For the last two years, critics like myself haven’t been able to get enough of Kazyak’s work, from their 2017 EP Happy Camping to last year’s bold studio album Reflection – and for good reason. Both of those records broke a lot of ground for this band, but beyond that, they gave us a look into a new strain of psychedelic rock that isn’t as tethered to the sounds of the 60’s as some of its neo-psych forerunners have been. Now, in 2019, Kazyak are at it again with the aptly-titled Odyssey, which expands on the template of their last two releases whilst moving further to the left of anything that this band has made to date.
“Paper Bird,” “Camouflage” and “Smoke Jumper” are all about their muscular melodicism, versus “Zombie Dream,” “Rocket” and the closing fireworks of “Be the Sun,” which are some of the most surreally lithe compositions that I’ve heard in a long time. It’s an artsy mashup of material for sure, but there’s no hiccups as Kazyak transition from one song to the next – quite the contrary, actually. All of this content, from the kaleidoscopic “Discover” to the Pink Floyd-esque “Contravertical,” meshes perfectly, like jagged puzzle pieces that, when put together the right way, form an opulent portrait.
The instrumentation provides the core mood for songs like “Zombie Dream,” “Camouflage” and “Smoke Jumper,” and in many ways flaunts the authenticity of the songwriting in doing so. There’s no augmented plasticity to Odyssey, and though the melodies are monolithic more often than not, they don’t appear to have been created through artificial means. Kazyak are the real article, and in comparison to their mainstream rivals, one of the last legitimately potent rock units around these days. Anyone who questioned their direction is effectively silenced by this album, and I’m not the only critic saying as much this August.
I thought that the way Kazyak mixed the vocal track in “Camouflage” and “Paper Bird” was definitely one of the more applause-worthy moves that they made in Odyssey, as it definitely distinguishes where one strand of melody ends and another begins. Though we’re never distracted by its grandeur, the bittersweet singing that conveys most of the narrative in these songs is a force to be reckoned with, and were the instrumentation not as powerful in its own right, this might have been a much more verse-driven record than it is in the state we find it in now.
Those who were foolish enough to question whether or not Kazyak could outdo themselves in their follow-up to Reflection are in for quite the wakeup call in Odyssey, an album that has all the makings of becoming an iconic release for this supremely gifted group of musicians. There was a lot of hype leading up to its arrival, but I’m happy to report that it wasn’t all talk – songs like “Contravertical,” “Smoke Jumper” and “Be the Sun” aren’t everyday occurrences in contemporary rock music, and to call them some of the more refreshing sounds of the summer would be to make an understatement of criminal proportions.