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Listening

Buke and Gass

Perhaps as an artistic example to all in these hard times, Buke and Gass is one band learning to do way more with much less. It's not high school basketball, but it is ramshackle pop at its best.

It's always a special thrill to see a band that forces itself to do more with less. Not only do they end up finding all sorts of ingenious backroad ways to arrive at their music, but their shows seem to radiate with this funny, inspirational charm. It's a little like watching that video of the kid with autism who got to play on his high school basketball team for one game, except that it's art and it's totally not nearly as good.

Buke and Gass, a budding two-piece from Brooklyn, is one new band whose ramshackle approach continues to make me smile. Their sound consists of what they call a "buke" (a six-string baritone ukulele), a "gass" (a guitar-bass hybrid they invented), some bells, and a kick-drum. Each member plays both strings and percussion simultaneously, even at live gigs. Impossible, you say? Exactly what I would have said--until my mind was utterly blown, that is, by the musical advent of sitting down.

Even more amazing, Buke and Gass's live shows actually sound a lot like their recordings. What does that sound like? Well, folks, it's complicated--but I'd venture to say they're a mainstream mix between DNA and The Carter Family (though for the reductively inclined, a folkier Yeah Yeah Yeah's would be a safe bet, too). Their tinny, rankled chords at times sound like sawing sheet-metal, their kick-drum like a hammering in the next room. Yet this is pop music, people. And it makes me happy.
biopic

TMN editor Matt Ray Robison is a fellow at the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program. He lives in Ann Arbor. More by Matt Ray Robison

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