"Ontario Gothic" - Foxes In Fiction
All the headlines this day are of Guardians of the Galaxy, and rightly so, but even the Marvel-phobic have reason to delight in this Friday.
I’ve already geeked out about Ontario Gothic, the upcoming Foxes In Fiction record, but allow a few more words from us on the topic in lieu of the title track’s debut on Pitchfork.
To be unabashedly biased, “Ontario Gothic” is fabulous. It’s gorgeous from the first, as some aged keyboard ushers all else in on its back, a vital and blissful undercurrent throughout. The stage directions herein are exquisitely executed, with each part entering and exiting with seamless grace and precision. It all feels apiece, feels right, like there is no other way this song could’ve been (though there were undoubtedly tinkerings right ‘til the very end).
Each individual sound - the keyboards, Owen Pallett’s strings, Hildebrand’s own gentle voice - is a delight, and the construction and pacing of the song are irresistibly refined. It’s quite the composition.
- Tyler Hanan
"Warning" - Cymbals Eat Guitars
I reviewed Lenses Alien for my college radio station three years ago, not really having any idea on how to summarize it in a single paragraph. According to this Recoil Mag interview quoted in the Pitchfork write-up, the record was so complex that the band isn’t playing those tracks live anymore. Instead, they wrote a whole new batch to bowl people over with.
This new track, “Warning,” off upcoming record LOSE, is pretty straightforward. It’s roughly three minutes of focused, percussion-intensive indie-rock wrapped up in Joseph D’Agostino’s loquacious songwriting. I remember Lenses Alien as an incredible, baffling experience, so I expect nothing less from LOSE…except maybe less eight-minute sprawls like “Rifle Eyesight.” Cymbals Eat Guitars have also released news songs “Jackson" and "Chambers" off LOSE.
LOSE is out on Barsuk on 8/26. Pre-order it here.
Pretty People EP - Jmzs Smith
"Noir pop," the email promised. It slipped into my inbox, as understated as you please. I didn’t know what to expect, but it had my interest. It was short and to the point, a real winner. The story it told me had my interest.
James’ self-described noir pop is deft and delightful, never becoming as silly as it could be. The pop is as understated as promised, lush and lulling in its simplicity. Hypnotic waves and gentle pulses underscore the dick’s tales; they’re sounds to get lost in all by themselves. Paired with our narrator’s raspy voice, they keep their power, fully accentuating his words.
This conceit - which again, could easily descend into silliness - fully works here. I want to say it’s perfect for the EP format, but I find myself curious at the idea of a full-length tale. Perhaps another day.
The Pretty People EP is due out on cassette, fittingly, in August (the download is free on Bandcamp). I’d like to imagine the dick sitting at his desk in a dinghy room, a ratty old lamp shining a lone light on the recorder into which he speaks.
- Tyler Hanan
In the second edition of the Nothing Sounds Better podcast, Tyler and Kyle get down and dirty in the money-filled pit of Spotify and other music streaming services.
If you’re an artist, head of an independent label, or anyone else looking to chat about music on the podcast, feel free to contact email@example.com with the title “Podcast” to get with us for an episode. We promise you won’t have to smell us through the Skype interface.
The united front presented by the music, art, and title of “Quiet Seaside” is immaculate. Were someone to translate the sensation of a morning’s lazy coastal fog to tape, it would surely sound akin to this. Everything is gentle and measured. A searching, far-off brass and immutable guitar waft from the fog - all is tranquil and, well, a little damp.
This track comes from ambient artist Tor Lundvall and multi-instrumentalist Leila Abdul-Rauf, the B-side to be released on an upcoming Dais Records 7”. “Ibis” will grace the A-side. Abdul-Rauf provided pieces for the tracks - the spontaneous piano and vocals of “Ibis,” the guitar riff of “Quiet Seaside” - and Lundvall took to his ambient hand to the recordings. The initial sounds were created on a visit to Lundvall’s home in 2012, after which Lundvall worked his magic. In the case of “Quiet Seaside,” Abdul-Rauf then added that tactful brass to an early mix.
"Ibis" was actually released as a solo Abdul-Rauf track last year (though still recorded and engineered by Lundvall), gracing the her debut LP Cold and Cloud. This will be the first time the collaborative version sees light. The 7” comes out August 5 on Dais Records and is currently available for pre-order. It should make for quite the relaxing piece of wax.
