If Hall And Oates were raised on a diet of Joy Division, or if Editors played with soul, they might sound like Black Gold Buffalo. The band first formed in London in 2012; they released a few tunes then disappeared for a period of years, recently re-emerging with a new line up and a debut album in the can.
The music is simultaneously bleak and danceable. Hannah Holland’s bass and production work interlock with Joy Joseph’s inspiring percussion work while Mark Hayward’s echoing guitar has a tone somewhere between Robert Smith and the dark funk of Altered Images & Tieranniesaur. All of which lays a foundation for Keziah Stillwell’s throaty vocals.
Though all four contribute to the overall sound of BGB, it’s Joseph’s percussion that is most prominent. It’s the hook for this band. It lifts the music out of the ordinary and, in a crowded market of able musicians, adds an individuality to Black Gold Buffalo that other groove-based bands will find hard to match.
The musical setup of the band is immediately familiar. The dancey percussion, Fleetwood Mac bass, and muted, clean guitar combo has been done before but BGB manage to find a new angle, and add new life to a tired and jaded rock subgenre. In lesser hands, these tunes could come out like Pugwall’s Orange Organics but the Londoners sidestep that particular landmine by injecting an alternative mentality into the desiccated corpse of commercial rock. Standout tracks like the recent singles ‘Magnets’ and ‘Pearls Deep’, and the infectious ‘Penkenna’ worm their way into your brain, even as they encourage your body to move.
Black Gold Buffalo could do with a few more hooks and an additional up-tempo chorus or two sprinkled over it but, after six years of experimentation, the band have found an original sound that should gain them attention on both an artistic and commercial level. That is a noteworthy achievement in itself. This album feels like a calling card and a starting point. I’m not sure I’ll still be listening to it in six months time but expectations for album number two will be high.