During the alternative rock boom in the early 1990s, a smaller but no less exciting scene of Japanese pop music began to gain momentum, eventually bringing a number of bands onto the American radar of alternative music. Perhaps starting with the minor success of the Sonic Youth-approved Japanese freak-out group the Boredoms, a slew of Japanese pop groups gained awareness outside of their homeland. Among these bands and artists, which included Pizzicato Five, Cibo Matto, Cornelius, Butter 08, and Takako Minekawa, is the eclectic genre-mashing trio known as Buffalo Daughter. First gaining popularity with Japanese-only albums, the group aligned themselves with the Beastie Boys, bringing them critical acclaim and a cult following in the often-hard-to-break American alternative rock scene.
But before Buffalo Daughter came to fruition, there was Havana Exotica. Featuring future BD members SuGar Yoshinaga and Yumiko Ohno (then known as Nonol), the band released two albums for Japan's MIDI label. The group specialized in crafting avant-dub-and-funk music, occasionally adding blasts of abstract synths and noise. After 1992's Hello! Martian! (produced by Pizzicato Five's Yasuharu Konishi), the band called it quits. A best-of collection, Weaving, was released in 1999.
Following the break up of Havana Exotica, Yoshinaga, Ohno, and DJ Moog Yamamoto formed Buffalo Daughter in 1993, extending Havana Exotica's idea of combining different genres of music to create one giant sonic palette to draw from. Combining Yoshinaga and Ohno's ability to play multiple instruments, as well as provide warped, childlike harmonies, they set out to create music that shook with funk-inspired beats, while taking advantage of Yamamoto's knack for cutting and pasting elements of hip-hop, electronica, and pure noise into their music. 1994 was the first year to see a Buffalo Daughter release, when Japan's Cardinal Records issued the EP Shaggy Headdressers. In 1995, the girls released the Amoeba Soundsystem EP, again for Cardinal Records.
1995 proved to be an important year for Buffalo Daughter. While touring Japan, Grand Royal's Luscious Jackson came into contact with their music and immediately gave label head and Beastie Boys member Mike D copies of Shaggy Headdressers and Amoeba Soundsystem. Mike D, impressed with what he heard, contacted the group, and soon offered them a record deal. In 1996, the band released their debut 7" for Grand Royal called Legend of the Yellow Buffalo, quickly following it up with the compilation Captain Vapour Atheletes; a combination of the first two Japanese-only releases and b-sides. On the All Music Guide website, Jason Kaufman writes, "When all elements click, like the new wave robotics of 'Cold Summer' or the sublimely droning 10-minute epic 'LI303VE,' a near-rhapsody of downtown funk and scratching, they prove themselves to be one of the more innovative and adventurous indie rock imports operating today."
It took the band two years, however, to return with a proper new album for Grand Royal. Following the band's Socks, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll EP for Grand Royal in 1997, Buffalo Daughter released New Rock in March of 1998. Adopting a more simplistic stance, the album garnered some positive reviews, including one from Nudeasthenews.com. Associate Editor Jonathan Cohen said, "'New Rock' begins the album with an insistent beat slathered with detached female vocals, full-throttle fretwork and a beautiful melodic riff that seems reluctant to appear more than twice. Weird noises (ocean surf, a heavily wah-wah'ed guitar) fill in the empty spaces perfectly. 'R&B (Rhythm and Basement)' ditches rock entirely in favor of triple-digit beats-per-minute, alien rhythms and some of the oddest singing I've heard in a long time. Likewise, the terminology-challenged 'Great Five Lakes' is the most unusual single one could imagine—a number that succeeds in combining pitch-bending synth beeps over TV commercial singing and bluesy acoustic guitar. New Rock is just that, a stellar collection of songs thriving on variety and a wealth of great ideas."
The San Francisco Bay Guardian said, "New rock is a very apt description of Buffalo Daughter's marriage of trad garage rock and avant-turntable collage, but it really only tells a tiny bit of the tale. Sure, Buffalo Daughter update rock with electronica. They also rearrange and reinvent the techno, drum 'n' bass, and hip-hop that slices up their power chords, and reimagines the technology that makes all those coolly hectic sounds possible. New Techno would be just as right a title as New Rock, but it too is as limited as all two-word titles would be in the face of the far-out cultural detritus and oddly languid kinetics of Buffalo Daughter's ransom-note-style juxtapositions. Try New Computer-Age Kraut DJ Punk Kitsch Fantasia, or maybe New Spaced-Out Sci-Fi Theatrical Turntablist Pastiche."
