Bre Kidman is an absolute treasure.
A local attorney, activist, performance artist, burlesque dancer, founding member of M.E.S.H. Portland, and runnerup to Best Public Intellectual (as voted in the Phoenix's 2018 Best of Portland Readers' Poll), Kidman has taken on a new epithet this fall, releasing the raw and visceral electro/industrial pop album under the alias Bee Kay Esq. (They have also, in full disclosure, contributed writing to this paper — yet another one!)
The 10-song debut, titled Lies I Tell About Myself, is a document of music that seems to have a different form, function, and effect than what we're used to. With production by MrGadget, the songs are an unexpected and nimble mix of rock, industrial rhythms, warped disco, lo-fi bedroom pop, and 8-bit glitch-core — odd, dysphoric terrain for any singer to work with. Most of it plays along pop-like structures (if not timbres), and none of it feels too experimental or taxing, though there are plenty of intuitive twists and turns in the production and songwriting.
The music is, however, a clever vessel, because these are some of the more vulnerable and expressive lyrical performances we've heard in awhile. In Bee Kay's own words, “Lies I Tell Myself About Myself tells a story about the darkest moments before the dawn in recovery from sexual violence...[and] pits such themes as codependency and suicidal ideation.” While those themes aren't explicitly rendered in the lyrics (at least too explicitly), Bee Kay's confessional, confrontational inhabitation of them is enough to bring about a sort of catharsis, both in the performer and, potentially, the listener.
We get the sense that Kidman is experienced in playing characters. Several show their face here. While we believe that artistic license is limitless, the experience of listening to Lies has a lot do with the question of how fictional the narrators in these songs are (and secondly, where they might apply to the listener's own experience).
In any case, there's way more going on than you get at first blush. On “Bloodletting,” during one of the album's more melodic and affecting moments, Bee Kay's voice breaks into a sharp melodic hook. “I'm into blood, I'm into bloodletting. / I thought you should know, should know what you're getting. / If you can't take me, you won't get me.” It's less a come-on than a stark declaration of fact, and while the statement contains potentially many valences, whoever Bee Kay’s addressing doesn’t seem to have reckoned with them yet. The bubbling techno-collage of “I Came” allows for the album's best performance, a deranged and devotional banger where Bee Kay lays bare a relationship's power dynamic. “You called for my body, you called for my blood, and I came. / You wanted somebody you didn't have to love, but I came.”
Despite all this, Lies I Tell About Myself somehow doesn't play darkly. Much of the album sounds provocative, empowering, adventurous and fun. For a collection of songs that so forthrightly deals with such heavy subject matter, a lot of artists would have been bogged down in histrionics. That's the power of this album. These songs don't feel like Bee Kay is inviting the listener into some dark and inexpressible part of themselves they're struggling to articulate. Instead, the opposite is true. These songs take that dark matter and throw it up into the air, laughing at it and splattering it with glitter. We have no idea how this translates to the stage, but if there's one arena where we believe Bee Kay has complete control, its the live performance. There's a whole lot to process here, and we expect them to be ready for it. Expect a lot of glitter.
Bee Kay Esq | December 8 | Sat 8 pm | The Apohadion Theater, 107 Hanover St, Portland | $10