July 16, 2023

‘Tis funny how, at the click of a key, the modern world can give you insights into music and bands you’ve never heard of before, but how a link from a link from a link takes you into fascinating uncharted territory. There was a time where you had to stand in a booth in a record store to explore new stuff you didn’t know – the kids of today don’t know how lucky we ALL are!

Example – on the back of listening to yet another fascinating Aussie band called Narla, who are a trio belting out some fantastically tight, pacey, pysch-rock, I followed a link to these guys – King Buffalo – the other side of the world, again, hailing from New York. Another trio to which the words tight, pacey and space-rock fit admirably, along with many other expressions of delight! I’d never heard of them until now, but they’ve been around since 2013 and have released a string of well-regarded albums including a sort of ‘Pandemic Trilogy’, starting with The Burden of Restlessness (2021); through Acheron (also 2021); and culminating with last year’s Regenerator. I make no apology for this “somewhat late” review(!) of this last epic – if you know the band you’ll know they deserve honourable mention, if like me you don’t then you need to, and this is what Music Fanzines are all about!

Enough of the pre-amble – King Buffalo is a classic trio playing psych-rock blended with blues and stoner rock to create some truly mesmeric, melodious and thunderous music. It drives along at steamroller pace, richly layered but also finely honed. Regenerator continues that fine tradition. They are fronted by guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, but it’s clear that Dan Reynolds on bass and drummer Scott Donaldson form a seamlessly tight entity!

L-R: Dan, Scott, Sean

Regenerator is also the title of the first of these seven new offerings on the album, swooping in as a huge statement of intent. It’s nearly ten minutes of a full-on work out packed with so many good things, expansive soundscapes and sweeping chunks of cosmic-rock. It opens not unlike a Pink Floyd opus before swirling into a mesmeric chord-line, soaring lead notes, hypnotic bassline, “pyschy” vocals, crisp percussion – this is where the link from Narla came in, sharing a trademark style of extremely listenable and utterly addictive psych-rock that ebbs and flows irresistably. Hawkwind fans will go crazy for this – but so should any other rock fan, it’s that simple!

Mercury is next, it’s built with layer upon layer of detail and narrative. A perfect illustration of the band’s genius for producing music that is intricate while sounding so deceptively simple. Hours was released as a single, a fuzzy and energetic rocker that has hints of QOTSA to it, unveiling a bubbling synth-line to add to the space-rock feel as it bowls along. Interlude is precisely that, a short, gentle, hippy-ish number that gradually gets edgier, vocally it feels straight out of the Floyd’s catalogue, and forms a bridge into Mammoth. This one is a real ear-worm, a pacey heart-beat of a track, really high quality melodic psych-rock that then launches into a quite superb second movement that features a truly awesome, extended guitar solo. Simply wonderful!

Avalon continues that sense of spacey, dreamy, cleanly produced reverb music that is a delight to listen to. The percussion and bass are “skin-tight”, the guitar edgy and eloquent by turns, but its the overall composition that really hits you – the quality of (dare I say) old-fashioned yet inventive song-writing is top-drawer.

The Firmament closes the album in much the same way Regeneration opens it – a nine minute epic that again echoes the Floyd and Porcupine Tree but is imbued with their very own charm and dexterity. Another sumptuous guitar solo around the half-way mark, a touch of stoner rock following, these three produce songs and sounds that feel like a much fuller band. This track builds and builds, and when it finishes, you just want to go straight back to the beginning and start again!

This is a signature creation very much of the band’s own making despite their influences being clearly illustrated. Well crafted intelligent writing, musicianship of the highest order and a superbly clean mix and production – by the multi-talented guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay – all combine to create a modern organic rock album that highlights the best of light and shade, retro and contemporary.

All in all, this is a relevation – I don’t really know how to describe their style, given that this trio effortlessly create rock songs that cut across so many textures, genres, patterns. With this being the wonderful third album in a trilogy, I foresee some additional expense in the very near future!