There’s no one quite like Lord Buffalo. The Austin outfit combines acoustic drone, folk, indie-rock, and post-rock into inventive, unexpected tunes that capture a sense of the Wild West. If you’re up for a wild, blow-back-your-hair listening experience, Lord Buffaloshould be your jam.
The six-track record starts off with “Xochimilco,” a tune with roughly 30 seconds of drone and 50 seconds of gritty single-note guitar and shrieking violin on top of that drone. That interplay between tense, quiet moments and powerful, blasting ones is a theme that continues throughout the record.
“Axolotl” is a microcosm of the whole record: powerful, emotion-wracked vocals howl over a simple rhythmic base of stomping guitar chords, simple drums, and patterned bass before exploding abruptly into a furious maelstrom of sound. (I’ve used “maelstrom” to describe Lord Buffalo before, and the word is not getting any less apt.) The band goes back and forth in quiet/loud until the absolutely towering conclusion that would put a lot of more traditional post-rock bands to shame in sheer force.
The last dying organ holds bleed into “Alvar Nunez Cabeza De Vaca,” which is a mournful, skyscraping dirge that resists going full out into post-rock (it just threatens it, which is a threat to believe after “Axolotl”). The ten-minute “Saxifrage” is the most country-inflected of the tunes, as the opening salvo sounds almost traditional (but there’s always a tinge of doom from the ever-present reverb). The tune moves through sections that can be even called pretty before punching into something approximating indie-rock. And that’s only half the tune.
There’s a lot going on in Lord Buffalo, as the band stretches their bounds in every possible way. (I feel just terrible for the violin used on this record, what with all the sounds that are wrung out of it.) But all throughout there is a consistent ethic: an intensity that manifests itself in all-out pounding and in very quiet sections. Lord Buffalo is giving its all on this record, and you can tell. If you’re into maximalist music, atypical folk, weird post-rock, or any combination of those things, you’ll find a treasure trove on this self-titled record.
The piano-based pop of Red Wolf Forest’s self-titled album presents a unique problem: does 1+1+1 equal three or one? In a perfect world, the band’s combination of ’90s-style pop melodies, ’00s-style modern pop song structures and Muse-style stadium pop embellishments would mesh neatly into a striking, original sound — and its best moments, it does. The three parts stand apart from each other in other tunes, making for some ambiguous math.
The songs are enjoyable when they stick firmly in a genre: “No Regrets” calls up David Gray comparisons in the highly emotive melody and mood, “Keep a Secret” is extremely evocative for fans of “Creep”-era pop, and the synths and distorted guitars of “A Stitch in Time” will make fans of Matthew Bellamy and co. stand up and take notice. Other tunes appropriate the genres to lesser extent (“Live,” “Sinking”).
The reason I’m making a qualms with “enjoyable” is that closer “Endless Love” combines all three of their favorite affectations and creates something bigger (and potentially interesting) than the three genres alone. The synths are there, but they’re not the point; the vocals have ’90s inflections, but they don’t overdo it; the song’s structure will be quite familiar to anyone versed in pop or indie rock in the last ten years, but it’s not derivative.
The song is unique and interesting, although not quite as engaging or confident as some of the songs that remain firmly in a genre. This is no knock to the skill of Red Wolf Forest: Expansion on established work is one thing, while synthesis is quite another. I applaud the band for taking a risk, and hope they continue to put themselves out there.
Red Wolf Forest has the beginnings of a unique vision waiting to be developed. The band needs to grow into this sound, which is why they’re on my horizon. But in sports language, they’ve got a ton of upside built in.
Band Name: Innaway
Album Name: S/t
Best Element: Mysterious and haunting sound
Genre: Anti-pop indie-rock
Label Name: Some Records (www.some.com)
Band E-mail: email@example.com
Innaway plays this type of indie music that is the musical equivalent to abstract modern art. It’s vague and anti-pop in the vein of Radiohead circa OK Computer. However, there also seems to be an element of blues within the sound that makes this band distinctly American. But the blues element only goes as far as adding texture to the sound. The lead singer’s voice comes into the mix as a ghastly element that weaves its way through and between the angular bass lines and effects laden guitar lines. Furthermore, Innaway employs trip-hop elements into the sound not far removed from such 90’s trip-hop acts as Portishead or Tricky.
The most interesting part of the Innaway package is the album artwork which is a bunch of pictures of eyes that look as though they have been cut out of a magazine and then pasted on the canvas diagonally. The inside art is abstract art with elements of dos computer 8 bit imaging. In the end, Innaway’s music is mysterious and haunting like the cover art. This band has an obvious concept of modern expression that is popular in certain circles of hipdom but is so esoteric that it is possible that this music is not so much meant to be enjoyed as it is meant to be absorbed.
I have the worst luck with bands….I always find the best ones after they break up. Glori-H is gone, but the music is not, thankfully…
“September Waltz” slams out of the starting gate with fuzzy, distorted riffs and dark rock slam. It never falls into any other genre, it’s just dark rock. The vocals are rough, low, and powerful. They drive with a passion and emotion unmatched by any independent band I’ve heard. “Dissatisfied” sounds like the Counting Crows with dark rock flair inserted. It’s an extremely interesting track, as the vocals switch to a much more melodic, soft, and moving tone. Dark but clean strumming opens “Still Shaken”. Another darker piece, it churns with emotion. The lyrics here are amazing. A return to dark rock and the graveling, reverbed, inviting vocals shows up in “Turn it On”. The chorus is amazing, with a great progression, nearly screamed vocals, and haunting words: “Soon….she’s all I have….when she turns it on again….you’re going to sacrifice.”
“Rhythm and Friction” is the best of both worlds, smacking of acoustic melodic creativity and the dark rock power that they possess. A pointed use of silence occurs for the second time on this album. “Goldenone” has an upbeat, Lifehouse feel to it, but overall dark feel of the album is maintained. A return to the style of “Dissatisfied” greets us on “Wire Frame”. It has a hollow feel that can be felt by the listener….not to be listened to by happy people.
“Refrain” is the best song on the album. It starts out with only acoustic guitar and a nearly silent vocal line, then blasts you in the face with the closest to a scream as he gets and wild guitar in the style of “September Waltz”. It’s shocking, amazing, and genius. The awesome solo sounds like a cross between an Audioslave solo and a normal solo.
“Chair”, a true acoustic song, feels overshadowed, and doesn’t continue the feel of the album at all. It’s a good song in itself, but it doesn’t fit too well in the overall theme.
Amazing. I could not find a single problem with this album. I even looked for them. Passion, fury, emotion, creativity…if only the acoustic song were a bit better, it would’ve been a perfect album. Amazing. Get a copy. Now. 9.5 out of 10
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.