Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: Bob Bucko Jr - Volte Face (Dubuque Strange Music Society, 2010)

Although Bob Bucko Jr’s name seems to be tailored for a traditional country/blues/folk singer, he prefers to think outside the box and expand to other genres, while often staying in the singer/songwriter territory. The Volte Face CD is a compilation of three EP’s released over the years which show the eclectic and hard-to-categorize style of this Dubuque, IA based musician.
The album can be divided into three parts – probably representing the different style of the EP’s. The first few tracks off the album are deep in the lo-fi noisy free improv category – these are not truly songs, more like random, unfinished sketches with some distorted vocals here, some flanged drums there, some Magik Markers-style guitar mutilation somewhere else (“Driving Eyes Open”) or some droning sax alienation (“Driving Eyes Closed”). Too bad Bob didn’t develop some of those short tracks, because many of them show real promise – like the cold post-punk/no wave feel of “Timing is Something”, which lasts for only a minute and 23 seconds.
The second part of the album reveals the calmer, more melodic, guitar-based side of Bob Bucko Jr. Most tracks are simple, somewhat melancholic drumless guitar improvisations, like the “(Song Written About a) Telephone (Conversation)”, or the 10-minute “Temple Walls/1st War”, which brings to mind an image of the stripped-down (and toned down) Sunburned Hand of the Man jamming. But even here there are surprises – like the summery, front porch ballad “Love Plasm/Luv Psalm”, which suddenly turns into an manic acid techno jam in the middle of the track. Truly a brave move – and it works!!
The third of the album is a sort of a balance between noisy electronic experimentation and guitar passages, where both territories often overlap and interact with each other, creating an abstract, adventurous journey. Again, some short sketches which show real potential – like a densely layered psychedelic folk of “In Such and Such Place We Place Our Trust”, which could easily go for at least 10, yet lasts only a minute and 26 seconds. Here are also some of the most minimal tracks on the whole album – like the scarce field recording collage of “To the West There is a Village” or the folky “Your Mama Was the Backbeat Soul Train”, which gradually turns into a folky noisefest with all sorts of distortions thrown in.
Volte Face shows what an eclectic musician Bob Bucko Jr is and how much he can possibly achieve if he decides to forge a characteristic style, which may combine folky guitar ballads with explosions of noise. Kinda like Kites, but without separating between the noise and the folk.

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