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Transmission
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Review Wed Aug 05 2015

Buke and Gase and Landlady: A Primeval Movement of Human Spirit

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Someone once told me that music is the language of the soul, and that's a mantra I've taken into every concert I've seen. Some aspects of the soul are neatly arranged, rational, mathematical. Others--the more primordial parts--seek to move in time to the irregular, chaotic nature of the universe. Last night at Schuba's, it was that latter half of the soul that was activated by Buke and Gase, Landlady, and Crown Larks. Although each band painted a vastly different soundscape, they all filled the chest with a Dionysian energy that reveled in the beauty of primal urge.

IMG_5661.JPGI arrived at Schuba's about ten minutes before Crown Larks, a local four-piece outfit, took the stage and blasted off their set with a dissonant mix of hypnotic guitar, alarmed synth, and a patter of drums that sounded like a super-intelligent cat was walking deliberately across the kit. It made no sense, but in the same way that the Big Bang doesn't make sense--we can't understand how energy turned into matter any more than we can understand how Jack Bouboushian's droning guitar solos fall neatly into the frantic, freeform rhythm of Crown Larks' music, but we can accept its stark beauty. As the band played through its five-song set, the music remained hazily focused on a feel that ranged from the lullaby acid trip and waterfall cymbals of "Chapels" to the schizoid spiral toward a neural black hole that characterized "Overgrown." Bouboushian's vocals were tough to pick out but that's because they blended seamlessly into the other instruments, combining with the stellar rhythm section--I'm still not sure how they moved so easily into and out of even time--and the superb textures laid down by keyboardist/saxophonist/flutist Lorraine Bailey, whose sax solo on "Satrap" stood out. At times, Crown Larks' music verged on nonsensical and rambling, but the moments when all the avant-garde puzzle pieces came together in a wall of vicious electromagnetic, kaleidoscopic waves made the chaos worth it. Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd (and Syd Barrett) would have been huge fans of this group.

IMG_5662.JPGOnce my brain had recovered from Crown Larks' "Circus," a nightmarish trance of synths over an extended drum solo, Landlady took the stage and changed the mood immediately. The psychedelic trappings came off, replaced by baroque melodies and light, artfully splashed guitar riffs. The most striking aspect of Landlady was its dual drummer setup of Ian Chang and Booker Stardrum, without whom the band's sound would risk falling back into the muddled legions of Vampire Weekend follow-ups. Chang and Stardrum work together to craft intense, complex rhythms that stayed within the highbrow milieu of the genre but powered each song with a bounding vivacity, breathing earthly life into the music. Among their percussive elements was a battered-to-hell old cymbal that added a trash can clang to the breakdowns that led out of "Solid Brass" and the band's soulful cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "If This Room Could Talk." Meanwhile, Adam Schatz carried the show forward with a voice that sounds like the lovechild of Donald Fagen and Randy Newman, articulating his words in a way that made their already anxious message more poignant. For a man who writes songs like "Dying Day" and "Girl" --respectively a meditation on aging and a plaintive call for support--he expressed unexpected joie de vivre on stage, staring into the crowd with bright eyes and becoming a single entity with his keyboard. Perhaps the takeaway was that only through music can humanity ditch the apprehension that comes with everyday life and ascend to some higher, calmer plane of existence. That message shone through clearly on "The Globe," a highlight of the set, which featured a bustling, straightforward depiction of earthly worry in the verses but then leapt into a spacey journey in the chorus, replete with heavenly vocal harmonies and a cosmic canvas of shimmering chords and airy drums, before ending with a "God Only Knows"-esque layering of the hook and a bleak guitar solo echoing out into the void. By the time Landlady was ending its set with an ecstatic rendition of "Above the Ground," which featured Schatz and guitarist Will Graefe having a sort of guitar-tapping revival that finished with both on the floor as Chang and Stardrum carried the song to its conclusion, the band had communicated with an ancient part of the human psyche and lifted it out of the doldrums of existential dread.

As if my heart wasn't breathless enough from Landlady's set, Buke and Gase moved it in an entirely different and more primal direction. The Brooklyn-based duo of Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez has stated in interviews that their music strives to combine the familiar and the unfamiliar. The most obvious example of this is their homemade instruments: Dyer's buke, a six-string converted electric baritone ukulele, and Sanchez's gase, a guitar-bass hybrid. The bodies of the instruments look ordinary at first, but upon closer inspection the modifications become readily apparent. Both make sounds unlike any I had heard before, particularly with Dyer's use of effects on her buke, which variously cackled like a hyena, sliced with a razor sharp Tom Morello fuzz, and pumped out some alien version of musical Morse code. Dyer also played around with other electronic effects, using vocal modifiers to comically lower her voice to a baritone whilst talking to the audience between songs and then raising it to a helium-ingesting timbre on the band's latest single, "Seam Esteem." Her clipped delivery reminded me of CHVRCHES' Lauren Mayberry, particularly on the melodic runs of "Hard Times," albeit in the very different context of tribal electronic pop noise. As Dyer delivered her ghostly lines and her buke shrieked away, Sanchez held down the fort with a stoic expression on his face, monolithic gase lines that evoked memories of Tool, and a pounding synthetic bass drum that he powered with his right foot. These lower registers provided the foundation of Buke and Gase's music, creating the feeling of a séance or a bonfire revival that accessed the deepest trance impulses of our species, regardless of cultural background. As I tore my eyes away from the fascinating display onstage--remarkably, Dyer and Sanchez were able to hypnotize the crowd even though they sat for the entire performance--I noticed people grooving to the often irregular beats as if the music matched their own biorhythms. Above this bedrock of human movement, Buke and Gase laid riffs that ranged in feel from the uneasy comfort of a flaming bedtime story ("Wanna Dance") to twisted ghosts of Americana ("Houdini Crush"). The unfamiliar tones became the fabric of life, and Dyer and Sanchez succeeded in accessing the crowd's innermost sanctum of soul.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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