foxes in fiction – “extinguisher”

– featured image courtesy of brian vu –

nestled among an unforgettable run of pivotal albums released in 2014 by orchid tapes was boring ecstasy, the first compilation offered up by the independent record label.  given the context of its arrival, boring ecstasy felt like a deserved mid-season victory lap; tracks were supplements to each artist’s repertoire, not throwaways, the sum of their parts meticulously curated to highlight key facets of the label’s roster without merely tracing its lineage chronologically.  that early mainstays could be placed adjacent to relative newcomers and not disrupt cohesion was telling, a nod to label co-founder warren hildebrand’s clear-eyed, focused vision for the consistent aesthetic of orchid tapes.

on august 12th, the label will release its sophomore compilation, radiating light: orchid tapes & friends.  as the extended title suggests, radiating light enlists a handful of auxiliary artists for contributions, and the overall tone of the track list feels decisively more collaborative: fog lake and home alone work in tandem for the penultimate cut, while emily reo and yohuna team up for “teach you.”

of course, hildebrand’s notable work extends well beyond running a record label; since 2009, he has released music of his own as foxes in fiction, his collective output a meandering collage of contemplative ambient soundscapes and hushed indie pop.  hildebrand leans towards the latter on “extinguisher,” the second offering culled from radiating light.  the track, built on celestial chord progressions and hildebrand’s processed voice, eventually swells to cinematic heights, staging a cathartic release of incalculable proportions.  take a listen to “extinguisher” below.

listen to a new song from foxes in fiction

warren hildebrand spent the better part of the past three years working on the material that would become ontario gothic, so it stands to reason that he would have a few other sketches of foxes in fiction songs that didn’t quite fit the album.  enter “october (for j),” a sprawling six-minute amalgamation of samples that hildebrand completed and premiered tuesday night on newtown radio.  the song is aesthetically more in line with the “hospital district”/”static cult” single released back in 2011, and comes days after hildebrand hinted at returning to a more experimental approach to his music as foxes in fiction.  regardless of future trajectory, “october (for j)” is a wonderful addition to hildebrand’s emotive canon.  take a listen below.

foxes in fiction – ontario gothic

as the person responsible for the lion’s share of day-to-day operations at orchid tapes, one could reasonably assume that warren hildebrand has no time left to devote towards any other project.  the brooklyn boutique has skyrocketed in terms of exposure and influence over this past year, releasing incredibly important albums by ricky eat acid, alex g, and others, all while seamlessly transitioning into the vinyl distribution game.  hildebrand, along with his partner brian vu, handles every aspect of the orchid tapes business, from dubbing tapes to packaging orders to maintaining an extensive social media presence.  despite all of these duties, hildebrand still managed to write, record, and mix ontario gothic, his second full-length effort as foxes in fiction.  it’s an incredibly poignant record, and serves as the long-missing piece to orchid tapes’ puzzle.

hildebrand’s debut, swung from the branches, was an incredibly vast album predicated on the emotions and aftermath of losing his younger brother, and contained nineteen songs of various lengths showcasing his propensity for both drone and more traditional pop structures.  in contrast, ontario gothic feels honed, polished down to a concise seven tracks and a more uniform aesthetic, one that may not embody the everlasting essence of foxes in fiction so much as it helps to represent the specific blend of healing pop hildebrand is pursuing this time around.

simple melodies adorn “march 2011,” a warbly odyssey of an album opener that compounds on countermelodies before unraveling into the first of owen pallett’s many string arrangements throughout ontario gothic.  that warble proves to be a recurring theme throughout the album in some capacity, be it in the light tremolo of hildebrand’s guitar or in the slow pan of the vocals on “glow (v079),” conveying the fragility that often accompanies a state of loss.  the highlights of ontario gothic are nestled snugly in the middle of the album, with both “shadow’s song” and “ontario gothic” employing lilting choral lines that lift hildebrand’s music from a state of uncertainty into an almost heavenly, more fleetingly self-assured realm.

despite brief moments of clarity, it’s evident that hildebrand continues to struggle with demons throughout ontario gothic.  the album itself is dedicated to a friend that died an untimely death, and it’s clear that his own brother’s passing still has a profound impact on hildebrand’s musical trajectory.  but whereas swung from the branches was an effort primarily created in solitude, ontario gothic wholeheartedly embraces outside collaboration: pallett’s strings are sprinkled throughout all but one of the album’s tracks, and three of hildebrand’s friends and label mates lend their voices to closing number “altars.”  this symbolic show of support through music is indicative of everything orchid tapes stands for, and it’s accomplished to a level of beauty and tranquility that few other artists can achieve.  lose yourself in this little album.

