Brooklyn duo Buke and Gase seem at first like something of a novelty act. The male-female duo of Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez play the instruments that comprise the band, a six-string baritone ukelele and a guitar/bass hybrid. For percussion, there are the bells on Arone’s feet and the bass drum with foot pedal in front of Aron. From this limited sonic range the duo spins their own brand of time signature-hopping, quirk-laden pop music, the likes of which anyone following the Brooklyn music scene in the last few years will not be surprised by. Their discovery by the Dessner brothers of The National ensured that the world beyond Brooklyn would hear this music, and recent album General Dome is the most fully realized statement they have made yet.
Buke and Gase’s stage set-up may be unusual, but the band has one fairly obvious way to transcend the novelty act accusation and stand out in a crowded field of Brooklyn indie musicians: hooks. Great big hooks. Although the older material on display at the Echo on Tuesday night felt raucous, it also felt erratic, the sound of a band that knew their sound but hadn’t figured out exactly how to harness it properly into something more substantial. As a result, the songs from General Dome really do stand out as the end product of a newfound focus and much-improved songwriting.
Lead single “Hiccup” was dropped early in a set that was heavily delayed due to some sound issue, after Dyer had attempted to play “Contortion In Training” on her own before abandoning the attempt so that Sanchez could fix the sound issues. Even with the sound problems lingering, “Hiccup” sounded every inch the pop gem that it is, complete with a strident beat and glorious sing-along chorus.
The set highlighted the band’s unusually adept ability to switch moods. Time signature and tempo changes come easily enough, but can become repetitive and a little dull if that is all you have to offer. Buke and Gase bring a sense of energy to proceedings, in so much as they know how to switch the energy of a room quite dramatically from track to track. Despite those sound issues, “Houdini Crush” sounded majestic and much more widescreen than two people should be able to produce between them. “Twisting The Lasso Of Truth” was laced with an underlying anger that suits its quietly creepy melody, while “General Dome” rolls along with unstoppable momentum from that opening chord onwards.
The other real key to Buke and Gase’s charm is Dyer’s voice. She is nimble enough in her wide range to be able to navigate these fleet-footed melodies and ground them, but when necessary, she can carry a song entirely with some power from such a small frame, as she did during the near-chaotic thirty seconds that signaled the end of the addictive “Cyclopean.”
This was a performance by a band that seems pretty good at hurdling any obstacles in their way. Accusations of being a little lightweight have been crushed with an impressive new album. Major sound issues at their LA gig were sidestepped with grace and wit (Dyer briefly entertained the crowd with questions when it became obvious there was a problem), and what at first looked to be becoming a bit of a disaster ended up being a really satisfying gig. If the duo can continue to meet adversity in such a manner, then there are only good things ahead of them.
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