What happens when I say: this may be the last beautiful day?
While the name New Buffalo may ring a bell with some as a town on the shores of Lake Michigan ("modern, but quaint" is how its inhabitants describe themselves online), on the other side of the world there exists another New Buffalo, also modern yet similarly possessing an otherworldly, at times old-school charm.
New Buffalo is singer / songwriter / performer Sally Seltmann, who lives and records in Melbourne, Australia.
Sally's New Buffalo is a world of heavy-lidded, sweet melancholy, capturing lyrics from the ebb and flow of the everyday (dream) and setting them to a musical kaleidoscope of beats, sounds and instruments.
New Buffalo first came to prominence through 2001’s About Last Night, an EP produced by Sally with her husband Darren Seltmann (The Avalanches). About Last Night was released in Australia through Modular and the U.K. on Heavenly, taking critics by storm with its woozily woven, freewheeling charm. Features appeared in the likes of NME, Uncut and i-D Magazine, and at the end of 2001 Sally carried out a U.K. tour opening for Ed Harcourt.
About Last Night revealed Sally's burgeoning talent: the EP’s five tracks were deceptively simple, but upon repeated listening revealed many shades of light and darkness. The clear tone of Sally's voice proved the perfect foil to the skittering of crackling, orchestral phrases and vintage organs.
In 2002 Sally traveled to Los Angeles to work on tracks towards her debut album with producer/programmer Jake Davies (Madonna/Bjork). It was upon returning to Melbourne that Sally realized she wanted to make her own way musically, and scrapping the sessions, set up her own home studio, The Lonely Studio.
It was at The Lonely Studio that Sally wrote, arranged and produced The Last Beautiful Day. The process took its time, with Sally playing almost all the parts herself – guitar, bass, piano, keys and programming.
Occasionally she would be joined in the studio by visiting musicians: whilst touring Australia Beth Orton came by to lend her laid-back vocals to the track “Inside”; the Dirty Three’s Jim White plays drums on three tracks on the album.
The result is quite unlike anything else you will hear this year. As delightful and unexpected as snowfall in summer, The Last Beautiful Day is refreshing in its naïve charms and fascinating in its sonic construction.
Sally’s lyrics lift vaguely blue moods out of the everyday to create a half-awake, half-asleep wonderland wordplay, full of keys, puzzles and mysteries; swimming pools, rivers, shores and stages, where people are lost and found, and wrongs are sometimes put right. Sally wins you over with her quiet struggle between the hopeful assimilation of the inside and the outside.
Musically, The Last Beautiful Day is willfully obtuse – owing as much to the music of Marilyn Monroe as it does to My Bloody Valentine. Throughout it remains immediate and unclassifiable, with drunken strings and farfisa stabs set against the tap of dancing shoes, the sound of machinery come to life, the clockwork whir of broken records and intermittent flourishes of dance hall brass and woodwind.
Like the long light of the afternoon reaching out its golden rays to the shore, The Last Beautiful Day is the sound of a sweet goodbye, as much as it is the promise of a new day.