Above: Avi Buffalo (Photo credit: Leticia Gomez)
Avi Buffalo is very busy. A few months ago, the 27-year-old Long Beach native self-released an ambient album titled 2017, recorded in his home studio using his 8-track mixer and GarageBand. It’s a collection of 13 disparate soundscapes— drony and ethereal in some pockets while distorted and dissonant in others—all written, recorded and produced by Buffalo himself.
The two-hour album, available to stream/download on Bandcamp, is different from anything Buffalo has ever introduced into the world under his own moniker.
“I got a French review and a Belgian review, and it was interesting,” he says, visibly amused. “I used Google Translate [to read them] and the Belgian one was like, this is weird, we want the songs. And the French one was like, this is nice if you like Brian Eno and stuff and it might be up your alley, and was really stoked on it.”
The release was one-part “just for practice,” Buffalo says, to learn the ins-and-outs of getting clean, analog-style recordings in his home studio and get the creative juices flowing for his next full album.
Above: Avi Buffalo's Electro-Harmonix 2880 Looper. (Photo Credit: Amoeba Music)
Experimenting with an eclectic chain that includes a Sub 37 Moog Synthesizer, Earth Drive, Crowther Audio Prunes & Custard Harmonic Generator, Mid-Fi Electronics Demo Tape Fuzz and Electro-Harmonix 2880 Looper, 2017 features Stacks FX’s Crazy 8 Tremolo pedal, one of Buffalo’s mainstays.
“The idea of a digitally controlled analog tremolo controller built by one of your friends is incredible,” Buffalo says of the Crazy 8. “It works the way a vibrato works on a vintage amp — it’s warm and smooth, and the depth, speed, multiplier, divider all interact with each other, which is super beneficial. It can be really precise, and it can be really loose."
Above, Avi Buffalo mid performance at Fourth Street Vine using the Crazy 8 Tremolo. (Photo credit, @Avibuffalo)
The story of his recording process illustrates Buffalo’s unbarred creativity and will. After recording two guitar tracks direct into his mixer, he decided he craved a warmer tone so he set up his 5-watt amplifier inside the body of his grand piano, placed a dictionary on top of the sustain pedal and recorded from inside the piano. This setup created sympathetic vibrations within the piano while the piano also functioned similarly to a reverb chamber for the amp. For a stereo effect, Buffalo used his Fender Champ 600 amp with his Gibson Skylark tube amp and panned two microphones to capture the the warmth in the room.
Upon listening to the album, it’s also very clear that this collection is very much an homage to the wide array of rule-bending sound sculptors who have been deeply inspiring him as of late, such as Yuka Honda, Nels Cline, Alice Coltrane, Brian Eno, John Cage and KLF (specifically their 1990 concept album Chill Out).
"I’m a free agent now,” he says. "I’m free of any business person or corporation, so I was just enjoying it.”
After releasing his second album At Best Cuckold with Sub Pop in 2014, Buffalo decided to take a long break from the business and touring. He immediately started anew from his original underground roots, writing new music while producing other musicians and focusing on exposing himself to new musical approaches in improvisation and composition.
“I’m super excited about all the stuff happening now — it’s overwhelming and beautiful, and the times are intense,” he says. “I just have to focus on what I’m doing. I know more than I ever have what I have to do.”
Avi Buffalo is embarking on a European tour this spring, with stops in London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Paris and Berlin. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/avibuffalomusic.