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Buffalo Daughter - Grand Royal

Home on the Range

Japanese Music Review 2000
By: W. Dire Wolff

Buffalo Daughter Web Site

Buffalo Daughter represents the modern, hip, underground culture, that has risen from the Japanese club scenes of Tokyo's Shinjuku and Shibuya districts. Shinjuku and Shibuya are to Tokyo's club culture, as the SOMA area has been to San Francisco, and Soho was to New York City. The free thinking trio of Buffalo Daughter is made up of two women, Sugar and Yumiko, and their male counterpart, Moog. Their entrance on the Japanese music scene in 1993, demonstrated a band that dared to experiment beyond popular music genders . The band appeared at a time that the Tokyo billboard was cranking out overproduced music with synthesized strings laid on top of canned beat machines; fronted by skinny young waifs warbling in slightly out of key Japanese. Through their music, Buffalo Daughter forged their own musical ground and created a fresh new reflection of modern Japan.

This powerhouse trio consists of DJ Moog Yamamoto on the turntable, boom box, and mixers, Ms. Yumiko Ohno on bass, electronic effects, and vocals; and Ms. Sugar Yoshinaga providing vocals, playing guitar, and jamming the airwaves with the SWRadio. Additional percussion support is provided by Buffalo Daughter's drummer, Mr. Atsushi Matsushita. Together they surge through their own unique brand of techno punk. The band is driven by the Moog's collection of prepared tape loops and sampling, as he adds some tasty scratches from his turntables. Meanwhile, Yumiko moves the body electric with her fat bass lines, and Sugar fills the void with her industrial punk guitar riffs. The band lays down an electric sound odyssey that blends techno house rave beats with guitar riffs. They integrate 60s style psychedelic acid rock, surf guitar solos, and touches of blues, with their electronic dance club samplings. Their technique of jamming could be compared to earlier experiments by bands such as "Sonic Youth" or "My Bloody Valentine", laid on top of a futuristic backdrop.

Moog comes off as a deep thinker, and a bit of a mad scientist behind the turntable. His mixes can be totally explosive and manic. Sometimes he's pumping out the beat in a hyper frenzy, and wailing primal screams into the microphones. Other times he blends in the background behind Yumiko's loping bass lines, and adds subtle effects that seem to have been borrowed from old James Bond Movies or reruns of "Lost in Space". He applies a very artsy bit of rough static to the edges of the mix. Moog's methods don't quite fit the standards of modern production, but those of us seeking that avant garde rough cut art effect, will enjoy exploring the places where Moog is taking the listener.

Sugar and Yumiko's vocals follow the ethereal void trance siren style pioneered by such bands as "Lush" and "Mazzy Starr". While some might complain that the minimalist vocals easily give way to the instrumental jam sessions, perhaps there is a reason for that. With a large population of the world, unable to understand their native tongue, "How can Buffalo Daughter hope to articulate complex artistic ideas through their music?" Sugar has voiced her desire to communicate more easily in other languages, besides her native Japanese. But perhaps through their guitar and bass arrangements, Sugar and Yumiko can break through the language barrier that exists in their lyrics.

Yumiko's Web Site

Moog, Yumiko, and Sugar set out to capture a sound that merges the power of American guitar rock music with a high tech brand of funky Japanese techno music. They began the incubation of this sound in Tokyo, without the prejudice of actually knowing the tried and true methods of successful American acts playing small clubs and working record deals. They slowly work each of their musical pieces from vague images and jams, and mold them over time into actual songs with titles and lyrics. The cult appeal of the band has provided Buffalo Daughter with enough popularity for them to continue to experiment and search for their own identity. While they enjoy the chance to experiment musically, beyond the edge of normality, they also realize that they must provide some type of understandable format to retain the size of their current fan base. With this in mind, the band approached their dream of reaching an audience in America.

