Album review: Be/Non - "Moi Ou Toi" 7"
If you’ve been around the KC music scene for a while, there’s a good chance that, if you haven’t actually heard Be/Non, you’ve at least heard of them. The brainchild behind the band, Brodie Rush, created Be/Non over 20 years ago, and has remained the only constant member. Since then he has had many different supporting lineups, and has released several full-length albums, including A Mountain of Yeses, Esperanto at the Pantheon, Incognito, and RAN. These recordings are mostly artsy, progressive rock, with plenty of eccentric accents. While they may be interesting to certain ears, the majority of the songs are not going to appeal to the masses, which is probably just fine with Rush.
In 2011, Be/Non teamed up with now-defunct Earwaxx Records to record the 7” vinyl single, “Moi Ou Toi,” and the B-side, “Not Tonight.” Earwaxx folded soon after the record was pressed, and little became of the endeavor. Four years later, Haymaker Records decided to re-release the tunes on vinyl and digital formats, along with the bonus tracks “Che Che Coolie” and “Ice Fight.” I’m glad they did, as the songs deserve a second chance.
“Moi Ou Toi” (Me Or You), was originally featured on RAN in its demo form. It has transformed over the years to its current minimal version, consisting mainly of a drum machine from a keytar and a guitar played through a cheap Pignose amp. It’s lo-fi electro pop, yet is quite thought-provoking. The smooth, Leonard Cohen-esque vocals and driving rhythm are hypnotic. My first listen was spent nodding my head to the beat, while trying to comprehend the lyrics. “’Moi Ou Toi’ is a song about blame and liars,” Rush says. It’s erotic: “I am the piston in the shaft / I am the bullwhip smacking your ass.” It’s contradictory and almost eerie: “I am your alibi / I am the creep in the foyer.” The whispered chorus, “Moi ou toi,” adds to this. “Creeps tend to whisper,” Rush confirms. Few songs are intriguing, relaxing, and exciting at once. “Moi Ou Toi” somehow manages to be all three.
The flip side, “Not Tonight,” is a very different sound at first. Up-tempo acoustic guitars with an Indian influence play along to an intricate beat coming from what sounds like a cajon box drum. There is a noticeable influence from Led Zeppelin and The Beatles, both musically and through Rush’s vocal style. The lyrics, while sung in a flat, no-nonsense way, seem very melancholy under the surface. “Forgive me for taking the time to be real, but nothing can disturb you…alone, I am.” Towards the end of “Not Tonight,” an electronic beat takes over and the guitars fade away; perhaps indicating that the song’s protagonist is doing the same.
Rush admitted that both sides of the record are “a challenging listen.” I would agree that they will challenge the listener to think about what they are hearing, but would argue that they can be easy for fans of various genres to enjoy. Be/Non is a band that has few boundaries, and probably won’t be loved by everyone. Moi Ou Toi stays true to the band’s long history, but offers something for most.
Be/Non will be one of the featured artists at KC PsychFest and recordBar’s 10th anniversary party this weekend. They will be playing night 2 on Saturday at 9 p.m. Facebook event page.
Brad loves music, Boulevard beer, and his family. Not necessarily in that order.
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