Tag Archives: KGFREEZE

#BandcampGold-Scapegoat by KGFREEZE

#BandcampGold-Scapegoat by KGFREEZE

by Dan-O

As someone who is fanatical for music I do not resent the layer on the outside of the onion of interest. The layer on the outside is composed of folks who just like songs going behind them: they don’t know the artists, album, and producer and that’s a valid way to live. The layer underneath them is the problem. The poacher who checks pitchfork and follows up only to find “classics” to brag about. Beyond how annoying the condescending “Have you heard __” conversation is, it puts pressure on artists to always seek perfection which is not how art works.

The poacher robs the process of transitions.

The new KGFREEZE project Scapegoat is a perfect example of this. It is the slimy nerve-racking birth of something new not the last sanding away of rough edges. The Freeze has always been the name Kyle Gervais created for his own solo career; the players rotate underneath him while he pushes furiously in different directions. His will and vision was always centerstage but like any good coach he plays to the strength of the team he has at the time. Now is definitely the time for his new line up.

The components have vastly changed and Scapegoat is a project of adjustments and experiments. It was recorded live in a warehouse with very little tweaking.  Chris Gervais comes on as drummer and brings palpitating new wave urgency to every second of his play. Chris likes it loud and once Nate Carll was brought in they were able to go to new places within the term. Nate worked with Kyle in the band Cosades back when Iphone was how Tarzan asked to make a call. I met Nate Carll once and he was so normal it was shocking but the scary part is how potent his guitar wizardry is.  Of the ten songs on Scapegoat On The Hill is his baby from foot to teeth and it is gorgeous. Very few people are allowed to take up Kyle’s authorship space on a KGFREEZE album and On The Hill shows you why Kyle has the faith he has in Nate. It rolls around in guitar noise until the noise takes on shape, form and a light dance. Kyle comes in with his most delicate vocal delivery of the project and for two minutes and nineteen seconds it is a different world from any KGFREEZE song before it. It is indicative of the sweet to savage and back again Siamese Dream-ness of the new Freeze; the ability to get crazy while promising never to lose melodic focus.

Sanks is the most recognizably Kyle song on here and has an absolutely fantastic chorus. The title track fits well within the heard Freeze-verse but not everything on the project works as well. On the con side of this experiment Seyton is a novelty exploration of Pantera screaming and hard rock that the band is just not going to explore. It is a thing they wanted to do and did but doesn’t have any legs to it. Bark For Me, Tom is an infidelity concept song that doesn’t have enough lyrical bite to make up for how bland it sounds compared to the punchier songs.

The punchier songs are the real building blocks for this group. They could go a bunch of directions. My favorite songs are Connection and Insanity both a little over a minute long and indicative of this groups ability to actually give us a polished Costello style Get Happy; something that showcases short electric elegantly constructed songs in great number. They could push the volume and the guitar hero riffs of songs like Freeway of Drugs and see how large and anthemic they could make a full polished project.  Either way they should not record like this again. It was a great way to showcase the difference in loudness, force his audience to buy better headphones, but in the future vocal overdubs will help Kyle’s voice stay comfortably over the sea of sound.  This is not the album poachers will brag about but it could be signifying one is on the horizon.

Stream or Download Scapegoat below:




#BandcampGold-Blue Moon by Essence

#BandcampGold-Blue Moon by Essence

by Dan-O

I was so excited for my wife to see Essence perform.  The show was set up so acts work on different stages and trade off in a round robin.  Each performer had several sets. After the first Essence set my wife gave me the description of Maine’s most important rapper that I always carry with me.  My wife has one of these best friends: marvelously sweet, smart and great. Much smarter than she knows, much more attractive than she knows but doubts herself and suffers from the anxiety in her head. She said when Essence performed it was like watching Brother Ali come out of that friend.

It’s still a great way to frame her new project Blue Moon.  She is dynamic ,in delivery, with the spirit of a spoken word slam poet; every word takes its place as vital to the core of the whole. The first spoken bars on Blue Moon are “co-dependent on the figurative attachment, the one getting high on the balcony of the equator with feet…dangling off the timeline between you and me.” Her state of being as an artist presumes you know what all that means or have the willingness to unpack it patiently.

Blue Moon doesn’t have stock concept songs you’d expect to hear on a rap album (even a Maine rap album). Four of the seven songs are under three minutes but it’s still a dense listen. As a writer this was always a criticism I faced. People would read my stuff and furrow eyebrows while muttering…”it’s a little dense”. After a while I started taking it for the compliment it is. I give it to Blue Moon in the same way. Unseen is haunting, not just because of the ghost related chorus. In two minutes and seventeen seconds she covers loneliness, heartbreak and the dimensions you discover in people you get close to along with the difficulty in relating and comprehending what you’ve seen in them.