Before releasing another full-length album, the band issued WXBD for Grand Royal in 1999. The EP featured remixes of Buffalo Daughter songs like "Great Five Lakes" and "Jellyfish Blues" by the likes of Cornelius, Kut Masta Kurt, Panda, and Nardone. They also released the single "Great Five Lakes" for Cardinal Records, their old label from Japan, in 1999. Following those releases, however, the band was hit with bad news. Grand Royal shut down upon entering the new millennium. It took a few years, but the band rebounded, releasing I. on Emperor Norton in 2002. StylusMagazine.com said, "'Earth Punk Rockers' is a ballsy little tune with dirty, fuzzy riffs and AC/DC attitude. It's fun. 'Five Minutes' sounds like a Nine Inch Nails track hijacked by sexy Japanamation characters. Buffalo Daughter has written the best Air song in years, or at least that's what 'Moog Stone' sounds like. Closer, 'A Completely Identical Dream' is a quirky little number chock full of squeaks and bells and meandering guitar. It's optimistic and happy…" Ink19.com said, "I. is one of those records that could only have come from people who think way too much about music. SuGar Yoshinaga and Yumiko Ohno float those harmonies like nobody's business, from the opening la-la-la track 'Ivory' to their very Veruca Salty thing on 'Volcanic Girl.' (Actually, wasn't that a Veruca Salt song for real?) And there's funky techno stuff ('Discotheque du Paradis') and Radiohead-on-estrogen stuff ('Robot Sings') and sweet little experimental stuff ('I Know') and long slow ballad stuff ('Mirror Ball') and Led Zeppelin riffstuff ('Earth Punk Rockers') and I could go on and on." In 2003, the band released the Japanese-only EP Pshychic.
Shaggy Headdressers (EP), Cardinal, 1994.
Amoeba Soundsystem (EP), Cardinal, 1995.
Captain Vapour Athletes, Grand Royal, 1996.
New Rock, Grand Royal, 1998.
Socks, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll (EP), Grand Royal, 1997.
WXBD, Grand Royal, 1999.
Great Five Lakes, Cardinal, 1999.
I., Emperor Norton, 2002.
Pshychic (EP), Cardinal, 2003.
For the Record …
Members include Yumiko Ohno , vocals, instruments; Moog Yamamoto , deejay; SuGar Yoshinaga , vocals, instruments.
Group formed in Japan, 1993; released Shaggy Hair-dressers EP on Japanese label Cardinal Records, 1994; released Amoeba Soundsystems on Cardinal, 1995; signed to Grand Royal Records in the United States, 1995; released Captain Vapour Athletes on Grand Royal, 1996; released New Rock album on Grand Royal, 1998; and remix album WXBD on Grand Royal, 1999; Grand Royal closed, 2000; group released I. on Emperor Norton Records, 2002.
Addresses: Record company—Emperor Norton Records, 102 Robinson St., Los Angeles, CA 90026, website: http://www.emperornorton.com. Website—Buffalo Daughter Official Website: http://www.buffalodaughter.com.
Billboard, March 14, 1998.
Entertainment Weekly, May 1, 1998.
Interview, March 2002.
Remix, June 1, 2002.
San Francisco Bay Guardian, March 11, 1998.
"Buffalo Daughter," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (June 2, 2005).
"Buffalo Daughter: Great Five Lakes," UBL Artist Direct, http://ubl.artistdirect.com/nad/store/artist/album/0,,863342,00.html (June 2, 2005).
"Buffalo Daughter–I," Ink 19,http://www.ink19.com/issues/march2002/musicReviews/musicB/buffaloDaughter.html (June 2, 2005).
"Buffalo Daughter–I," Stylus Magazine,http://www.stylusmagazine.com/review.php?ID=122 (June 2, 2005).
"Buffalo Daughter: New Rock," Nude as the News,http://www.nudeasthenews.com/reviews/369 (June 2, 2005).
Buffalo Daughter Official Website, http://www.buffalodaughter.com (June 2, 2005).
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