Buffalo Daughter first appeared on America's college airwaves in 1996, with the release of their mini CD "Legend Of The Yellow Buffalo 7", which was released by "Grand Royal Records". The mini CD contained two songs ("Daisy" and "Cold Summer"). A year later they made a bigger splash when they released "Captain Vapour Athletes". The "Vapour" CD was the band's first long playing release outside of their native homeland of Japan, and is a compilation of their previous albums "Amoebae Sound System" and "Shaggy Head Dressers". "Captain Vapour Athletes" also included some previously unreleased material. In Japan, "Amoebae Sound System" and "Shaggy Head Dressers" were recorded as two of the first releases from a small independent label named "Cardinal Records". Cardinal gave Buffalo Daughter complete artist freedom to develop their new sound. This is a label that believes in the vision of the artists and was interested in signing a band that couldn't be clearly labeled. This allowed the band to develop an unique sound and experiment with the production of their music on their Japanese releases.

The band's goal was to perform in America and despite their close bond with Cardinal, they felt that an American label such as Grand Royal was a better vehicle to reach the American audience. They came to America at a time when the music industry was in a lull, the frenzy of the Seattle grunge scene had died, and industry executives were frantic to find the next craze. Some people were looking to the Japanese invasion to breath new life into the listless music markets, and there was talk that Tokyo might in fact be the next Seattle. Furthermore, America and Europe's interest in Japanese pop music was being fueled by the success of the bubble gum punk sound of Shonen Knife, the experimental international tone of Pizzicato Five, and the crazy club music of Cibo Matto. Thus, the stage was set for Buffalo Daughter to be introduced into the American market. Their subsequent releases on Grand Royal of "Socks, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll" and "New Rock", brought Buffalo Daughter further acclaim, as well as respect from their rapidly expanding base of fans and the independent music critics. While the quality of their music can speak for itself, the band has enjoyed greater interest from the fact that they are Japanese and many people want to find out what is going on in the Tokyo music scene.

While their CDs were inching their way into the international market, Buffalo Daughter gave the world further notice when they went on tour with Luscious Jackson, Butter 08 (Cibo Matto), Pavement, and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Some of their concert performances were well received by the new listeners they were introduced to, and received praises in reviews by the concert critics. They took special pride in their opportunity to perform for the "Tibetan Freedom Concert" tour and a chance to lend their hands to help an important global cause.

Sugar's Web Site

A hit tune should be something catchy. A little melody that sticks in your head and you can hum to yourself while fixing a snack in the kitchen. Well, you are not always going to find catchy tunes in the dense musicscape of Buffalo Daughter. This band strives to be artistic over popular. They never tried to plug into the corporate"Hit" powergrid. Instead they have chosen to stick to their artistic values and slug it out flat footed with a "jeans and T-shirt" approach. This band draws their audience from the college radio airwaves and Indie record reviews. While Sugar's phosphorescent hair and clothing styles may represent more extreme fashion values, the band takes a no nonsense approach to their music. Buffalo Daughter lets their music speak for itself, and lets the critics say what they will. While we may not hear many hit records from this Japanese trio, it is not part of the band's charter to become a mega act of renowned fame.

Buffalo Daughter has risen out of the Japanese underground music scene to captivate a cult following that was based on their roots in the Tokyo Shibuya/Shinjuku culture. By Staying true to their art and beliefs, they have gone on to capture international attention, and set the stage for even greater success. It is yet to be seen if they can continue to find the proper venues to build on their early career, or build a more sustaining presence in the years to come. To do this they will need to continue to find listeners that are willing to participate in the experience of the band's musical experimentation, while at the same time the band must continue working to bring their creative endeavors to a new level. With hard work and staying diligent to their search for a new music form, the band has the opportunity to break new ground in defining modern music. Let's hope, for the sake of music and art, that Buffalo Daughter can find a way to take advantage of their hard work so far, and provide a foundation for themselves, and other free thinking musicians, to pursue the creation of music that is currently outside normal industry standards.


Where the Buffalo Roam

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