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.