Ash Black Bufflo: “Buho”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Ash_Black_Bufflo_Buho.mp3|titles=Ash Black Bufflo: “Buho”]
Morrow: Ash Black Bufflo (note the missing A) is the recording moniker of Grails keyboardist Jay Clarke, and his debut release, Andasol, is the culmination of five years of solo composition. Like Grails, the music here is extremely eclectic and skillful, but the styles found within Andasol are more segregated from track to track, not stirred in the melting pot like his group endeavor.
Hajduch: The music is mostly understated, minimal, and minor. It’s very cinematic and seems designed to be unobtrusive, with occasional snippets of dialogue to fill the gaps. With the soft nature of the music and the truncated length of the tracks, it’s an album that flies by.
Morrow: The 18 tracks do go quickly, and they’re sort of built like musical vignettes — which makes sense, because Clarke’s other material as Ash Black Bufflo has been used for movie soundtracks, theater productions, and dance recitals. Even though some of the tracks are a medium length, nothing overstays its welcome.
Also, even though certain tracks are minimal or start out as such, many build into much more, with intricacy after intricacy added to the mix. The album’s second track, “Misery is the Pilgrim’s Pasture,” is a perfect example, and it strikes a very Steve Reich vibe as flute, piano, harpsichord, and percussion work on top of the repeated foundation.
Hajduch: “Buho” does that too. It takes a bouncy 6/8 bass riff and builds circular layers on top of it. Instead of expanding outward, droning into space as so many other tracks here, it builds vertically, layering handclaps, violin, guitars, and percussive slaps. Occasionally, it all dissipates, allowing the song’s elements to rebuild into different configurations.
These minimalism-inspired songs emphasize the dual nature of this album. It fills a meditative background gap, where it all washes over, but when it catches your ear, there’s a lot to be actively listened to. It’s “pretty” without going through the tonal motions. It’s melancholy without seeming overwrought. It’s a very well-balanced album full of summer party jams, so long as it rains all summer and nobody shows up to your party.
Morrow: Yeah, or summer party jams for lit nerds to debate The Great Gatsby. But either way, those high-minded and melancholy elements go together well. The incongruously titled “Tulsa Slut” sounds like a New Age lullaby (but not corny) mixed with Angelo Badalamenti‘s Twin Peaks theme, tossing in a touch of reverberated Western guitar for good measure. “Buho” is rather sunny too, with what sounds like a West African kora over the pizzicato strings and ringing, chiming sounds.
Overall, it’s unsurprising that a member of Grails (an ALARM favorite) has so much talent and far-reaching taste. Andasol, however, is a surprisingly deep album, and I hope that Clarke plans more releases for the future.