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Buffalo Daughter’s deeper grooves

by Steve McClure

It’s usually not a good idea to go into the recording studio without having some idea of what you’re going to record. Most artists have a demo or a written score to work from; some even have full-fledged arrangements down on paper before they start recording.

The members of avant-pop trio Buffalo Daughter have a rather different approach to working in the studio, preferring to start working on an album with no set plans at all.

“We don’t really discuss what kind of music we think is good,” explains bassist/keyboardist Yumiko Ohno. “When we were recording this album, we talked about the fact that she [guitarist SuGar Yoshinaga] had started keeping a dog. And we have a ‘support’ member called Atsushi-kun who plays the drums, and he just became the father of twins.”

And in the midst of such domestic chat, the muse strikes.

“We talk about things like that in the studio, and then that translates into music,” Ohno says. “We sort of write our songs as we record them.”

That spontaneous, laid-back approach evidently works, if Buffalo Daughter’s latest album, “Pshychic,” is anything to go by. Instead of the genre-hopping eclecticism of the band’s previous album, “I,” “Pshychic” is dominated by extended jams featuring Buffalo Daughter’s by-now familiar interplay between Yoshinaga’s aggressive guitar playing, Ohno’s hypnotic electronic grooves and the samples and random squeaks and squawks that are the stock-in-trade of the band’s third member, MoOog Yamamoto.

“I use a CD relay now instead of a turntable,” explains Yamamoto. “By using that, I get a more digital, not analog sound, and I can make very short loops. So even if it’s very soft, old music, I can get a current sound out of it using the CD relay.”

Of the five tracks on “Pshychic” (which is only the band’s fourth album in a 10-year career) two are more than 10 minutes long. Ohno says they give the band a chance to stretch out and get into a club-music kind of groove.

“Some people might think that it’s rock, but other people might think it’s completely dance music,” Ohno notes.

Whatever you want to call it genre-wise, the material on “Pshychic” is unmistakably Buffalo Daughter music.

“Quirky” seems altogether too uncharitable a word to describe the band’s unique style, whose most appealing characteristic is that there’s always another sonic surprise just around the corner.

“Pshychic” is the band’s first album in two years. During that time, the trio have been engaged in various side projects, Yamamoto and Yoshinaga in a band called Chihuahua Punk and Ohno as sometime-backing musician with female vocalist Ua, for example.

Set for a Sept. 18 release, “Pshychic” is Buffalo Daughter’s first album for V2 Records Japan, a joint venture between Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) and Richard Branson’s V2 Records. Given V2′s success in promoting slightly offbeat acts such as The White Stripes, is it time for Buffalo Daughter to achieve worldwide domination, say with a hit single?

“Hmmmm . . . that might be . . . difficult,” says Yamamoto laconically.

Yoshinaga says she’s more concerned about maintaining a sense of balance in her life.

“We don’t want to be unbalanced,” she says. “We have our lives as musicians and our ordinary lives, and we really don’t want these to lose that balance. If we lose the balance in our ordinary lives then our music will become uninteresting.”

Which makes “Pshychic” an appropriate title for the band’s new album. An amalgam of “physical” and “psychic,” it neatly encapsulates Buffalo Daughter’s ethos of keeping your feet on the ground while letting your imagination soar.