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Kyle Harvey : One From the Heart

story by tim mcmahan




Lazy-i: February 18, 2004

Kyle Harvey
w/ Anonymous American, Carmine, & Austin Britton
Feb. 21, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

Omaha singer-songwriter Kyle Harvey knows he's taking a chance with his new 5-song EP, The Holidays in Spain, a dark, brooding exploration of a relationship on the rocks.

Recognized locally for his acoustic-driven folkie fare as well as his work in the now-defunct rock band The Bitter View, Harvey knows that his core fans will either be surprised and pleased or surprised and disappointed with the CD's risky sonic explorations that are a far cry from the stuff they're used to hearing him belt out at The 49'r, where he also works as a bartender and sound guy.



The EP's opening track, "Maybe I'll Tell You in the Morning," starts in Harvey's usual hang-dog, broken-hearted style -- with an acoustic guitar and lyrics that lament "Baby I'm here but I'm already gone / And you're still hanging on." But as the track progresses little things emerge from the usual strummed chords. Things like a bowed standup bass and David Gilmore-flavored electric guitar echoes. Finally, after the singing stops, there's two minutes of low-end, feedback-style synthesizer noises that sound like interstellar mating calls heard under water.

The sonic undertow fades right into "Straight-jackets," where Harvey mournfully sings "So sorry love / I've been distracted / Been hiding from / All the straight-jackets" over slow, haunting, echo-guitar and what he calls a "groove box," but what we know as synth drums. This one ends with two minutes of strange, Morris Code-like blips created using an electric guitar and a couple remote controls.

Bob Dylan never sounded quite like this.

"A lot of people won't understand it," Harvey said across a shadowy table at Benson's hot new acoustic showcase, Mick's. "You have to sit down and listen to it with headphones. I wanted to release a piece of artwork, I guess. I wasn't thinking about it as an album."

The result of his personal explorations in sound is an experimental CD that will appeal both to fans of ambient bands like Mogwai and Radiohead as well as indie-folkies into Elliott Smith and Wilco. Harvey has managed to create an environmental recording that captures the emotional emptiness suffered after breaking up with a long-time girlfriend. It's bleak, and at times, downright depressing, but never boring.

Ironically, the CD's strongest moments occur after all the buzzing sound effects have worn away. On the more-upbeat (though still sad) 7-minute-plus title track Harvey quietly bleeds tonal sounds beneath the strumming, giving the effect of one long feedback howl. The slow-twang closer "Besos y Abrazos" -- Spanish for "kisses and hugs" -- feels like a good Red House Painters track, with Harvey's deadpan lyrics steeped in everyday observation whose confessional honesty is tough to ignore.











"I wanted to release a piece of artwork, I guess. I wasn't thinking about it as an album."











"You're selling your secrets -- and her secrets -- for three bucks at the door and draws of Miller Lite."



The Holidays in Spain is not stuff for the casual listener, and Harvey knows there will be the detractors who would have preferred a more straight-forward singer-songwriter approach. "I didn't want to disappoint the people in Omaha who have gone to see me play over the last few years," he said. "But at the same time, I wanted to release something for me. It was hard to make that decision."

Both camps have already weighed in on his choices. "Some say, 'Oh my God, this is something special.' On the other hand, I've had people say they don't really like it as much as the stuff they've seen me perform live."

And although he's proud of the CD, he says it's the live performances that he lives for. The 23-year-old Millard South grad and art-school dropout just returned from a tour of the southern-tier states where he played a string of small clubs and coffee joints with just his guitar. His goal is to be on the road six months a year by this time next year. You would think it would be tough to pour your heart out about a relationship gone wrong every night from under a spotlight. "I'm not going to sugar-coat it and say it's easy up there," he said. "You're selling your secrets -- and her secrets -- for three bucks at the door and draws of Miller Lite."

Regardless, don't expect any upbeat songs from Harvey, at least not for awhile. "The times I actually sit down and write are when I'm sad," he said. "Creatively, I just write better when I'm depressed.

"I plan on being happy someday," he said, smiling. "I think through your entire life you're going to deal with heartbreak and loss; you're going to have hard times. And for me it helps to write about it. In a sense, it's definitely therapy."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Feb. 18, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.