My favorite song is Resistance because, on the sly, Essence is fantastic at hooks (Blue Moon is kind of a great situation for Maine rap chorus’s. Not only is Essence great at hooks but she features Renee Coolbrith and Kristina Kentigian who are incredible singers, but never put out enough solo content. The combination of her talent and theirs in 7 songs means Blue Moon is always catchy enough to offset its depth.).  Resistance merges the deep conversation about our generations approach to relationships with a chorus that sticks in my head.  She’s no longer a poet or a rapper on Resistance she becomes a chant that lives in your experience. It’s the kind of song that makes you forget the process of listening to a song and think about your own life.

ChrisPaul did the production for all the songs other than Needs and the beats are dusty and minimal. Honestly, all the production in the Maine rap scene (for my ears) feels dusty, broken and post-Anticon underground. This is why the song Anniversary Essence did with big muscular production team OHX (collab with KGFREEZE) and Give (another KGFREEZE) push her in a totally different direction where she can showcase the sharpness of her sword with humor and wordplay.  This isn’t a knock on Blue Moon, the paranoia you feel from ChrisPauls In And Out beat totally makes sense for the content being covered. If most Maine hip hop production is aggravatingly self-importantly underground with its tongue stuck out at likeable melodies… Blue Moon smartly uses that to match the warmth of remembering those you love and the utter chill of not having them with you anymore(she also goes out of state for beats a lot).

That night, at that show, I awkwardly introduced myself and told Essence that a year and a half from now she would be light-years from where she is now. If you listen to Blue Moon and compare it to her 2014 project The Root of It…I’m looking ok on that.

Check out Blue Moon yourself:


Bandcamp Gold Album Review-Sara Hallie Richardson-Phoenix

Bandcamp Gold Album Review-Sara Hallie Richardson-Phoenix

by Dan-O

Being an artist is about growth. By the time you have moved everything you dreamed about doing past the finish line (as much of it as you could get across) new plans have already started to take shape. Artistic growth doesn’t have an end, it’s a bookmark and when the book is done it’s used on the next one.

This is what makes Sara Hallie Richardson’s new album Phoenix not simply beautiful but tragically so. At the conclusion of its elaborate eight song journey we find ourselves awake with nowhere to build. Phoenix is a dream that we wake up from. The ambitiousness built into the chemistry between producer/co-arranger Sean Morin and engineer/producer Noah Cole and vocalist/songwriter Sara Hallie Richardson can’t really be replicated live. You would lose the sound of playing children right behind the piano at the start of Reprise. All the chamber singing and string section solos, if this was done live honestly it would be the march of a sonic army.

The format of each song is quite similar. We start out starkly minimal locked into Sara Hallie who has some punch-in-the-face impactful lyrics on display. She opens Reprise with “Don’t mistake my care for a caretaker. I can’t make your pain go away. I can’t change what you wish you weren’t.” After that opening you can’t possibly look away. As the piano plays and the children in the background do the same, it’s a spellbinding moment. That is when the fun begins, Sara Hallie is our rock. Soft and sultry, wounded and thoughtful, always genuine and Sean Morin knows every dark empty space for the perfect placement of another musical element always choosing to weave it in with care. Not just once but over and over until the finale of each song, until it becomes like a coiled spring bursting forth with bottled energy: Hand claps, choral singing, STRINGS, STRINGS, STRINGS (thank you Amarantos Quartet), Piano, snares, bass, it layers and explodes forth while we count on Sara Hallie for shelter.

Morin knows that you can lead an armada of sonic pieces on top of Richardson’s voice and everything will be ok. The stung introspection in her vocal performance as she says things like “How we do we grow up without feeling old?” on If You Asked Me make her a clear protagonist. We are not talking about Billy Holiday Lady In Satin chilling but even as her voice is reaching new heights the lyrics carry with it the fear of collapsing into a life that is too much. So Morin keeps adding layers until it feels like inebriation and confusion…and then it’s over. Next song. Melancholy starts again as the next song begins.

This mixture of intensely orchestral music and cutting lyrical sincerity create an experience a lot of artists do not aspire to reach. I was trying to describe it as I ranted to my wife and I rambled about watching the most beautiful butterfly you’ve ever seen recite poetry. As amazing as that moment would be, melancholy sets in when you realize you’ll never see this again and it’s unlikely anyone will believe you did see it. Phoenix is like this. When I try and tell friends about how special, really special, it is…what do I say? Somehow all of these talented people pulled out the Ouija board and connected to something really moving. Like the title track it feels like a breakup album that smiles back at what it was and for an ever too brief moment what it is; creating and retiring a formula that never existed.

The children playing on Reprise and the chorus of Crime of My Life might be an indicator that at least some of the people involved in making Phoenix love Fiona Apple as much as I do (the kids playing during the song is a jarring move Fiona Apple pulled off on her 2012 song Werewolf). That never feels like a burden, just a great jumping off prompt.

