If I were to write a subtitle to Buffalo Daughter’s Pshychic in the style of Neil Gaiman, it would sound like so:
In which Buffalo Daughter enters a studio, emerges as Stereolab, believes itself to be Cornelius, and hides its faces accordingly.
Hey, I didn’t say it would be a good Neil Gaiman parody.
But on a simplistic level, that’s what pretty much happens on Buffalo Daughter’s third or fourth — hard to keep count with all those remix EPs — album.
The whole shtick with hiding faces behind circle shapes is taken straight out of the artwork for Cornelius’ 2001 album Point. (Cornelius used a paint blob; Buffalo Daughter, points of light.)
And while Cornelius and Buffalo Daughter have had a prior working relationship, the former’s creative stamp has no bearing on the long-winded approach BD takes on Pshychic.
The album clocks in at 51 minutes and contains only five tracks. That’s an average of 10 minutes per track.
The wanker alarms usually ring at this point, and yeah, there’s seldom ever any point for rock music to exceed five minutes in length. In some circles, three is pushing it.
But Buffalo Daughter makes that long-windedness sound organic where Stereolab — to which Pshychic will inevitably be compared — makes it sound tedious.
The 10-minute first single, “Cyclic”, is little more than a single muted guitar pulse and one rhythmic pattern on the organ. And somehow, Buffalo Daughter manage to squeeze in a chorus in there. They also manage to justify its length.
“Cyclic” pretty much sets the template for the rest of the album. “Pshychic a Go-Go” follows the same criteria — one or two musical ideas set on repeat, but woven to sound organic.
“S.O.I.D.” comes closest to a conventional song, with complete verses and chorus throughout the track’s seven minutes. Everything else on the album is a string of phrases and one-liners.
“Chihuahua Punk” is something of a throw-away track, an instrumental featuring some interesting timbres but little in a sense of structure.
The big challenge of the album, however, is the 20-minute concluding track, “303 Live”. No one should ever have to sit through a 20-minute rock song, and Buffalo Daughter face a daunting task stretching one source of musical material for that entire length.
But after taking it in completely once or twice, it becomes apparant the trio is justified in using that much space.
“303 Live” uses a lot momentum. It slowly builds to a pace, breaks down, builds back up again, then hurtles to a finish. Unlike the rest of the album, which takes a handful of musical ideas and pins them to a steady pulse, “303 Live” starts and stops.
Still, Pshychic may have a hard time convincing listeners its not a bloated, precocious album, because on some level, it is. Given the pitfalls into which the band could have fallen, it’s nice to know Buffalo Daughter has a steady handle on its own eccentricities.