What's the best way to side-step a sophomore slump? Blend California indie rock with a dose of chill, manipulated percussion, and a hint of far-off places (perhaps with clever use of diereses), and you've got yourself safe passage out of one-hit wonder status. It's what I'll call the Bür Gür method, named after the LA-based duo that most recently put this practice to the test and succeeded.
The second album in their discography is the wryly provocative Have You Lost Your Faith in God?, which mixes island-style guitar plucking with (at times abrasive) ambiance. It's the sort of music that drifts out of an Echo Park dive bar—and whose chords, you imagine, were the by-product of some impromptu strumming on the backyard hammock. A crinkled joint features somewhere into that imagery as well.
Which isn't to say Bür Gür is just your average SoCal stoner group, hotboxing at your nearest In-N-Out burger. Corbin Clarke and Makan Negahban are childhood friends with eclectic tastes, and while their vocals may at times be sunshine-dreamy and lackadaisical, there's an element of layering to their beats and harmonies that assures these two are as keen on depth as they are on easygoing ditties.
Take "If I Was A Child," a track that plays like a proverbial piece of origami, its overlapping parts coming together and unfolding as an impressively connected orchestra of synths and alt rock. A style point of Bür Gür is this use of diverging vocals, whether it be call-and-response or a shift in pitch—in this case, it's the latter. "If I Was A Child" drifts between soothing and subdued to a more nasal tone for the hook. It works, with the various beats and steady clapping in the background emphasizing once again that Bür Gür is all about the multi-dimensional approach.
The lyrics on "If I Was A Child" also circle back to the album's title, gently musing, “We are all the road to the place where our souls will rest / Or maybe not / Maybe this is it / Maybe God is dead and we’ll all die alone.” It’s a pretty dire thought that’s delivered with the sonic equivalent of a shoulder shrug and a smile. Bür Gür isn’t trying to put its ideas out into the world as an anchor; it really is about the journey. They even laid this out in writing, referring to their album as a vestibule to transport you somewhere else—preferably to a place painted in a “broad spectrum of bright, beautiful colors.”
Another song that could’ve given in to the trappings of dark, heavy material is "Couch Spliff," which instead trots along with an airy, lilting ambiance. It definitely has that South-Pacific, guitar-plucking inspiration, wrapped around references to abortion and a lullaby-esque chorus on rolling its titular spliff. It’s a fairly straightforward song, compared to the other melodies on the album, but it’s too smooth to not play twice.
Have You Lost Your Faith in God? is effortless and intricate, with roots on the California coast and sights set on wherever Bür Gür, or its audience, damn please. So check out their vibrant pink cassette and give it a listen—you may just find yourself swimming in cerulean blue waters and being born again.