Jury is still out on how many important albums the Portland Maine music scene can sustain at once. At this point Spose KGFREEZE and Lyle Divinsky have important releases out. The bigger question is whether something this uniquely dense and heartfelt has an audience here. When a project has listening layers it creates confusion as a result and not everyone loves to unwrap a present. Great news for me is that I don’t have any of these concerns connected to my experience. Paid six dollars(www.bullmoose.com) for eight songs and by doing so I supported my best local music retailer and a richly talented performer. For six dollars I will retain a set of songs that will go nowhere but up in value for me. Every listen yields new sound clashes originally missed, sitting in the song gorgeous all this time but unnoticed. The more you press the play button the more these songs take on different emotional perspectives; the sad ones seem to smile and the happy ones seem more sullen than remembered. Her songwriting here is like play writing built with room for listener interpretation and alternative relationships to each song.

I take Phoenix seriously because everyone who worked on it took it seriously. If a job well done in music yielded positive results Sean Morin should be able to sell his own T-shirts after this. Sara Hallie Richardson should float off into a sea of career possibilities wielding her voice like the weapon it is. I guess it’s up to us now. She’s done with it. Our job as active consumers of music is not just to digest this album as a purchase but to flap our gums about it until we annoy our friends into looking it up. All Phoenix will need is that friend to press play on an Itunes or Amazon song sample. Once it starts our job is done.

Stream and purchase Phoenix on her bandcamp page

WE ALL GET A FREE WEEKLY DOWNLOAD of the hauntingly jagged Sonorous

Free Album review-Star Wars by Wilco


Preface by Dan-O

I hold accountability for everything published on freemusicempire. That editorial responsibility means that any guest blogger has to be 100% dependable. Not a critic (although he has written as a reviewer) who is funny and good at diagraming how something fits in the narrative. I need an artist who knows what it is like to struggle, fight and fail at what you love; knows what it’s like starting over after that. Kyle Gervais has been making music for a long time. He was in the band Cosades. He was in the band Grand Hotel. Now he is running KGFREEZE and dropping a new album within the month (check http://www.kgfreeze.com for updates on when that album drops). Kyle lives and breathes as much music as he can, so he was the perfect guy to tackle a band I checked out on a while ago. I went to Kyle and said “I know this is interesting but I don’t know enough about Wilco to know if this is a new direction.” Kyle stepped up and put it in context. Now read that.

Free Album review-Star Wars by Wilco

by Kyle Gervais

Wilco will never make an album better than A Ghost is Born.

This is how I felt up until the surprise release of Star Wars. It’s not that it’s a better album (it isn’t) but it provides me with, and I’m sure this is no coincidence, a new hope.

My introduction to Wilco, like a lot of people, was Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and while I consider it, as well as plenty of Summer Teeth and Being There, to be utterly solid, Ghost blew my mind. It was a dynamic record, with the loud moments screeching and the quiet parts begging you to listen closer. It was dark. It was weird. It had 12 minutes of droning synth just to payoff with a warped pop song. As most know, it was also made while Jeff Tweedy was going through an addiction to painkillers.

So when the man got healthy and the band released Sky Blue Sky, a lot of fans breathed a sigh of relief while I felt a little frustration (though you really can’t beat “Impossible Germany”). Where were risks, the lack of restraint? Would they return?

While The Whole Love had moments that gave me hope, it also kept the proceedings relatively clean. Star Wars, on the other hand, is fairly off the rails, but only in the best of ways. It may be due to the time spent playing with his son Spencer in family offshoot Tweedy, it may be the lack of pressure in releasing another record on your own label, or knowing that it would be released out of nowhere. Vibe-wise, Wilco (The Album) is the closest comparison but only in the sense that the band is having fun. This time around though, it’s fun AND freaky (and way, way better), more in step with Tweedy and Kotche’s Loose Fur records than anything previously released under the official Wilco moniker.

Album intro “EKG” lets you know that the record is going to be a little more loose with it’s noisy changes, but things really kick into high gear with “Random Name Generator”. Beginning with a riff that sounds like a Beatles goof, the song grooves it’s way to harmonized guitar heaven. While “You Satellite,” the longest track here, loses a bit of steam by mostly just adding layers to one idea, the atmosphere built is quite impressive and it’s sure to be a new live staple. It also makes “Taste The Ceiling” that much more effective despite the bizarre similarities to the Eagles “Take It Easy”. It’s also hard to deny the funk of “Cold Slope” or how “Magnetized” takes all of the off the wall ideas of the previous ten tracks and ties the record together with a nice bow.

Though it’s a little too rough around the edges to seriously compare with the more Official releases in the Wilco discography, that’s also what makes it so special. It’s their pared down version of The Basement Tapes – quite possibly glorified demos that also happen to be some of the best material in their catalog. It sounds effortless and filled with ideas and directions that they have only just realized are possible. There’s a feeling of “Why not?!” in the performances and the production and it’s addictive and exciting.

With a free, 34-minute surprise album, Wilco brought me from a fair weather listener who’d tolerate whatever they’d released to a fan, very excited for what comes next.

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