Buke and Gase, ‘General Dome’ (Brassland)
Release Date: January 29, 2013
General Dome, the latest from outré-rock duo Buke and Gase, is about force. Frontwoman Arone Dyer sings of it often on the first three tracks, her voice careening from high hillbilly trill to angel-punk, spitting her words like she can’t get them out of her mouth fast enough. They’ve upgraded their hand-built instruments, which has increased their power as a band; Buke and Gase’s second full-length is revving, unafraid, and loud. This emboldened sound better serves the sweetness of Dyer’s voice, which swings with contrapuntal grace into the growling dominion of Aron Sanchez’s gase — his custom-built weapon of choice that splits the difference between baritone guitar and bass, functioning as an especially nimble, full-throttle, low-end instrument. Upgrade aside, the duo’s sound is still organized around that fluid, hyper-melodic thudding.
Never mind the cool toys, though; Dyer’s voice is what truly dazzles here. Since the pair’s days in fabulous Brooklyn never-ran band Hominid, she’s gained incredible vocal control — her mastery of the top of her range is breathtaking. Post-punk rarely (okay, never) gets women who can sing-sing, so fortunately Dyer’s game to slum it when she could just as easily be on some diva shit, content rebirthing Fugazi riffs while accompanying herself on a home-ec-style ukulele during the indomitable “Hard Times.”
The gallant, less-is-more, DIY ethos of this band — building their own instruments and pedals while fashioning a makeshift studio to record themselves — ensures that tinkering will always be a part of their magic. That they manage to wallop and whelm with so much power and so few instruments is impressive; their punk is genuine. Unfortunately, their ethos of crafting every sound with their own hands sometimes trips them up. General Dome‘s force is relentless, but about halfway through these 12 songs, things run together, with muddy, [mid-dy] waters polluting the mix, as on “Twisting the Lasso of Truth,” the growling gase running riot and blotting out all but the most delirious highs of Dyer’s voice.
True, the new fury of the buke — upgraded from a toy to a hulking beast forged from a Volvo hood — adds some real meat to the sound, but too much of it falls into the same sonic range. Unless you give this a carefully loud listen in high-end headphones, the instrumental differences are undetectable, the buke and gase tangled into a kind of exhausted, unified roar that obscures the quality of the songwriting. What these proud loners need is a knowing outside hand to EQ the living fuck out of them, and truly bring the duo’s dynamic glory to the fore.