BUHU, the shape-shifting musical brainchild of Jeremy Rogers and Tiffany Paciga, are gearing up to release their debut LP Tenets this fall. In advance of the release, the duo has recently been featured at The AU Review, Emerging Indie Bands, Gasmask Magazine & more, with The AU Review praising BUHU's sound as "quirky" and "dreamy." BUHU's Tenets is out September 5th.
More than just a moniker, BUHU is a retrospective of their lives and a reflection, or refraction, of their relationship. Nothing is held back, all is laid bare. To see BUHU perform is an experience so intimate that it feels almost illicit—like peeking through a window and witnessing a private moment you’re not meant to get to share. Rogers exudes true feeling on stage, bounding freely and dancing with the microphone, moving himself to the point that his legs buckle underneath the weight of all the emotion and fatigue. He wraps the mic cord around his neck like a noose, seemingly choking himself to get these words out. Meanwhile Paciga, like a goddess Rogers can never quite reach, holds court stoically, majestically, to the side, her throne an array of synths, drum machines, pedals, samplers, and loop stations, which she orchestrates like a conductor, weaving a musical tapestry that’s lush, sexy, and utterly captivating. The juxtaposition of the two performers together is impossible to look away from. It’s music you know somebody’s getting lucky to, whether you happen to be one of those lucky ones or not.
Tenets: principles, convictions, the core essentials. The first studio album from Austin synth pop duo BUHU is an excavation of sorts, as Rogers mines the seminal aspects and events of his life, stripping it all down and laying himself bare. It’s a risky effort; no scrims of hipster irony to hide behind here. Take it or leave it, Rogers seems to be saying throughout. Here I am, this is me. Something about the album calls to mind the scene in Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, when Donald Kaufman gently, profoundly rebukes his twin brother: “You are what you love, not what loves you.”
Love—and loss—are in abundance here. Two women play vastly different roles in what proves to be a cohesive narrative: the first, a new lover who’s shaken Rogers’ foundation and caused him to reflect, sometimes unfavorably, on the person he is or once was; the second, his late mother, who he lost at a tragically young age. These women are objects only in the sense that they’re objects of his affection and catalysts for self-reflection. His respect for each is palpable and complex. Tenets is, in essence, a love letter to them both.
We’re introduced first to his new love in the broodingly romantic opener, “Yew.” The homonym in the title is more than just whimsy; it suggests something blossoming, taking root deep within him. The very first line is a mea culpa: I wanted more than I could take, living like a fool with nothing at stake. The mirror doesn’t always present the prettiest image, if we’re brave enough to really look. But redemption comes in the simple, direct refrain that follows: Then I found you. The song is reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s confessional masterpiece, Blond, both emotionally and sonically, as the legato restraint of the synth-and-string arrangement sets a mood that’s sexy but centered: the polar opposite of a cheap roll in the hay.
The seamless combination of interlude “Tenet No. 2” and lead single “All Eye” perhaps exhibits BUHU at their quintessence. An insistent, propulsive sixteenth-note beat pumps a sort of aortic counterweight underneath vocals so emotive and earnest that they might well feel mawkish in less sophisticated musical hands. All I know about faith, expressed in my own way. All I know to be true across this earth, happiness demands for change. This is no emo navel-gaze, though; when the ecstatic hook drops—It’s all around inside my head—the giddy lift it provokes is tactile and undeniable, seemingly ready-made for the major festival stage.
Tenets hits a galloping pace with “La Truth,” settling into a confident stride similar to some of the strongest synthgaze moments from Washed Out’s catalog. Here more than ever, Rogers leans unabashedly into the Melodyne bends of his vocal processing, laying plain his emotions without denying the synthetic tools of his trade.
The album’s midpoint is a gorgeous palate cleanser: a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” that somehow makes the song even sexier than the original. ‘Nuff said.
Side B presents a pivot. Here Rogers delves deeper into the recesses of his heart, reckoning with heavier matter than the joy of new love. “Tenet No. 6” serves as a prologue to “Franny,” with a wobbly, atonal synth passage that could easily have been plucked from some lost Tame Impala b-side. The beat that finally drops to signal the start of “Franny” is more minimal and moody than anything we’ve heard so far, almost James Blake-ish in its patient restraint. Soon enough we realize why: this is a song about Rogers’ mother, who he lost to cancer when he was just nine. It’s an elegy and a lament, a contemplation of the infinite prices exacted by that loss. Maybe you’d change my mind, he wonders. Maybe I would not know my wife, maybe had you survived—oh Franny. If a butterfly can alter the whole course of history, what effect must losing your mom when you’re nine have on the course of one man’s life?
Tenets closes with “Kids,” also moody and brooding, a fitting coda for this album that’s both sonically enormous and flagrantly emotive, while at the same time as intimate as a whisper. We are just kids and we still have time, Rogers repeats. This is irony at its highest, action-packed with pathos; he knows damn well that the words he’s singing aren’t true—that time, youth, life itself are delicate and fleeting, that even the biggest love is always a moving target.
If one word best describes BUHU’s first studio album, it might be verklempt; Rogers often sounds overcome, overwhelmed. When he’s in love, he can’t believe his luck. When he grieves, he grieves to the gills. It’s a brave, bold offering, anchored against the threat of sentimentality by the sureness of compositional instinct and production chops oozing out of every musical nook and cranny.
Tenets was produced alongside Danny Reisch (Shearwater, Bayonne, Wye Oak) at Good Danny’s in Lockhart, TX, and mastered by Jeff Lipton (Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire) at Peerless Mastering in Boston, MA. It’s set to be released September 5, 2018, on FMF Records.