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Shabason, Krgovich, Sage

Shabason, Krgovich, Sage


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Joseph Shabason, Matthew Sage, and Nicholas Krgovich form a pretty perfect triangle, musically and geographically. Based out of Toronto, Colorado, and Vancouver respectively, the three convened at Sage’s converted barn studio at the foot of the Rockies to diagram their kindred ability to extract grandeur from the most passable of life’s daily details. On his own, saxophonist Joseph Shabason warps late 80s adult-contemporary and smooth jazz aesthetics into tidepools of fourth-worldly sound design that are infinitely more self-aware and emotionally honest than any of their distant reference points. M. Sage, in a parallel sense, blends his skills as an instrumentalist with synthesis and field recordings to create auditory reflections of the natural world that are as whimsical as they are profound. Sitting cozily between these two heartfelt experimentalists is singer Nicholas Krgovich, whose observational slice-of-life poetics paint a relatable face onto his collaborators’ calm expressionism, both guiding and highlighting its deep sense of affect. The resulting album, prosaically titled Shabason, Krgovich, Sage warmly invites sound artist Matthew Sage into the world of wry and melancholy micro-miracles that Shabason and Krgovich established on 2020’s Philadelphia, and 2022’s At Scaramouche.

Album opener “Gloria” is a perfectly balanced representation of the trio’s individual abilities. Sage’s slowed and watery zither bleeds in from the edges of the canvas, laying ground for breathy woodwinds and harmonica that pantomime a distant locomotive. Speaking directly to the sonics at play, Krgovich melodically narrates, “Penny, did you hear that train whistle? Theo, did you hear that owl hoo?”. Even from this first moment, the intimate dynamic is so palpable that the listener falls unwittingly into the backstory of Shabason, Krgovich, Sage. “After connecting with Nick and Jos through DMs since 2020, it felt like a fun experience awaited us as potential collaborators,” Sage recounts. “I had built my barn studio, and I think it looked appealing to them to make an adventure out of coming to the Wild West to make music with me.”

After spending the majority of a decade immersed in Chicago’s legacy of jazz and experimental electronic music, Matthew Sage moved back to his home state of Colorado to raise a child in a more casually agrarian atmosphere, and to work in the kind of setting that led to his 2023 album for RVNG, Paradise Crick. It was here at the cusp of the Rocky Mountains that the initial push of Shabason, Sage, Krgovich began, in person. Making sense of the trek, Shabason adds “I have realized that making music with people who live very far away is a real possibility. As long as we can get into one space together for a short amount of time, the collaborative magic that is needed to make a record is totally possible.”

The three artists’ fingerprints are equally visible across the album. There is soft textural detritus floating freely in the air, punctuated by glassy electric keys and rubberized basslines. The sparseness in the placement of all the elements leaves them subject to ghostly visitations from a whispery saxophone, and a gentle guitar that peers around the corners of Krgovich’s free-verse musings. The album’s midpoint “Don” passes overhead like pollen on the breeze, constantly drifting out and back across pockets of completely empty space. “Old Man Song” turns a rare B-side by Low into an even gentler end-of-life reflection that is sweetened by Krgovich’s falsetto during the track’s wordless chorus.

As nebulous as that may seem on paper, the hidden songcraft slowly surfaces over the course of each piece, exemplified by the closing track “Bridget”. There are plenty of other moments of the album that bear discernible rhythms below the fogline, but it’s here that they rise up into a full-on groove under Krgovich’s lyrical fourth wall breaks in which he details everything from Joseph’s studio habits to seeing “Cats” at the theater with his sister. Despite the song’s relative density and pop sensibility, a careful use of space still reigns supreme. On the eleven-minute “Raul”, Krgovich comes close to unintentionally codifying this approach as he sings “The container shrinks, and shrinks again, with every day, the relief that comes from not wanting more...” Truly, the most abundant virtue on Shabason, Krgovich, Sage is patience. The trio interacts without interrupting one another, contently waiting their turns, all locked onto the same distant point on the horizon yet unconcerned with when they might actually arrive.

The groundwork laid by Shabason & Krgovich on their previous joint offerings is omnipresent, but it’s amplified by the joy Sage must have felt shepherding them to his idyllic and intimate new homebase. Prior to meeting up with Sage, the pair’s music often dealt with the beauty of The Great Indoors, but their new host and collaborator has smartly refocused their lenses on the small wonders of wilder locales. Like magic, Shabason, Sage, and Krgovich have not just musically photographed their surroundings, they’ve managed to reproduce them exactly. The sharp open air, the quiet thrill of an escaped routine, the self-reflective thought-loops during a twilit moment at the edge of a field, all of it’s here on Shabason, Krgovich, Sage. Through the trio’s skillful ease, the listener is there, too.