Free Casino melds busy guitars with contemplative moments on ‘Beggar’s Pitch’ 

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Beginning your debut album with an instrumental is a flex. For the three math-rock virtuosos in Free Casino, “Queen Anne’s Revenge” goes so hard it doesn’t need lyrics — but a well-timed scream at its climax speaks volumes.

With frantic, interlocking fretwork from guitarists Sean Saville and Jake Denning and grounded basslines from Marc Gabriel (who’s been a contributing writer to CITY), the song sets the pace for what follows on “Beggar’s Pitch.” It’s the band’s first full-length album following two exploratory EPs in 2020 and 2021. The eight-song collection was released April 14 on New York label Sad Cactus Records.

The downstate creep of Free Casino lives in the album’s DNA. Four years after forming the band in Rochester, Gabriel and Saville now reside in Brooklyn, while vocalist Denning remains here. Free Casino recorded all but one track in Ridgewood, Queens, a stone’s throw from Brooklyn’s thriving music scene in the Bushwick neighborhood.

A bobbing song called “Jester’s Privilege” nods to this, as Denning presents an annoyed yet whimsical view of big-city life: “My praise to the concrete and rain / It’s making my head hurt / It’s taking my brain.” These lines lead into a squelching guitar solo approximating the delirium of walking around an urban hub.

Yet the music itself is placeless, as the Free Casino members blend Midwestern emo’s dazzling finger styles with alternative rock’s foundational quiet-loud dynamics and rushing post-punk. One song might as well live online; the frenzied spirit and quick chaotic barbs of “Source (I Made It Up)” essentially make it “Twitter: The Song.”

Though it enters roaring, “Beggar’s Pitch” quietly finds a back door to slip out. Free Casino captured the album’s ruminative closer, “Irish Goodbye,” at Rochester’s Mirror Records in August 2021. The performance is stunning, with layers of bright guitar glowing like a sunset.

While you sort out their musical acrobatics, the trio plays itself off. And you hope they’ll return.

Patrick Hosken is a freelance writer for CITY. Feedback on this article can be directed to CITY Editor Leah Stacy at [email protected].
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