BOSTON/NE BANDS, Fresh Stream

MARK BUFFALO – THE BFLO EP

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The art for this digital release from Mark Buffalo, new project of Allston folk weirdo Greg Crotty (The Cattle Walk, ex-Friendo), corresponds with its sound very well: these songs portray the shift between musical objects, in this case between syrupy folk pop fragments, as they come into and away from being. Crotty frames the record, and frequently interrupts or blots out the songs within it, with nebulous, primordial tinkling and fuzzing. The vocals are intimate and sedated but the most prominently mixed, as when singing with your hands over your ears within a city or storm. First, the fragments:

“11/29” – Child-pitched unintelligible babble, with paternal lullaby humming to rock it still. The trace of each shimmering synth note bleeds into the next. A few passes through the chord progression, then fade out with an expectant vibrato hovering on the leading tone.

“Tonya” – A slowed-down “Hotel Yorba” hook, a McCartney bulb grown from dried tubers, between machine drone and chromatic steps. A last-call, unorganized sing along to finish.

“Breakfast in Bed” – Perhaps this cover is the model for the twitchy mechanics of the record. Distorted, tremolo guitar rattles outside the song, the weather on the window, and becomes the glassy resonance pitch of the hard-panned harmonica.

“Diana Loan” – Like Vampire Weekend, Crotty has fun with the mumbled pun of the name. Static electricity; something metallic falling to stasis; short-circuiting, watery loops.

“Exit the Map” – A siren calling out from the mechanical whirring and scraping. Falling, even-rhythm guitar lines. The distortion haze is back trying to get in. Ends with haunting “Battle of Evermore” vocal slides into the ether.

There’s no sonic novelty here – these sounds are common loop-pedal boredom killers, like playing behind the bridge or rolling the delay knob – but their application is key. The bedroom-demo tools and imagined recording space become the headspace, the imperfect mechanics like memories or fleeting ideas. The performer lies opaque over the performed. The vocal melodies may be the center of musical flux, but they’re also self-destructive, eroding themselves away with overdubs and effects shading. Birth was the death of him.

Crotty plays with The Cattle Walk in JP on 2/21.

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