To Island From Dream Island

Buffalo Skin

The Abandoned Scout Camp, 2011

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


In a weird twist of finding harmony in disharmony, Tom Waits has a way of being folksy and agonized at the same time; so does the duo Buffalo Skin (Adam Dagen on vocals and other instruments, Justin Hoffman on drums and other instruments), and their debut From Island To Dream Island, which is far from the norm of what defines folk music.

It all starts with Adam Dagen’s vocals. Dagen has the earthiness of a folk singer. But his words are often nearly indistinct and come out as mutterings in monosyllables. There is a raw primitiveness in his singing, as the pain his voice combined with his cryptic words sound like a haunting animal cry: “earthy” has a literal meaning for this band.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For Dagen’s primeval vocals to thrive, Buffalo Skin’s music couldn’t be more delicate. The band is minimalistic to the point that the music is not defined by sounds, but by hushes and pauses. It has the same rue and gravity as Talk Talk’s Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock. “Double Choke Death,” comprising nothing but Dagen’s cryptic singing, an acoustic guitar playing faintly in the background, and drums that faintly waft, is one of the powerful tracks on Dream Island. The same can be said of “Ego March,” where the acoustic guitar is replaced by the jagged noise of an electric guitar and the drums bang with a little bit more authority. The background panting adds savageness, which makes this song eerily discomforting.

In the midst of the music on Dream Island, which is dominated by the acoustic guitar and the drums, the duo has a subtle way of incorporating effects – sometimes minute and sometimes bold – which, in contrast to the brutish nature of the album, are spacey and surreal; the instrumentals “Transmission” and “Chicago” with their lush and bleary synthesized effects are the heart of this surrealism. “All Calm,” the most stirring cut on the record, has this spacey surrealism exhibited in the form of the ethereal piano, whose notes are just a tad muted to give it a spectral but expansive effect. “Iron,” Dream Island’s only offering for a track with sprightly tempo, uses majestic electronic orchestral effects to create the same sweeping effect.

The happy coexistence of the earthy with the Elysian isn’t exactly true to Dream Island’s overall folksiness. Maybe folk purists aren’t what Dagen and Hoffman are, but curiosity seekers who wish to take folk to places unknown and uncomfortable.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2011 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of The Abandoned Scout Camp, and is used for informational purposes only.