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Published: 2006/11/19
by Brian Ferdman

birdfishtree – BuzzUniverse


The gestation of a band is a fascinating thing to observe. A group of musicians meet, bond, and start writing songs. Then they start playing some local gigs. Maybe they even build a small following over the course of a year or two. However, this is usually where the story reaches its premature ending. The economic pressures of life take their toll, residing 24/7 in a cramped van with three or four other people causes conflicts and resentment, and desperation finally sinks in, forcing someone to blow a wad of cash on one final but ill-advised “opportunity” that leaves the band in disarray. Sadly, talent is but a minor ingredient in the recipe for music industry success, while luck, chemistry, and opportunism are far more important factors.

BuzzUniverse are a talented and eclectic band from New Jersey who suddenly appear ready to take advantage of luck, chemistry, and opportunism as they make a valiant charge toward the next level. Having built a viable following in their home state, they have played a bevy of gigs in New York City and were fortunate enough to have their Washington Square Park show seen and written about by a New York Post Page Six editor. Now they are releasing their sophomore album, birdfishtree, an energetic and playful collection of well-written songs that showcase their original voice.

This band’s sound is a unique hybrid of Latin, funk, jazz, reggae, blues, and rock, and they throw nearly every one of these genres into the captivating opening track, “Hour.” Starting with a fun and funky riff, we’re immediately sucked in without realizing it. Suddenly, the band shifts into this addictive, hip-grinding Latin groove and the ante is upped considerably. Brian Ciufo lays down a nasty baritone sax line, and singer/guitarist Alex Garay leads the band in a spirited call-and-response while singing variations on “Viene la noche y tu sonrisa” (The night comes and you smile). The mood is buoyant and blissful before we’re bounding across a frenetic bridge that builds with trance-like intensity and dissolves into a finale that leaves us fully sated. And that’s just the first track.

“Lovelight Babylon” is a gritty number that combines reggae and jazz themes, providing a nice space for Garay and sax/flute player Fred Moises to take the lead with great solos. The same scenario holds true for “Changes of Love,” with Greg Mcloughlin’s roving bass laying a funky rocking foundation for another ripping sax solo from Moises. While both of these tunes are nestled in moderate tempos, BuzzUniverse takes things to warp factor 15 on the racing hoedown of “Up the Mountain.” Garay’s guitar zigzags all over the place and Dave Migliore’s drums are compact and intense, setting the scene for a wild ride.

A more sensitive side of the band is on display in the lush, hippies-frolicking-through-the-mist acoustic guitar/flute instrumental duet known as “A Sparkling Path.” The same positive vibe is also apparent on “The Earth is Moving,” a well-crafted and optimistic pop number that makes the occasional allusion to The Beatles. A similar upbeat feeling is applied to the Marshall Tucker Band staple, “This Ol’ Cowboy.” Where the original was a muscular southern rock anthem, this version is delightfully understated and cuts deep into the pathos of a man’s surface indifference to heartbreak. Migliore deserves high marks for the creative and chugging drumbeat he applies, which serves as the perfect launching pad for Garay’s bubbling runs up the frets.

As thoroughly enjoyable as this album is, it is not perfect. The lyrics are not exactly trite, but they could use a little more depth to match the high caliber of the musical compositions. Also, BuzzUniverse would be wise to take heed of the old clichldquo;Less is more.” Fourteen tracks and 65 minutes is rather generous but a little excessive for a single album. There are plenty of gems here but some get swallowed up by a few unnecessary tunes and interludes. Do we really need “G.I.L.,” a pointless homage to all of the bad things that can be done with a synthesizer?

BuzzUniverse has certainly raised the bar for themselves with the release of birdfishtree. They have grabbed opportunity by the balls and created a fine album that has plenty of thrilling moments, all the while retaining their tight, cohesive ensemble sound. This record is going to provide a lot of joy to a lot of people, and hopefully, it will springboard this band on to bigger and better things.

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