Music Review: Broke for Free

posted by dpm on 05/28/2013


The person behind Broke For Free, Tom Cascino, seems to reside at the very core of total, experiential immersion.  Huh?  Let me explain it this way—The 24-year old California resident, passes time recreating with board sports; pastimes rooted heavily in the music culture, and built on perfecting the subtleties of personal style, all-the-while creating fitting beats to accompany such pursuits.  His concoctions are an instrumental blend of dexterous modulations most would liken to background music, or a musical score plucked vertically from a dreamy, minimalist film.  It’s a special brand of music that seamlessly bounds from chilling out while surfing a glassy break or moving over stone, to ‘getting in the zone’ before dropping into a half pipe, or going for a taxing redpoint attempt.  Regularly, I’ve found myself switching on BFF before sitting down to write, read, or do anything that requires copious amounts of gray matter to complete.  Adversely, I’ve caught myself fueling up for a day at the crag on a dose of one of the three Broke albums I own.  The music of BFF evokes a certain emotion—it’s a wooden peg that fits into the square and round hole.  It combines all that you’ve hoped and searched for in down-tempo electronica, making for a very potent cocktail of sorts—aural inebriation, I guess you could say. 

Album Cover:Gold Can Stay. Click the image to listen at Broke for Free's site.  

He’s released several EPs and albums thus far (notably, 'Gold Can Stay,’ ‘Grass Hop,’ and  ‘Layers’), released several remixes, and has been featured on various compilations.  The individual songs are cogs of a much larger, revolving and evolving wheel, thus it is hard to talk about specific songs without speaking about the albums as a whole.  Bookending ‘Gold Can Stay’ are two of the best head-bouncing songs I’ve heard in a long while—The Budding and The Gold Lining.  Just think Brian Eno meets Tangerine Dream with a smattering of Bonobo for tasty, good measure.  Grass Hop is laden heavily with sugary bleeps and blurps laid over simple chops and a series of seemingly urgent male voices.  Acidic and jazzy, this is by far the most experimental of the lot.  ‘Layers’ continues where ‘Gold Can Stay’ left off, adding 10 quixotic songs of ponderous awareness—these songs are some next-level kim-chee, and as LaSportiva athlete, Joe Kinder, explains, “I discovered his music...and was overtaken immediately.”  Kinder’s climbing films required a certain feel and emotion, and “Broke’s music fit perfectly.”  Kinder admits that he listens to Broke For Free’s music daily, and names a few favorites, like Note Drop and Murmur.  It appears that BFF’s music has bridged the gap between underground, DIY productions and mass appeal.  His music has been featured in everything from Nike ads to the 2012 Olympics, and from GoPro to the X-Games.     

A little background about Tom Cascino and the birth of Broke For Free.  In 2008, the confluence of his love for classic, conscious hip-hop and chill wave finally met at a headwater, and he began experimenting creating electronic music himself, and a year later he began releasing it.  He collaborates—though not frequently—with a Vancouver, BC-based guitarist who will occasionally drop him some guitar samples to toy with.  Ironically, he has never met the aforementioned guitarist in person, only via the Internet. 

So where did the name come from?  Cascino explains that the handle, Broke For Free,kind of landed in his lap.  Early in college, he was studying philosophy (before switching to an art major) and was utterly fascinated by rhetoric, especially redundancies found in the English language.  In the back of his mind, he knew he wanted a name that would 'search' well on Google (luckily, his brother worked for Google at the time, and helped him hone in on a unique name), yet hadn't been over-used (or ever used, for that matter!), so he just began generating names—one of which was Broke For Free.  Cascino explains that from a design perspective, he has always wanted a single-word artist name, and he dislikes drawing the letter ‘B’.   But due to his appreciation of the redundancy the name creates and the smart play on words, he has settled on it—at least for the time being. 


Visit Broke For Free on Facebook, or you can find his music on his website www.brokeforfree.com/, where you can make a donation in exchange for some receptively mindful music—It is well worth the coin, my friends.  

-Christopher Duca