Album Review: Mauskovic Dance Band – ‘Bukaroo Bank’: an urgent post punk dub directive from Amsterdam.

The Breakdown

A plunge into the warehouse shadows of ominous post punk dub, urgency and rhythmic directness come high on the agenda. The unconventional splices, cuts, echoes and heavy low end foundations give the record a magical levity.
Bongo Joe 8.8

Those Mauskovic Dance Band boys are back, back with Bongo Joe Records and back with another fine slice of snappy syncopation. The mischievous Amsterdam four piece, Nico, Donnie, Marnix and Mano Mauskovic, may quirkily take the same surname to maintain their mystique but this time around their collective purpose seems intensely serious. New album ‘Bukaroo Bank’, their second full length push available now, keeps the same primary focus on locomotion but from a slightly different starting point. They’ve even added a second drummer Chris Dunning (aka Juan Hundred) to complicate the bpm count. So dance takes on a broader definition here, less latino, less afro beat and certainly less cumbia but more of a plunge into the warehouse shadows of ominous post punk dub. Urgency and rhythmic directness come high on the agenda with less of that relaxed sultriness of their previous releases.

Opening the vaults comes the title track, an agile, angular rush of art-punk, all spidery guitars, frisky drums, Two-tone chants and slippery basslines. Add in a kaleidoscopic sax break, percolating synths on top of those familiar conga bursts and you get a fresh new connection with the On-U/Rip Rig and Panic continuum. There’s even a recurring ironic chant ‘I want my money back’ though it’s unlikely you’ll be rushing for a refund. That same jabbing agit aggression rattles around ‘People In The Hall’, where math-rock guitar signals and samba drummed charges shake up the stark A Certain Ratio undertones. Meanwhile ‘Samen’ may slow for the occasional doomy pronouncement but soon the tense no-wave funk claws into the song’s wriggling reproduction.

So there’s a nervous energy circling around ‘Bukaroo Bank’, a record which maybe for the first time sees the Mauskovic Dance Band aiming lyrical as well as body popping blows at the listener. The nimble electro-ethio swoon of ‘Bebi’ builds on a near spoken vocal that quivers on the edge of desperation in a David Byrnesque delivery, full of cut up phrases and monotone repeats. Setting such angst amongst some warm and woozy synths adds to the song’s simmering tension. Same goes for the frantic rush of the percussion driven ‘Face’ as it pokes and probes at modern day solitude to a soundtrack of agitated guitar chops and hyperactive bass-lines. A finger pointing ‘trouble with my friends’ hook, plus twitchy yelps and sighs push the track closer to its edge.

To counter all this anxiety ‘Bukaroo Bank’ finds balance with the band’s dive into those reverberating reggae channels. The success of this inspired plunge coincides with the band stepping out from their usual Garage Noord basement and relocating to dub dance creator Kasper Frenkel’s Electric Monkey studio. With Frenkel’s Lee-Scratch inspired touch you can tell that ‘Bukeroo Bank’ was made using a ‘why not’ rather than ‘why’ approach, the unconventional splices, cuts, echoes and heavy low end foundations giving the record a magical levity.

To get the drift, listen to the loose limbed post punk reggae of ‘Wie Niet Weg Is Is Gezien’, all horn skronks and spooky Specials/Dammers organ hoots, or the guitar slicing mystery of.’Zwar’, where the voice layers waft and wobble with an improv driven energy. Then there’s the rumbling creep of ‘Telefoon Dub’ which blends the slinky noir balladry of Donnie’s solo LP, Pure Donzin, with some hot stepping Augustus Pablo power for a more than full effect. But maybe it’s on the electro- pop dancehall stylings of ‘Parata Est’ that the crew’s eccentricity and inventiveness blur most crucially, from the computer game blips to the drum pad bops, scrambled conversations to proto-house chords. You get the sense that the Mauskovic beat machine is turning another corner.

It’s therefore no surprise to hear that ‘Bukaroo Bank’ is the Mauskovic Dance Band’s most collective effort so far with roots in long group jam sessions rather than shared files between musicians. This is a record that captures a live set’s unpredictability, sometimes seeming to teeter on the edge of chaos but always pulling itself back on track. In this way the album gets closer to the giddy spirit of an MDB show and stands out as their most coherent outing so far. With this bunch at the controls anything can happen but on ‘Bukaroo Bank’ they’ve done some rewiring and their persistently exciting music has now shifted into the consistently mighty zone.

You can pick up your copy of ‘Bukaroo Bank’ by Mauskovic Dance Band from your local record store or direct from:

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