Stephen Vitiello's Buffalo Bass Delay

by Paul Pfeiffer

Photo by Mike Bouquard. Courtesy of Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY.

Stephen Vitiello’s Buffalo Bass Delay sounds like an audio-guided tour through a vast, vacant human body—an echoing, cavernous space full of familiar sounds, now in ruins and feeling desolate and alien. As a kid visiting the doctor, I’d ask to borrow the stethoscope so I could hear the amplified noises of my insides rumbling and ticking. Buffalo Bass Delay offers a similar sensation: a gentle reminder of what it felt like to be a living person before we learned to think of ourselves as glossy images.

The single track begins with a simple melodic pattern, becoming a droning heartbeat that serves as a kind of acoustical anchor. Gradually other samples are layered in: the reverberating crack of what sounds like gunfire; the rustling of clothes; an elevator picking up speed in a shaft; a stranger whistling in the dark; a fly buzzing in and out of range. Echoes bounce off everything, painting a vivid picture of an enormous but somehow intimate void.

The view of this ambient landscape is continually interrupted by the incidental noises of Vitiello’s own clumsy body: hands fumbling with microphones; low voices discussing details of the production process; restless feet shifting on a gritty floor; a voice shouting down a corridor trying to catch the attention of “Steve!” These sound samples show up repeatedly, sometimes cutting off abruptly, foregrounding the mediation of an editor.

Buffalo Bass Delay delivers a complex thrill, transporting the listener yet keeping her rooted in the present, insisting that she not take leave of her body. The result is a heightened awareness of the forgotten, lowly labor of bodily perception we’re engaged in at every moment.

—Paul Pfeiffer


Buffalo Bass Delay was released in July by Hallwalls.

Noise music
ambient music
experimental music
Fall 2005
The cover of BOMB 93