Kazyak: See The Forest, See The Trees

Minnesotan six-piece Kazyak kick off See The Forest, See The Trees with folky, rustic textures and canyon-sized harmonies on “Pieces Of My Map,” setting up a vibe that persists from front-to-back. This is gravitational stuff with hushed, emotive guitars, a violin-cello combo, and a soul-searching lyrical narrative, but it isn’t without its playful facets: Glitchy electronic beats, warped synths and samples, atmospheres conjuring post-rock, backbeats dropping in and out. Curiosities abound, and it all enhances the story being told by singer Peter Frey.

Frey sometimes reminds of Jim James, just to give a frame of reference—especially apparent when he’s really projecting, backed by harmonies and thick reverb. On “Tar Baby,” his falsetto throws out a ghostly, earnest performance that almost sounds like a different voice altogether. Cymbals clank and crash arrhythmically in the background while the string section pushes the song to a peak. “To The Manner Born” and “Part I: Rabbiting Fox” are brutally sad—the former loveless and inconsolable, the latter happily lifted, about halfway through, by the ease of its backbeat and the assurance that “There’s blood in the river/That don’t make it a river of blood.” It’s followed by the ambient anxiety of “Part II: Pitch Thick,” but Frey sounds perkier and optimistic in closer “Disposition,” which moves along quickly with a lively strum-‘n’-drum and thickly-fuzzed arpeggios of electric guitar. When it’s done, the affair feels tied off with a pretty bow—it’s storybook, but a little anti-climactic. Although a couple of the album’s passages feel like a trudge through cadences without a defining feature, it’s a worthwhile trip into an artful, stylish world from a creative group with an apparent obsession with fairy tales. Kazyak’s adventurousness is beyond welcome.

In A Word: Doleful