- Tyler Hanan
Hello World - Khotin
1080p has released a few new cassettes. We’ve yet to delve into all of them, but I’m quite taken with Hello World, a set of eight space chillers from Khotin. Even the more upbeat, movement-focused tracks have a cleansing, low-key core, like house music for an ambient crowd. Take “Mornings” (because it happens to be the one in my ears right now), where a quick beat pairs with an overarching ambient warble. Those contrasts, multiple elements that would seem to inspire different things working together seamlessly, is present throughout.
It works marvelously - this tape is one I’ll certainly pop into my car for those cool, clear night rides. I also teetered on the brink of comparing this to a buddy cop movie in the previous paragraph, and I’m not sure what to do with that. Regardless, the tape is available now. Get acquainted with the cool, cool sounds. There are some tracks I prefer, but it all feels very of a piece, making for a solid 45+ minutes of goodness. There’s also a certain pleasure to be taken with every track falling in the four or six minute range, which could be a satisfaction entirely specific to me.
- Tyler Hanan
"Safe Haven" ft. L.W.H. and clownshoes - Nima
I’m not sure how I came to follow Nima on twitter, but I had the good luck two days ago to see Nima tweet out a new album. See Feel Real, it’s called, an album of songs both oddly melodious and decidedly arhythmic.
An old post I dug up over on The Le Sigh revealed some more information about Nima, but not much - most of what I’ve gleaned has come from revisiting recent works Spirit Sign and Sweetboy, both of which are seem a bit more ambient than the noise of See Feel Real. (Note - I’ve listened to this album far more than those two.)
Where those works edge closer to dreamy, See Feel Real edges closer to the “spooky” with which Diana Cirullo described a potential witch house comparison. This is a intriguing album to pin down, sometimes solidifying into a more recognizable structure, at others materializing only as discordant, otherworldly chimes and squiggles (a nod to “New Dance). It occasionally alternates, but always has elements of the two. At it’s best, it makes for wonderful creations that are unpredictable and, rather than delivering what you want, take you down an otherworldly side alley that’s far more interesting.
It’s an unnerving release, with a queer allure to its specifically rendered sounds. Yet even when it may seem at its most disconcerting, it can surprise; the cathedral march of “Luv’s Infinite Cinema” hides the album’s prettiest notes deep within its confines.
I’ve posted “Come Around” against my better judgement - I like to resist posting the obvious track, the feature-laden one that bears more names to draw more eyes.. I considered the fascinating “Luv’s,” the hypnotic thrall of “Safe Haven,” and the concise, more new listener-friendly “New City Grip.” That last one was especially enticing - it’s where the most light shines through. Sometimes, though, the obvious choice might be the best for bringing ears to a project.
If you’d like a cassette, they’re available from Harsh Riddims Bloodsucking Cassette Co. It may help with the not simple process of wrapping one’s head around these tunes.
- Tyler Hanan
"Left Hand Free" - Alt-J
Alright, so you know how Alt-J got big by making music that was weird and different and not quite like anything most people had heard, at least relatively speaking? And you know how that continued with the Miley-sampling “Hunger of the Pine?” Well, cynicism has reared its ugly head.
American label execs didn’t dig that new track. It didn’t settle their hit-craving stomachs in the slightest. “But where’s the hook?” they demanded, probably. “Can’t we add just a wee bit of a chorus in their, boys?” they might’ve said, but in a more demanding tone. “Nobody’s going to want this in their damn commercials!” they most definitely said.
So Alt-J, who apparently have a spiteful streak to them, set out to make the execs that single. Per The Guardian:
Hackles (mildly) raised, Alt-J resolved to write “the least Alt-J song ever”, taking a “joke riff” Joe had been playing in rehearsals and fleshing it out with the most perfunctory chords and rhythm imaginable. Whereas the band typically spend weeks agonising over every note, Left Hand Free was written “in about 20 minutes”.
Later, the band gents use the phrases “as cliched as possible,” “none of my personality in it,” and “which is a phrase I’m not sure I’ve ever uttered before.” Clearly these guys don’t pay attention to pop culture list websites or do simple Google searches.
I’m in the camp of not giving a damn about artist intent or opinions - if I think the song is good, I won’t lose a single second of sleep over the fact that Thom Yorke, Beck, or Kurt Cobain’s ghost thinks I’m an unsophisticated churl. I’ll be too busy basking in their unintentional successes. That being said, if “Left Hand Free” becomes a success, that “joke riff” might not seem so funny anymore.
