by Nick Hanover
Do you remember when groups like Pinback and Helio Sequence were getting a lot of press about a decade ago for making straightforward indie rock with an abundance of keyboards and krautrock rhythms? It seems kind of quaint now when every band, regardless of genre, has a synth line buried somewhere in half their tracks, but for a while it was a timid little revolution. BUHU is another in a long line of all caps no space Austin indie bands with electronic leanings, but I swear they’re time travelers from that decade, here to pillage our secrets and take them back to the days when Pitchfork gave albums like Summer in Abaddon hyperbolic 8.0s.
The good news is that unlike Pinback and their awkward peers, BUHU are pretty damn great live. Their debut EP 4-Track Cinemat showcases that every time the band skews towards a lackadaisical groove, like “Get Down,” an especially krautrock-y tune that features a Battles-like approach to melody and a chirpy synth lead. The words are silly, but that fits the mood; this is a song that starts by declaring the dude is going to the convenience store, and there’s a good chance you could be doing the same thing while doing it. Music to keep your feet happy no matter where you’re going, basically. In a club, it’s more transcendent, the music filtering through bodies, delivering an immediate injection of the fun without the barrier of earbuds or tinny car speakers.
The primal stomp of “LSD (You’re My Best Friend)” is just as dedicated to good times, but here the guitar is more immediate, the vocal more a mantra “I can’t stand to see you suffering,” it declares, and like a good friend should it then urges you to drop your worries and focus on the medicine of a strong beat. BUHU attempt to marry more traditionally rocky guitars with their electro leanings quite a bit on 4-Track Cinemat but “LSD” is the strongest of the unions by far.
Less successful but still pretty interesting is the EP opener “GLTRSKL” (WHAT IS WITH YOU AUSTINITES AND YOUR HATRED OF VOWELS, says the contributor to a place called Ovrld—at least we kept one, right?). A glimpse at an alternate timeline where Minus the Bear and Passion Pit came up from the same scene together, “GLTRSKL” places the guitar front and center, with arpeggios and riffage and heroics, but the vocals are decidedly less human, run through a filter stuck on a setting between Daft Punk and 808s and Heartbreaks. It’s not a bad effect, but it never shifts throughout the song, and the chorus could use humanity since so much of BUHU’s appeal is based in chanting sing-alongs and that’s hard to do when a cyborg is leading you.
But “GLTRSKL” is arguably the song that is altered the most by live performance. In the proper venue, the drums and guitar licks hit you square in the chest and the band is able to build off the energy of the crowd. BUHU may still be finding their footing on their recordings, but once they’re able to capture that live energy and translate it to tape, they’ve got a good chance of being one of Austin’s better dance bands. And maybe then they’ll be able to take a better future back to 2004.
BUHU are kicking off their residency at Swan Dive this Friday, July 4th with Digital Wild, Corduroi, Holiday Mountain and more, all for only $5.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he’s the last of the secret agents and he’s your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Ovrld as well as Loser City, where he mostly writes about comics. You can also flip through his archives at Comics Bulletin, which he is formerly the Co-Managing Editor of, and Spectrum Culture, where he contributed literally hundreds of pieces for a few years. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd .gif battles with Dylan Garsee on twitter: @Nick_Hanover