Laconic and occasionally ethereal are good ways to describe the singing on Kazyak’s Reflection. Peter Frey and his cohorts aren’t the sort to feel like they have to shout in their songs; Kazyak’s writing is full of understatement and wistful introspection instead of boisterousness and denunciation. Frey plays guitar as well and his six string partner Andy Wolfe pairs up with him nicely for the opening of “First Do No Harm”, but the song soon shifts into mid-tempo verses. Pat Hayes contributes under the radar keyboard lines filling any additional compositional space and the vocal is wreathed in a thin layer of echo; despite these affectations or additions, it never sounds cluttered.
Kazyak’s avowed Sixties influences come through with the song “Our Daydream”, but they don’t come cheap. Kazyak imbues virtually every moment of familiarity in their performances with a transformative aspect, no matter how small, that refurbishes classic tropes for their own uses. This part of the band’s musical design becomes even clearer with the track “Talking to a Stranger” – it isn’t a particularly cheerful lyrical invention, but the imagination heard throughout its arrangement, skewing classic bluegrass sounds in improbable ways, embracing tradition at other points, and punctuating it all with an outright touch of retro prog rock, ala Pink Floyd, Kazyak achieves their self-professed goal of extending the boundaries of their musical reach.
A similar mood pervades “Quicksand”, but it has a more outright poetic quality than the earlier song. The song’s production, as well, treats the vocals in a distinctly different way – Frey’s singing has a warm echo enveloping the words, but never overly melodramatic. Frey has a clear eyed way of writing about complicated emotions that’s, likewise, capable enough to use imagery in an understandable way. Another great tune on Reflection is the track “Androcles”, a detailed and deep reframing of mythological storytelling. At its heart, “Androcles” is a folk song, but it’s a perfect example of how the band takes long standing fundamentals and revamps them for modern listeners.
“No Tattoo” extemporizes less than many of Reflection’s earlier and later songs, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an ample amount of the same musical imagination powering the earlier songs. Kazyak merely deploys their energies in a different fashion here. The synthesizer colored backdrop for the song provided by band member Pat Hayes is another example of his important role in shaping the band’s sound. “10,000 Flowers” has a melodic glide during the bulk of the song and an unassuming gait seemingly intent on bringing Reflection to a soft landing, but the final part of the finale takes on a more free form air nonetheless still obviously inspired by the first part.
Kazyak’s Reflection is a recording of superior songwriting talents, particularly for a band that hasn’t been together that long, but some talents operate along their own chronology. This eight song collection reaches in many different directions and it’s remarkable how much seems within their reach – there isn’t a single track of filler, impressively, on an album of outtakes, demos, and b-sides revamped from the band’s recent past.