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In 2000, she moved to Brooklyn ("mainly to get out of Minnesota") and met Sanchez via mutual friends who lived in his building. The two started playing together almost immediately, forming Hominid, a post-punk electronica quartet with Sanchez on standard bass and Dyer on vocals only. The band lasted just over two years, with Sanchez next forming the short-lived Proton Proton and working as a musical instrument designer for Blue Man Group. In addition to immersing herself in bicycle racing, Dyer performed and recorded with Blue Man, the latter experience one she found fun but unfulfilling. "It was cool getting to tour, but [Blue Man] wanted me to sound like something I'm not," she explains. When she and Sanchez resumed playing together in 2007, they found the chemistry was still there. Inspired by the rise of sonically expansive underground duos like Hella, Lightning Bolt, and Pink and Brown, the idea of keeping their act a two-piece was a natural one. Yet besides the stripped-down format, how conscious a move was building in such an individual sound by actually building the band's instrumentation?
"I'd been playing electric guitar again, but I decided I didn't want to keep doing that—it seemed too cumbersome," Dyer says about the lead-up to the buke's development. "I used to make string and percussion instruments in my dad's woodshop, so just making something myself wasn't so unusual." "And in Proton Proton I'd already been using the gace, which covers a whole range of notes on its own," adds Sanchez, whose interest in messing around with electronics was encouraged by his father, a Bell Telephone employee. In 2008, Buke and Gase debuted its minimalist/maximalist M.O. to the world with the appropriately titled +/-, a self-released seven-track EP. When Aaron and Bryce Dessner of acclaimed indie quintet the National caught the duo in a Ditmars Park basement space, the brothers (the latter, coincidentally, another recent Hudson Valley transplant) secured the act a deal with Brassland Records for its first album, 2010's Riposte. The album's release was followed by tours in the US and Europe with Deerhoof, tUnE-yArDs, and Talk Normal.
In 2010, Sanchez and his girlfriend, then a Bard College student, bought a house in Greenport, just outside of Hudson. "I'd come up from Brooklyn to visit her and bring Arone along and we both just fell in love with the area," says Sanchez. "But there was a lot of back-and-forth there for a while." Dyer made the move herself the following year, and, between opening shows for Lou Reed and Tinariwen, the pair rehearsed and recorded in a large rented space on the Hudson waterfront. The new environment significantly impacted Buke and Gase's music, the members maintain. "It was amazing, going from Aron's cramped basement in Red Hook [Brooklyn] to this giant, open room where we didn't have to worry about bumping into each other," Dyer says. "All of a sudden we felt like we could do anything, and the songs definitely started to feel bigger." The big, new sound manifested itself on wax and digitally with another EP, Function Falls (Brassland), released this past September. Opening with the appropriately named "Misshaping Information," which casts Dyer's shape-shifting, octave-hurtling voice over coarse, bent riffs and an insistent backbeat, the four-song set was duly hailed by the leading organs of the indie trade.
As solid as Function Falls is, though, it's scarce preparation for Buke and Gase's new full-length, General Dome (Brassland), which comes out next month. The fullest realization thus far of the twosome's seemingly improbable marriage of singsong-y pop with angular art-punk and proggy constructs, the disc is marked by clashing moods: the clattering, tension-fraught tour de force title track; the mercilessly mechanized march "Hiccup," tapped as a Best New Track by Pitchfork; the soothing-but-unsettling "Hard Times," which the band paired with Function Falls's cover of New Order's "Blue Monday" as a download-only single to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims last month; and, in what is perhaps Dyer's greatest vocal performance yet, the swelling, shuddering "Houdini Crush."
To promote General Dome, this month the group is playing the Shellac-curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival and other dates in England; tours in the US (February) and Australia (March, with Danish band Efterklang) await. But as this is being written, Dyer and Sanchez are holed up in Hudson, doing the work that must be done before they hit the road once again. And when she's not busy silkscreening T-shirts to sell on tour, Dyer hits the road locally: Since moving to town, she's graduated from building and racing bicycles to riding motorcycles.
"With the music itself, we're constantly trying to do more but also keep it smaller," says Sanchez. "I guess ever since we started, the way we've always looked at what we do has been, 'Well, what is it that we can do differently?'"
General Dome is out January 29 on Brassland Records. Bukeandgase.com.