(06 September 2009) From Tel Aviv, Israel, Buffalos is an alternative rock band that was formed originally as Buffalo Boots by Omer Hershman and Sivan Bella Leshed in October 2007. The band changed their name earlier this year. They combine varied influences in their music and have refined them into a unique sound. The band's debut self-titled album (Thor Records (Israel) OH002, 2009) is an eleven track collection. It follows a 2008 six-track demo EP including earlier versions of material that appears on the album. Those that buy the album physically will be given instructions how to download a twelfth non-album bonus track.
In Buffalos, Bella and Omer are joined by Ran Jacobovitz (drums), Eyal Dayan (guitar) and Yair Yona (bass). Additional musicians appearing on the album include Yehu Yaron (double bass), Boris Martzinovsky (accordian) and Karni Postel (cello). Some will recognize these artists as having performed with Eatliz, Rockfour, Amit Eriz and Ruth Dolores Weiss (review). Buffalos is one of several exciting female-fronted bands emerging from Israel. Align (review), Eatliz (review), and FeelAbout are certainly the ones to watch.
Buffalos say, "The album cover visually translates the cultural and personal contexts that exist in the lyrics, along with the unique melodies turn the songs into a vague and hazy picture." Omer Hershman, a well-known figure in the Israeli alternative scene, known as the guitarist and writer/composer in the bands Lady Macbeth and Jet Sam and also as a guitarist in Panic Ensemble, received a few lyrics from Bella with the intention of composing them. They say, "Our music comes from the alternative rock, folk, blues and cabaret areas." Their collaboration turned out to be extremely productive and in a short period of time they realized they have enough songs for an album. They decided to record a few sketches at home using basic equipment. What started as a project of two people became a full band with its unique and matchless sound.
Omer told us, "The album was made in a very interesting and unique way, recorded independently at home on an eight-track recording machine using basic equipment." He went on to say, "It was mixed by the legendary Mark Kramer (Butthole Surfers) that has worked with many great artists such as Daniel Johnston, Robert Wyatt, Low, and others." Musical Discoveries followed the production process earlier this spring and into the early summertime. The production gives the album a tremendous, almost analog feel. And we especially appreciated Kramer's treatment of Bella's vocal work.
Tracks on the album span a vast range of styles that will command listeners' attention. The vocal work often includes duets and harmonies from Bella and Omer with both having ample opportunity to take the lead. The recording process did not afford the opportunity to heavily multi-track the vocal layers. The live and guitar-laced rocking sound of "Stairway Lullaby" opens the album. A heavilly rythmic guitar part underscores "23 Buildings," a track Omer leads with Bella's backing.
We especially enjoyed the arrangements and style of the accordian-rich downtempo cabaret-style track "Sandglass Rivers." Crisp percussion in the instrumental breaks is especially well produced as are Bella's stunning lead vocals. We also loved the acoustic guitar solo in the bridge. Omer's backing vocal adds a great texture in the chorus. A long-standing favorite is the cinematic cabaret-style duet tune called "Who Turned Out The Light." Although the audio isn't fantastic, check out the band perfoming this live on YouTube!
Buffalos can also rock. And Bella delivers a tremendously emotional performance as the frontwoman in "As You Hang." The analog texture of this album clearly rings through in the vast electric guitar excursions that never outweight Bella's vocal delivery. The fast-paced almost metal-edged one-minute rocker "Adrenalin" further demonstrates the tremendous virtuousity of this band.
The most accessible tracks from the album include the stunning ballad "You Sink," backed with both acoustic and electric guitar. Bella's evocative vocals glide above the warm instrumental work. Listen for the warmth of her vibrato in "You Sink" and the stunning electric guitar-backed "Carrion Crow." In addition to vast guitar excursions in the instrumental breaks, vocal harmonies and power are tremendously delivered in the chorus. Bella's sensitive vocals in acoustic guitar- and cello-backed ballad "Dear Monster" are lovely. The flute is contributed by Maayan Alper. Equally stunning is Bella's delightful delivery of the vocal work in "Berlin."
"Happy With A Secret" is not only a live audience favorite, but is the album standout. An upbeat pop-oriented duet sung by Omer and Bella together, warm electric guitar, acoustic and bass are joined by crisp percussion. We love the trumpet solo by guest musician Dirk Kunesch. It is not only illustrative of the vocalists' talents but of the whole band and production process behind the band's debut album.
Buffalos has joined a growing list of artists that are making their albums available via digital download free of charge for a limited time in exchange for joining their mailing list. Visit their website for further details. Listen to streams from the album at their MySpace. And watch the band's live performances on YouTube. From their photos and video footage, Buffalos are a tremendous band to see perform live on stage. The images show that Bella delivers lots of energy and tireless emotion when performing on stage. This is a tremendous first outing by a rapidly emerging Israeli band!