Review & Track Premiere: King Buffalo, Repeater EP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

King Buffalo Repeater

[Click play above to stream ‘Centurion’ by King Buffalo. Their Repeater EP can be preordered as a 12-inch vinyl as of Jan. 5.]

The question of how Rochester, New York, heavy psych upstart trio King Buffalo will follow-up their debut full-length, Orion (review here), is answered in the form of the three-track Repeater EP. In the year-plus since the album’s first, (self-)release in 2016, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson signed to Stickman Records and oversaw an official issue of the record and have toured Stateside with All Them Witches and in Europe alongside labelmates Elder, and the EP brings three new cuts that represent the first new music they’ve produced following this productive time.

It is 24 minutes of material, and more than 13 of that resides within the opening title-track (also the longest of the set; immediate points), but in terms of flow and conveying a sense of how their progression is unfolding, Repeater feels like the first chapter in a larger story more than a standalone offering. That is to say, the vibe is more mini-album than single-song showcase for throwaways or “extras” from a recording session.

Part of that may of course owe to the fluidity in King Buffalo‘s approach overall, which was certainly a factor on Orion and just as certainly hasn’t at all been diminished by the stretches of time they’ve spent on the road, but there’s a perceptible resounding in the molten aspects of “Repeater,” “Too Little too Late” and “Centurion” that underlines the purposefulness with which King Buffalo engage such an open feel in what they do. Jamming is a crucial part of it at their foundation, but as far out as they go, their chemistry is put to use in servicing a song, even in something as vast as “Repeater” itself, which is their longest single track to-date.

Nearest competition in that regard is “Providence Eye,” which appeared both on their first demo in 2013 (review here) and on the subsequent 2015 STB Records-issued split with now-defunct Swedish troupe Lé Betre (review here) and in its longer incarnation topped 11 minutes, so the intrigue around “Repeater” is immediate. The song sounds like it was born on the road, and the lyrics, about repetition, about monotony, with a kind of hurry-up-and-wait undertone of theme, could easily be about touring life (I don’t have a lyric sheet to confirm that), but more importantly, its graceful, patient unfolding around an initial drone and subdued build of drums and guitar leads to a progression that feels as though on any given night, at any given show, it might sound just a little different.

Some nuance might change. Some flourish of guitar might be added, or the drums might tick in a different direction, or Reynolds‘ bass — which make no mistake is the root holding King Buffalo‘s songs together — might add a complementary run to the open-strummed echo of McVay‘s effects. The first verse ends with the line repeated, “Every day is the same” and a move into psychedelic drift around a gorgeous guitar tone worthy of comparison to Sungrazer at their best — yes, I mean that — and before the listener has blinked, the trio are four minutes deep and into a second verse en route to a semi-jam in the midsection from which they return to set “Repeater”‘s build in motion across the second half, the guitar signaling an uptick in tension before an explosion of fuzz just past the eight-minute mark brings them to the next stage, rolling out a thickened, full-volume riff and crash executed in dynamic form.

king buffalo

They pull back momentarily circa 10 minutes in, but are soon enough knee deep once again in this sonic heft, McVay‘s guitar howling atop the low end rumble from Reynolds and the shoving, insistent plod of Donaldson‘s drums. A residual hum finishes that fades to amp noise for the last minute or so, and a volume swell bleeds directly (on the digital version, anyway) into the beginning of “Too Little too Late,” the two songs tied together very much as they might appear on a proper long-player.

That decision does not and should not feel like a minor signal on the part of the band in terms of the work Repeater is doing for them on the whole, signaling their audience that the potential for growth Orion represented was indeed no fluke and that that work has been duly undertaken. “Too Little too Late,” the shortest inclusion at 4:43, is an instrumental piece based around a central drum figure topped by one-two hits, fluidic effects noise, spaced-out swirl, feedback and a generally hypnotic execution.

