Experiencing the music itself is the best explanation for the sounds of Tohu Wa Bohu, the haunting new album from the Austin, Texas-area group Lord Buffalo. Called “Raziel,” the album’s first song alone packs a startlingly rich sonic tapestry featuring a range from solemn but gradually intensifying violins to softly swaying melodies on the guitar and drums to soulful singing that sounds like a lonesome wilderness wanderer offering tales of their journeys as the wind slowly howls on by. As the still soul-piercing melodies surge along as the song draws to a close, the lyrics tell a tale of “waiting for the rain to come.”
Developing Tohu Wa Bohu
“I think collectively we’re into some dark shit, but individually we all have different and at times disparate stylistic influences,” vocalist and guitarist Daniel Jesse Pruitt explains, discussing the process of creating Tohu Wa Bohu. “We were stretching out a bit, trying some new flavors with this recording, trying not to say no to ideas until they had a minute to expand. I think sometimes there’s a motif or concept that inspires a collection of songs, but this batch felt very much about process and exploration.”
The sense of exploration seriously pops on the band’s latest record. The band use ominous violin segments throughout the work to help establish a sense of journeying across some windswept wilderness like the fog-immersed landscape that occupies the entirety of the new album’s cover art.
“To me, our new album, Tohu Wa Bohu, is a snapshot of the band at a place in time,” Pruitt explains. “We went into the studio in Lockhart, Texas, with just basic arrangements of a few ideas and built the record spontaneously, en la mosca, shooting from the hip. As a band, our musical language was emerging, a style was developing from a few years of playing together and we wanted to capture that.”
That language comes across on Lord Buffalo’s new album with an alluringly understated yet self-confident swagger. “I was awake, but still I did not see,” Pruitt sings on the song “Wild Hunt,” and the richness of the poignant dynamic surges in his voice intermingled with the swirling fog of the somberly persistent yet uneasy violin mixed with scratching guitar rhythm gives a unique sincerity to the push for “sight” that he references. Memorably, that particular song features percussive hits on an old Steinway piano, while the lyrical idea of finding sight pops up again on the title track when Pruitt sings “Come, show me how to see.”
The Band’s Approach
“Some of us came up in a folk-ier environment,” Pruitt explains. “We all essentially grew up on or near the Great Plains, so Americana was present, especially in the form of the religious and country music ubiquitous in the region. But mostly we grew up on 90’s MTV and American alt-rock radio. I became interested in the neofolk and freak folk stuff of the 00’s, especially as it cross pollinates with psychedelia. 13th Floor Elevators invented that shit, the way they blend genres is so fluid, neither part is trying too hard to self-identify and I love that.”
Pruitt is keen on not sticking to rote methods for even the styles of music that are, on paper at least, always supposed to feel soulful.
“I think a lot of what passes as folk or Americana is just light pop with an acoustic guitar, it’s solely interior and overly reliant on projecting self, cloyingly,” Pruitt observes. “I think the roots of Americana are more communal, with loads more blood and dirt all over it. I’m not aware of too many people exploring this area. When I do come across it, there are the common pitfalls of tired sentiment and outdated imagery — few artists are owning it or making it feel like now.”
Some folks that have explored that territory recently operate in the stoner rock genre. Pruitt continues: “One thing that draws me towards metal and stoner rock is its communal nature, its conceptual largeness; doom is like epic poetry whereas most of today’s folk flounders in the confessional quagmire. Often, when these styles cross there is an approximation of one or the other or both, for example, adding stock folk instrumentation to a derivative metal progression, adding a doomy bass tone or rock guitar to an otherwise generic folk arrangement. I think in this band we have a healthy appreciation for these different elements and try to let them breathe. We don’t want to prescribe or overcook thematic elements. I think when you start asking “how do we make this more ______?”, you second guess the process, your own taste and your audience. A recipe for generic crap.”
Tohu Wa Bohu, Angelo Badalamenti, and Mulholland Drive
From the dashes of groove pockmarking the song “Halle Berry” to the melancholically restrained, violin-accompanied guitar riffing of “Dog Head,” to the punching rhythms of the title track, the band definitely perform the exact opposite of “generic crap.”
Lord Buffalo have been continuing their work through means like their recently concluded recording sessions for a split album slated to emerge this summer (fingers crossed). “For that recording we definitely explored some Morricone/Badalamenti headspace and thinking about the composition as one long, arcing movement with five sections,” Pruitt explains. “While currently in quarantine we’re trying to generate some ideas, some building blocks for the next record. Not sure where it’s headed, but I feel like we’re in the mood for something louder and wilder than the last couple of records, more raw like our live show. You really never know until it starts coming together.”
It’s already hard to escape the experiential aspect on the richly immersive Tohu Wa Bohu.
“This record is outdoors, which makes it a great listen at the moment when everyone is shut inside,” Pruitt observes. “There are some serious headphone nuggets on this LP courtesy of the talented Danny Reisch so make sure you give her a listen that way when the time is right. It might be interesting to put Mulholland Drive on mute and spin this record. Or any film Roger Deakins worked on. If anyone decides to do that, please let me know how it goes.”
Listen to Tohu Wa Bohu below! It’s out via Blues Funeral Recordings.