Bike For Three!’s More Heart Than Brains is an impressive debut of smart pop, roiling downtempo and introspective rap that finds its two architects embracing the romance inherent in their unique circumstances: Separated by an ocean and having never met in person, Buck 65 and producer Greetings From Tuskan share startlingly powerful connection that unfolds through their music.
The album’s intro sounds more like a continuation than a beginning, and we find our two travelers mid conversation with “All There is to Say About Love,” a stream of fragmentary epiphanies about romance that spell out a coherent whole. Buck 65’s sober voice catches complex cadences, sings bluesy understatement, and is morphed by our conductor, Greetings From Tuskan. Like the lyrics, Tuskan’s production is all about details—bells, glitchy bits, arpeggios of crystalline synth—that together form a lush composition. The next two songs play off of one another: “Lazarus Phenomenon” tells a tight-knit tale of two lovers with hopes for a shared eternity, the music a spare brand of break-beat electro that grows with the story; “Nightdriving” is first person and fast-paced, with a persistent groove that devolves into dissected electronics. On “There is Only One of Us,” the twirping, ratcheted production chews up Buck’s words, fittingly as they detail a relationship interrupted.
The lyrics of More Heart Than Brains were written as the raw music arrived (usually within hours of Buck’s first listen), and its songs resonate with connectivity. “No Idea How” traverses three distinct aural moods—from light and pretty, to menacing, to gloriously heavy—and Buck allows each to color its respective verse. For “Always I Will Love You. Always You” the MC is lyrically nude, awash in Tuskan’s glassy synth, cello, and ethereal voice, while “The Departure” is thicker stuff: stylistically aggressive and glacially cool. Heftier still is “First Embrace,” a track that recalls the dark, heaving sounds of Buck’s Vertex album even as it forges a new path amongst Boom Bip-py atmosphere and rattling MF DOOM-worthy rhyme schemes. Just in time,“Can Feel Love (Anymore)” pushes the gathering storm aside, and the similarly bright “One More Time Forever” carries its rather grim subject matter (and its author) to safer ground.
Bike For Three!’s debut is clearly steeped in matters of the heart, with one notable exception: “MC Space,” an electrified cover of MC Shan’s ’87 old school rap. It’s a moment of levity before the album’s heady climax, which begins with “Let’s Never Meet.” Here, Buck writes directly to Tuskan, detailing intimate fantasies of what could be—“Maybe there’s a place we can go that’s behind doors / A place where you can shelter my body with yours”—over cut-up guitar, dense tonal barrages, skittering beats and heavy bass. The title track follows, with Tuskan’s voice leading the many-layered ascent to madness that eats up everything from Aphex Twin to Fischerspooner before swallowing even Buck in a hail of synthesized bliss. Appropriately, with the outro, Tuskan leaves us on an unresolved minor chord, presumably to be answered by More Heart Than Brains’ successor.
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