In its third minute, it devolves from what up till then was its central figure and casts itself out into minimalist drone rumble, a helicopter-esque feedback noise rising and fading to silence ahead of the more clear-headed guitar line that begins “Centurion.” Once again, with Reynolds‘ bass in the underscore position, McVay sets what sounds increasingly like a signature King Buffalo-style opening progression even before the arrival of Donaldson‘s drums, and as the first verse leads to the hook, the easy transition to the chorus highlights how natural their motion has become over such a short period of time.

This ultimately speaks to how loaded with potential King Buffalo are on the whole at this stage in their career — their material is welcoming to listeners and friendly in its tone, but immersive and characterized by a depth that, whether in the subdued beginning moments of “Centurion” or following the volume thrust at the halfway point, feels like an exploration undertaken by audience as much as performer. “Centurion” hits its peak loudness and carries a layer of washing guitar lead across for good measure as its apex serves the entirety of Repeater as much as its own flow, and moves into its final minute with a resolve that seems very much like, again, on any given night, at any given show, King Buffalo might just shove it outward for an indeterminate amount of time; whenever a head-bob or hand signal is given to change, in other words.

Here, they skillfully follow that last change and cut back to the initial bounce of the verse for a measure or two and then end cold, the signal coming through clearly that Repeater is more than ready to live up to its name and go another round. I don’t know and won’t try to speculate where King Buffalo might go with their sophomore full-length when the time comes for it, how they might continue to grow, what they might push toward in terms of arrangements or execution or general sound, but Repeater finds them brimming with confidence both as individuals and as a unit, and their songwriting here hits a new level of craftsmanship that only raises one’s hopes even after such an impressive debut long-player. The question isn’t so much whether King Buffalo are prepared for their next step as it is whether their audience is ready to realize the special moment playing out in front of them.

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King Buffalo Announce Repeater EP out Jan. 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Rochester, New York, three-piece King Buffalo spent an admirable portion of 2017 on the road supporting their 2016 debut album, Orion (review here), which was issued by Stickman Records, including runs that took them to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, and a European tour alongside formidable labelmates Elder that just recently wrapped. Somewhere along the way, they found time to put some new material to tape, and the resulting Repeater EP — named for its sprawling, 13-minute-long opening title-track — will arrive just after the first of the year, right in time to be the first inclusion in my notes for the best of 2018’s short releases. Funny how that works out.

They don’t have any of it streaming publicly yet, but vinyl preorders for the self-release are up now through their BigCartel store, where one can also find a digipak CD pressing of their initial demo and loads of other goodies audible and wearable. They sent the following announcement along the PR wire:

King Buffalo Repeater

KING BUFFALO RELEASE EP, REPEATER, ON JAN. 5

King Buffalo, the Rochester three-piece whose discography includes, a 2013 EP titled Demo, a 2015 split 12” with Le Betre, a 2016 debut album Orion, will self-release their newest EP, Repeater, on January 5th.

The three-song release has vinyl preorders available via: (http://kingbuffalo.bigcartel.com).

“Repeater is something we spent a lot of time with,” drummer Scott Donaldson explained. “We originally envisioned it being part of our sophomore full length, but soon realized it was a release of its own. These three songs developed organically in our practice/recording space in early 2017. They flow through a cohesive vision and form a complete thought like Orion. It wouldn’t have made sense to us, to have them released in any other way. They’ve become some of our favorite songs to play live and you can really sense that from the recordings. We look forward to seeing what people think, and we’re beyond excited on how it all turned out.”

In discussing the EP, Nick DiSalvo of Elder said “Repeater is a spacious, warm sounding record — and as the title implies, it’s deceptively repetitious: the songs breathe, bloom organically and envelop the listener while still being hypnotized by its groove. Somewhere between psychedelic, fuzz rock and shoegaze King Buffalo claim their sonic turf, and it’s not hard for me to imagine this is what big sky country sounds like.”

King Buffalo is Scott Donaldson (drums), Sean McVay (guitar/vocals/synth) and Dan Reynolds (bass/synth).

Repeater track list:
1. Repeater
2. Too Little Too Late
3. Centurion

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King Buffalo, Live at Wicked Squid Studios (6.16.16)

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