We can’t really blame the band, though. What are they supposed to do - throw a fit, delay the album, and risk the irrelevance born of taking too long to return? If they want to put out an album on a large scale and all it takes is one kinda bullshit song, well, I’m not going to blame them too harshly for that. Hell, I’m a spiteful ass, I might do the same thing.
I still have to take the song as is, though. I think the song vacillates between being kind of cool in some spots and rather silly in others. It’s a little catchy, but I’d be rather shocked if it took off. My hope is that it becomes a rather clever change-of-pace or palate-cleanser in context, not that Alt-J or anyone else will ever (or should ever) care.
Oh, and This Is All Yours comes out September 23 on Canvasback/Infectious. Note the preorder: Canvasback -> Atlantic Records -> Warner Music. Aaaah.
Anyway, that was fun. We should do it again some time. Let’s see if anything actually comes of this. Most likely, the song does fine, the record sells fine, and it all comes to naught (publicly). Good times.
- Tyler Hanan
Sun Over Hills - Ricky Eat Acid
It’s a good day to be a fan of Orchid Tapes and friends. Foxes in Fiction released oodles of information about new LP Ontario Gothic, including the first single. That’s pretty excellent - we haven’t heard new material from that project in a while.
We have heard from the prolific Sam Ray this year, though. The friend of Foxes and person of many projects dropped a free new Ricky Eat Acid EP today. We’ve already heard a new album, Three Love Songs, and outtakes from Ricky Eat Acid this year - why not another five songs?
The thing is, these five songs are vastly different from the TLS material. Ambient is replaced with the electric, as the tracks are kinetic, frenetic, and fun-over-everything. It’s “like a fun nightmare.”
The EP premiered over on The Fader, as Orchid things often do, where Duncan Cooper names a few samples I couldn’t have. There’s that afore-mentioned free download, and there’s also a little statement from Rayabout the EP. I’m going to drop an interesting snippet here, but head over there to find the whole thing. It’s a pretty cool take from Ray on playing live as Ricky Eat Acid.
So with Sun Over Hills, I just wanted to make something that was fun for me. Making Three Love Songs was really taxing and a great experience, but not particularly fun. Also, this year I started playing live as Ricky Eat Acid for the first time and realized that, though it’s phenomenally transcendent in certain situations, ambient/drone music is not particularly fun to play for audiences, no matter how much you ‘sell it’.
The official street date for the EP is July 8. Dance, nerds.
- Tyler Hanan
"Shadow’s Song" - Foxes In Fiction
We’ve been waiting on this one a while. Foxes in Fiction is the project of Warren Hildebrand, who is also one of the fine folks behind NSB favorite Orchid Tapes. Small notes about a new record have been dropped here and there, like the tracklist and, before that, the title (no link to that, because I can only go so far down in a Twitter feed before feeling like an insane person).
Anyway, that album is Ontario Gothic, and this is the first single. “Shadow’s Song” is a lovely track full of an assortment of lush sounds, including violin and cello (from Owen Pallett and Ansel Isaac Cohen, respectively). It tracks like a peaceful sigh - a long inhalation of clean air and aromatic fragrances, and contented exhalation of same. It’s a portrait of a green, daydreaming tranquility.
Despite these wonderful feelings it creates (in me, anyways), the album’s focus should be noted. Perhaps the “healing” is the tie.
Ontario Gothic is an album comprised of seven songs dealing with individual instances of loss, grief and the process of healing over the five years following my younger brother’s death in 2008 and how I navigated life in the wake of that tragedy. It was recorded in Toronto and New York between fall 2011 and spring 2014.
Ontario Gothic is set to be released by Orchid Tapes on September 23. A pre-order is up now, right here. Orchid Tapes has oft had the most delightful packaging of a record, including a thank you card and Orchid Tapes stickers in a small, logo-stamped envelope, a guava candy, a logo-stamped bag of tea, and at times a photo. Ontario Gothic will include these and more. The entire list, via the Foxes Facebook
- Coloured 12” vinyl (translucent coke-bottle green / opaque doublemint green vinyl OR translucent sea blue / opaque cyan blue vinyl pressed together)
- Home-printed 11”x17” risograph poster
- 4”x6” photo print
- Printed 12” innersleeve with lyrics & credits
- Foxes in Fiction sticker
- Foxes in Fiction pin
- A thank-you note + Orchid Tapes sticker in a stamped envelope
- A logo-stamped oolong or jasmine tea bag
- Guava candy
Ontario Gothic will also include contributions from Rachel Levy, Caroline White, Sam Ray, and Beau Sorensen - again, a number of our favorites.
- Tyler Hanan