To some, all music is explicable; all music has a background, has traceable roots even if they are obscured or buried deep beneath the music’s surface. And maybe Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice has these roots, but one must question to what extent it is necessary to dig them up. Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice’s past press sheets have claimed the collective is a deconstruction of “group-based music by utilizing sacred tools (country, folk & blues) and applying an ‘anything goes’ ethos.” This makes Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice sound organic, somehow holistic and pure, despite their free spiritedness and their opposition to tradition. This makes the roots of this music sound easily traceable.
This description, however, is mostly false. These guitars are mostly electric and don’t feel organic. They’re played through haunting effect pedals. Few, if any, of these elements are traditional. And while Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice clearly does resist this tradition, they simply do not do so using its very tools. This whole thing, in fact, feels staged in some way. This is the first of my disappointments with Buck Dharma.
Simply put, this is meditation music. Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice is somehow Zen or, perhaps more appropriately, from some alternate dimension: it recalls that dimension, even takes you there. It’s remarkable in depth, but to what extent do we allow its inaccessibility? For every moment of brilliance, the album provides more that are off-putting in their long-windedness.
I can’t say I don’t like Buck Dharma, necessarily, but I also can’t tell you why that is. This album seems to be revealing all my flaws as a writer and it consequently disturbs me.
As listeners, we must allow Buck Dharma many forms for many moods. In its best form, it is a religious experience, and few are the bands who can truly achieve complete catharsis through drone and guitar washes. This is the kind of music one might catch you listening to only to find a completely new conception of your self, not a higher plane as much as a layer, a depth. But at its worst, Buck Dharma is intolerable drivel. Simply, the album requires a rare tolerance. I simply can’t believe anyone who claims to get pure enjoyment out of Buck Dharma from start to finish.
Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice compose the soundtrack to your worst nightmare, sounds somehow completely intriguing and peaceful while maintaining an eerie, almost violent potential energy beneath the noodling surface. Behind the effect pedals and the rare reverb-heavy vocals lay ghosts and fears.
After all this, it feels appropriate to say that, while maintaining these previous statements, Buck Dharma has an air about it that refuses us to take itself too seriously. Something about this music, perhaps the walking of that line between sheer reverence and irreverence, feels like a big joke, like it’s waiting for me to come along and write all of these profound, vague things about it.
But “profound and vague” might be the best way to describe Buck Dharma, after all. It’s an interesting musical experiment, this sound, but even my tolerance, which I consider to be quite high for vast experimentalism and free-formness, wears thin. This is music for free, open space; it is indescribable in many ways and it resists tradition and convention with its all.
I could just say I don’t get it and that would be true, but there’s something more here: Wooden Wand & the Vanishing Voice doesn’t seem to want me to get it. Amongst all of this resistance there lies a muddied and lost version of a point, a wandering statement, mixed up and misguided. Buck Dharma does not feel true; it feels strange for the sake of being strange. Sadly, by the end of Buck Dharma I am estranged in the worst way. And perhaps the point is to take me out of my comfort zone. If that’s it, and I’ve figured it out (and that’s all it is), I’m disappointed anyway. As it stands, all of Buck Dharma‘s vagueness is simply hard to forgive.