"One of the beautiful things about playing music is the gentle reminder of your own mortality that comes with creating something out of nothing, and knowing that the moment you stop playing, it will cease to exist," says Kevin Kendrick, frontman and founder of Brooklyn's A Big Yes and a small no. "A record is so-called because it is, literally, a record of that moment; so it doesn't cease to exist." Mise En Abyme, (l"placed into abyss"), the project's third album is, not surprisingly, very existential. Existentialism seems natural for a songwriter whose destiny in a symphony orchestra seemed given until he was kidnapped in Colombia in 1997. Terrifying though it was, it gave him clarity and hastened a move to touring as a hip-hop DJ and a vibraphonist with freak-jazz band Fat Mama. Someone who has survived 7 muggings and only picked up the pen in his late ‘20s after finally winning a protracted "war" with heroin has thought a lot about existence.
And all of that and more is on Mise En Abyme. One of the album's standout tracks, "I'm Gonna Die One Time," is a haunting confessional about a heroin relapse he had after he moved to NYC in 2005 and the hit he took spiritually as a result of it. "Stranger Things" is a raucous tune roughed up perfectly by revered drummer Joe Russo while the sound of "Enough is Enough" is anchored by a ‘70s drum loop that would be equally at home on a ‘90s hip-hop record. And just as on the first two albums, references abound. The beautiful and dreamy title track, "Mise En Abyme" references both Jean-Paul Sartre and the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story A Diamond as Big as The Ritz. "Amazing Grace" is an eerie, minor arrangement that makes the listener view traditional lyrics in a new light. Right after the raucous indie-pop-punk fun of "We Talk Too Much" is "Photo Finish," a bonafide big band tune complete with vibraphone, a barn-burning piano solo courtesy of bandmate Erik Deutsch, and a big horn section.