Kazyak- See the Forest, See the Trees

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, July 13, 2014

Note: This review was originally published on March 20, 2013 but is being re-published to promote the Highwire Records re-release which will be out on July 16, 2014.

Minneapolis’ Kazyak has been around for a few years, but like me you may not have come across the band before. After putting out their debut album in 2010 and putting together a storybook album (which according to their website is still unreleased), the group found themselves at a bit of a standstill and chose to stop touring entirely. Guitarist/songwriter Peter Frey chose to forge onward with the project in the winter of 2011 and put together a new lineup to record a new EP entitled See the Forest, See the Trees which pushes the group’s sound towards spaced out alternative folk. There are still a few areas that I would like to see Kazyak develop further, but this new direction has led to some standout moments and it seems as though Frey is on the right path.

All I could find of this group’s earlier material were some live sets on Youtube, but based on that footage it seems as though the shift in sound has been fairly significant. Kazyak’s earlier songs sounded like a mix of folk with jam band grooves to me, while the material on this EP is much more subdued. Peter Frey and his current crew of musicians have put together six tracks of softer, sprawling alternative folk that start off with softer melodies and builds up to much fuller soundscapes. There’s a good deal of warmth emanating from these recordings, as each of the tracks has instrumental arrangements that envelop the listener. In addition to the usual guitar and piano work that’s not uncommon for this genre, Kazyak’s lineup also utilizes banjo, violin, and cello to create a much fuller sound than your average folk group. One thing I noticed is that the song lengths here are a bit shorter when compared with some of the earlier lineup’s extended jams, though the opener “Pieces of My Map” is able to stretch out beyond the six minute mark. I’d like to see the group try to go further with their song lengths, as I believe they have the potential to utilize longer spans of time in an effective manner.

Not only has Peter Frey served as the songwriter on See the Forest, See the Trees but he also contributes the vocal work. Frey has a light and airy voice that drifts over the softer sections and blends in nicely with the fuller arrangements, and his style is well suited to this type of laid back folk. But at the same time, there were a few songs where his singing started to feel just a bit too thin and his pitch seemed just a tad bit off. This doesn’t happen on every song, but it was an area that I felt could still use some additional growth. While I’m not quite sure what would work best to fix this, Frey could continue to hone his vocal skills and maybe even utilize some backup singing at times as it could help to flesh out these ideas even further.

While the vocals could be a bit stronger than they are on this EP, the sound that Kazyak has transitioned to with this material works quite well. The additional instrumentation really helps to gives these songs quite a bit of staying power, and the warmer alternative folk melodies will draw listeners in. If you’re a fan of this style this group is worth checking out, and hopefully they continue this type of exploration on future efforts as there are plenty of directions they could go in.


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