated and at times wholly fabricated–in order to communicate a larger truth.  That’s art as far as I’m concerned and I love this film for that fact alone.

And speaking of facts, the real reason for this post is for a decision David Fincher and co. made outside of the film itself.  I’m talking about the movie’s main trailer–not specifically the teaser promos–which utilizes a cover of Radiohead’s “breakthrough hit” “Creep” performed here by a Belgian girls’ choir named Scala and led by the Kolacny brothers.

This ensemble has made a career out performing rock and pop songs in a clear, minimalistic yet classically rooted choral sound.  As a stand-alone cover tune, this version really warms the cockles of my heart.  (And no, despite how it sounds, I don’t mean that in a sexual way.)  To be honest, I was never a big fan of the original Radiohead version.  I don’t know why for sure, except that the album of theirs that got me hooked was The Bends, and “Creep” doesn’t appear on that record.

An obvious adjective  like “haunting” comes to mind quite easily, and while it’s indeed apt here, it doesn’t go far enough in describing how the music serves to drive home the potency of the movie–or perhaps more accurately the allure of the movie–in conjunction with the trailer.

The trailer begins.   Immediately as images of Facebook screen captures and in-progress status updates appear, the distinctive sound of a unified voice–the girl’s choir–emerges,  accompanied by a solitary piano, somber yet penetrating.  The vocal performance is already immediately arresting, eight seconds in.  Part of the reason  is that the instruments and combined sonic texture is not commonly used in movie trailers, but what really makes it “click” (truly no pun intended) is the Kolacny Brothers’ ability to command–nay coax–fluid, driven phrases that are always moving toward the something, whether it’s the crusis in the next few bars, or over the entire length of the song.

The trailer proper quickly enfolds  as  we see Jesse Zuckerberg (that’s how good Eisenberg is here) explain the initial idea of Facebook, and the truncated version of the interpersonal technological,and strictly  litigious whirlwind that ensues.  The song builds in perfect synchronicity with the ratcheting up of  tension we see on the screen.  The charismatic yet ethereal voice of the choir, along with the undulating piano chords do not distract us from what we’re watching, but rather they transfix our minds to the spot.  Add to it the subconscious element of hearing lyrics like “I want you to notice when I’m not around/You’re so very special/I wish I was special” [ the original word fuckin' was omitted for obvious reasons in the trailer version]–and additional lyrics that function like the autobiographical words  of Mark Zuckerberg, the movie character–and you’ve got some real mystical cinematic hypnotism going on.

But I’m a creep/I’m a weirdo/What the hell am I doing here/I don’t belong here…I don’t care if it hurts, I wanna have control/I want a perfect body/I want a perfect soul

And so, at about the 1:49 mark of the trailer when Eduardo Saverin (played by Andrew Garfield) destroys Zuckerberg’s laptop  in complete anger and futile frustration just as Scala hits the chord suspension on the word “run,” –damn.  I’ve been blown away.

An addendum:  I seem to remember another movie whose promo trailer was also startlingly effective for very similar reasons:  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, directed by one David Fincher and set to a song called “My Body Is a Cage” by Arcade Fire.

We should all be taking copious notes from this Fincher guy.  He seems to understand this whole movie music thing.

Comments are totally welcome and definitely encouraged. Let’s talk it out.

Written by winebrick41

October 8, 2010 at 7:27 am

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