The Crocodile Presents:
BUKE & GASE
Like A Villain
$12 ADV / $15 DOS
The Story Behind the Album SCHOLARS:
Buke and Gase make pop music in the most insane way possible. Aron Sanchez (boy) + Arone Dyer (girl) build their own instruments & develop songs through long periods of ecstatic improvisation, then laborious editing and post-production. A cult favorite of their fellow musicians, the duo have collaborated with or acted as hand-picked support for a who's who of music icons: Lou Reed & Laurie Anderson, Shellac, Battles, Reggie Watts, Swans, Deerhoof, Owen Pallett & Mike Patton’s metal supergroup Tomahawk. The National have taken them on multiple tours, signed the band to their label Brassland and had Arone sing the introductory vocal on "The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness," the lead single from their Grammy-winning Sleep Well Beast album.
However, Buke and Gase have not released an album since 2013's General Dome—which saw them tour Asia & Australia for the first time after being lauded by NPR Music, Pitchfork, The Guardian, cult podcast Radiolab & popular music vlogger The Needle Drop.
What happened? Well, three years ago, Buke and Gase embraced electronic music and embarked on a major refinement & modernization of their instrumental creations. They developed Arx, a device that revolutionized their performance by allowing them to trigger percussive sounds, change effects on their instruments, and control vocal harmonies with the punch of an arcade button. They have largely retired the buke (bass ukulele) and gass (guitar-bass). Their new album Scholars began not as the title of their new record, but a possible-new moniker for the band.
The band have successfully reinvented themselves, challenging their songwriting, sound palette and performance. They’ve emerged with a more concise, electronic & emotional sound, in sync with our most forward-thinking contemporary artists. This is experimental music but catchy as hell and with a pop heart.
Power Chords , Krol’s new Merge release, picks up where 2015’s Turkey left off. It traces Krol’s journey back to punk rock, harnessing both the guitar technique and the musical redemption referenced in its title. To rediscover the power in those chords, Krol recorded for two-plus years in three separate locations (Nashville, Los Angeles, and Krol’s native Wisconsin). The record opens in a howling maelstrom of feedback: welcome to Krol’s crucible. After a stage-setting spoken-word intro (“I used to never understand the blues, until the night I met you. And every day since, I’ve gotten better at guitar”), we find ourselves back in familiar Krol territory—aggressive and assertive, scratchy and raw, catchy as hell—but something has changed. The sounds have a new density—and so do the stories. Krol’s lyrics have always walked a fine line between self-acceptance and self-destruction, but throughout Power Chords , they reveal a new sense of self-awareness. “Without a little drama I grow bored and sick of all my days,” he sings on “Little Drama,” and it’s just one revelatory moment on a record full of them.
Of course, none of this is to say that Krol has mellowed. You might find a mea culpa or two, but Mike Krol will never be chastened. If anything, he’s out more for revenge than forgiveness, and if he’s grown, it’s because he’s grown bolder. He’s wielding the same influences—Misfits, The Strokes, early Weezer, Ramones—but turning up the gravity and the gain. Indeed, Krol has gone somewhere new; yes, he bludgeoned himself with over-analysis and self-loathing, but along the way he stumbled upon a trove of intricate guitar lines and artfully mutating melodies. It’s there in the chorus of “Blue and Pink,” the bridge in “I Wonder,” the entirety of the deliriously infectious first single, “An Ambulance.”
Music ruined Krol’s life. And then saved it. In chronicling that process, Krol has made his best record—painful, voyeuristic, and angry, but ultimately transcendent and timeless. It is the sound of Krol giving in to a force greater than himself, as though the chords are playing him rather than the other way around.
But don't mistake easy comparisons for a lack of originality: on Popular Manipulations, the District are in a lane entirely their own, exploring lyrical themes of isolation and abandonment in a way that ups the music's already highly charged emotional quotient. "Capable" finds Grote turning his focus to the ruinous aftermath of divorce, and "Before I Wake" is, in his words, "About coming to terms with being isolated or alone -- even though we have a whole group of voices singing the whole time." Grote explains that even the title of the record touches on these universal concerns: "It hints at how people use each other, for good or bad, and the personal ways you manipulate yourself and other people in day-to-day interactions."
For such weighty thematic material, though, Popular Manipulations is purely life-affirming rock music, bursting with energy that cuts through the darkness of the world that surrounds us. "We're a much better distillation of who we wish to be as a band," Grote reflects on the journey that has led the Districts to this point. "We've figured out how to distill the things we've been trying to accomplish as a band, musically and lyrically. We've always viewed making music as something we're trying to do better the whole time." Mission accomplished.