Review: Buke and Gase, Purcell Room.

There can be days and weeks, and sometimes months and maybe even years, in which your grip on reality slips. As it relaxes, you lose perspective, and with that sight, of who and what ultimately matters most. This, personally, happens to have been one of those weekends; one replete with enough awakenings to keep me up until Christmas, if not longer still. Fitting, then, that Sunday night should witness Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez return to London, because Buke and Gase are (again, personally) a band that really does matter…

And it seems as though I’m not alone in that particular conviction, for although the darkened Purcell Room may not seem all that vibrant, it’s brimming with bodies tonight. They may not matter to many, relatively speaking, although they do so rather more than most to those to whom they do, and this is readily discerned this evening. Maybe even more than any, I’d go so far as to suggest… And in beginning with the euphoric Houdini Crush, and following that up with the thunderous, industrial Hiccup, they provide a complete, and completely welcome sense of escape. From the mundanities of London on Sunday; from the week; from reality, in short.

And sometimes, surreality better suits, after all: for those most avid of followers, or Facebook ‘like[rs]’, it will be common knowledge that, in the interim since their sensational latest full-length General Dome, Dyer and Sanchez have busied themselves building all-new instruments. And the latter’s newly reconstructed ‘gase’ is a thing of ugly wonder: as the Brooklyn duo slip even further off-kilter, his frets are no longer even straight, making his ambidexterity all the more incredible. (Not only does he play this hybridised, Frankenstinian construction with complete aplomb, but he kicks a drum with his right foot, and stomps across a vast pedalboard with the other, thus matching anyone, belonging to any which genre, that may play the neighbouring Southbank Centre in terms of musical proficiency.)

“I let you down again,” sings an atypically irrepressible Dyer, atop typically syncopated rhythms, during the latter track aforesaid, although never do they do so. Indeed, she may jest, in heavily processed tones, of suffering from “dyslexia in the ‘mouth hole’,” although tonight is as compelling as her lyrical content throughout: Misshaping Introduction may be mostly gobbledygook, Dyer’s vocal rarely more than a purposefully distorted drone, but for when she reasons, “Don’t clear the air; better to love first.” And, as she does so, the duo lure you in with crystalline intent. There is an element of the menace intrinsic to much of Annie Clark’s more unhinged work to it, with moments of perfect cacophony punctuating it, and in turn puncturing any lingering Sunday sullenness. Similarly industrial, if stylistically divergent, is Your Face Left Before You, that sees a brightness shining out of the heart shapes so lovingly carved into Dyer’s ‘buke’. The all-pervasive sense of industrialisation seems apt, in the sunless Purcell Room, although it’s the raw efficiency with which Dyer and Sanchez recreate their most intricate of musical interplays that scores the most indelible of marks…

And, scoring full marks more often than not, it seems there’s plenty more whence the exceptional Seam Esteem came; songs that are rather more than the mere ‘small audio construction[s]’ the pair have been compulsively uploading to their SoundCloud in recent weeks and months. (In fact, as Dyer will later admit, they’ve had to “force [them]selves to put something out” each and every Monday. Nonetheless,) given Dyer’s rekindled predilection for vocoded vocals, parallels can be (admittedly, somewhat lazily) drawn with the strangely incorporeal moans and groans of one Karin Dreijer Andersson (certain tracks incidentally sound not unlike shaken-up Deep Cuts), while another number rather unapologetically purloins a mood reminiscent of more recent AnCo recordings. But it’s Seam Esteem, maybe by virtue of its familiarity, that stands out: “It feels, feels so for-real” in short, with Dyer herself standing to sing it. Full-fledged, and wholly fulfilling with it, it now seems as though General Dome may yet transpire to prove a mere geodesic polygon in a catalogue as memorable as The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller. But readily digestible as the soundbites and SoundCloud morsels may well have been, we’re left ravenous for more; not least in light of the revelation that an entire record, recorded last summer, was unceremoniously “shelved” a little earlier on in the year…

Nonetheless, this evening is remarkable in many ways, with none more so than the very perceptible relish with which the pair perform. It’s something they’ve not always been necessarily known for, although when Dyer affirms, in no uncertain terms (if tones several octaves lower than those native to her larynx), that they’re “very happy to be here,” it’s not merely believable, but makes you want to buy into, and from the band even more. For they’ve glow-in-the-dark merchandise these days, and with a slew of similarly lustrous new material too, they probably make for a more appealing prospect than ever previously.

And so, “happy, smiling faces” abound; and understandably so: In the Company of Fish, preluded by the pairing “thank[ing us] for coming,” makes for a gloriously discombobulating duet, with the song itself compelling you to pray to that same God cited early on that there is indeed a “next time”. My Best Andre Shot, dedicated to Dyer’s “mom”, hears her aviary vocal float atop a tempestuous undercurrent of bass, or indeed ‘gase’ in a moment evocative of a more roughly cut My Brightest Diamond (albeit with incomparably more thrust to it). The same is, and seemingly always will be true of Tending the Talk; although this time, that aforementioned relish has visibly helped to cultivate a previously unprecedented level of self-confidence: there are times at which Dyer doesn’t merely stand, but does so without an instrument to shield herself. A perfunctory Q&A segment meanwhile seems as improbable as it does impromptu, and while this is likely inspired by the nature of this all-seated setting, it’s one that suits Buke and Gase surprisingly well. The sound is crisp as the pair’s compositions can prove uncompromising, making the likes of the irreproachably corporeal Hard Times sound better than ever before. And, among the more lyrically dissectible, nor will lyrics concerning “healing epidermis[es]” and vitamin E have ever been sung in this particular arena previously, I shouldn’t have thought…

These aren’t terms commonly associated with those more exoteric musics; and although Buke and Gase may remain a niche, or esoteric concern themselves, there is ample suggestion that a mainstream appeal lingers inches beneath the surface. Or indeed the epidermis, because the “dirty evidence” of exotericism can be seen, or rather heard, in the gritty Split Like a Lip, No Blood On the Beard and the pulsating Sleep Gets Your Ghost which hears Dyer fret, “I am afraid I’ll never wake up.” But, like eleven of the very best songs rolled into one, each of which ends way too prematurely, it serves as a reminder that time is of the essence; that normality (and with that the normative musics which plague our earholes on a daily basis, no matter how much we want for them not to) is soon to resume. But not before an encore, comprising Bring Your Knives; from the Brooklynites’ elliptically titled début EP, +/-. Dyer implores those familiar with this giddying, departing track “sing along” and while that seems somewhat fanciful, the song has retained a rigidity, and with that a now-trademark robustness, now six years on. In that time, they’ve honed their sound and focussed their intent. Indeed, you can’t help but sense that they could have become a band of long-time admirers, The National’s current stature, had they channelled their energy into something that bit more readily accessible. But it’s to their immense credit once more that they’ve instead chosen to craft such extraordinary, and seemingly timeless songs as these. Because for two people of the same, if homophonous name, Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez really do make music quite unlike anyone else currently in existence.