7.8/10

stream and download the new orchid tapes compilation

after stellar offerings from arrange and home alone, orchid tapes has pulled off an admirable hat trick this month with the release of their newest compilation, boring ecstasy: the bedroom pop of orchid tapes.  the aforementioned artists each contribute a track, along with label mainstays ricky eat acid, foxes in fiction, happy trendy, and infinity crush.  there’s even offerings from julia brown (highly recommended) and the sweater i gave you, who has something in the works for the microlabel later this year.  rounding things out is an excellent track from yohuna, “badges,” that has already been covered here at dimestore saints, but it’s still nice to hear the song within the context of the entire album.  vinyl copies of boring ecstasy are available for pre-order here, and you can stream and download the album for free below.

orchid tapes and the importance of the microlabel

because of the internet, accessibility has largely been redefined in the music world.  i’m currently reading high fidelity for the umpteenth time, a twenty-year old novel whose narrator makes passing remarks about rare, live bootleg cassettes of famous artists that he has squirreled away somewhere; fast-forward to 2014 and those tapes would be all but obsolete, with file-sharing sites and numerous back-door operations helping to eliminate the lust of ravenous music collectors.  while that specific practice may have its share of moral and legal faults, other results of this increased accessibility are undoubtedly more positive.  as i have sought to broaden my musical horizons over the past year, one result that i cannot ignore is the resurgence and importance of the microlabel.

d.i.y. certainly isn’t a new phenomenon; home recordings have existed for about as long as the technology has been available, and plenty of influential albums have been self-released or put out by tiny, blip-on-the-radar record labels.  but as the pillars of social media become more and more intertwined, it becomes easier for these small labels to gain recognition.  a simple twitter search for “cassette tape labels” yields a laundry list of results, and i guarantee even more will pop up as suggestions after some time is spent perusing said list.  in particular, labels that specialize in cassette releases do comparatively well due to the low cost overhead and the growing acceptance of tapes as a legitimate format for music.

 

one such label that i cannot help but admire, and one that deserves credit for all of the work they do, is orchid tapes.  the brooklyn-based microlabel is run by warren hildebrand and brian vu, and has been slowly archiving releases from the likes of r.l. kelly, coma cinema, elvis depressedly, happy trendy, and hildebrand’s own foxes in fiction since 2010.  a home-grown record label that disseminates home-grown music, orchid tapes embodies the d.i.y. aesthetic that has implanted itself on the internet.  digital downloads are always free and cassette prices are reasonable, and the quality of music is so good that it entices intrigued listeners (at least this one) to search through the rest of the catalog.

after cultivating a substantial following and a reputable name in the underground and online communities over the past four years, orchid tapes is poised to do big things in 2014.  ricky eat acid is set to release his debut album, three love songs, through the label on january 21st; it’s their first foray into vinyl and, at the time of this publication, less than 50 of the original 250 records are still available to pre-order.  a limited cassette run of b-sides from the album has also sold out, further strengthening the anticipation surrounding this release.  on top of the well-deserved buzz for ricky eat acid, orchid tapes is also set to release a full-length from salem, oregon bedroom popper the sweater i gave you, as well as the new foxes in fiction album.  their expansion into limited runs of vinyl is sensible, but the label’s continued dedication to the tape format is commendable.

i hope 2014 is a year of increased awareness surrounding the prowess of microlabels all across the world.  the music that they curate and support is often among the most unique and downright good the world wide web currently has to offer, and i wish orchid tapes and their colleagues nothing but the best in 2014 and the years to come.

orchid tapes

most anticipated albums of 2014

2013 has provided a wealth of new music and incredibly important albums for a multitude of genres, but as i reflect on the year’s best offerings i can’t help but to peak ahead and see what 2014 potentially has in store.  here’s my short list of bands i’m excited to hear a new album from.

adelyn rose – i guess it’s been less than two years since mezzanine, but it feels like i’ve been waiting on a new adelyn rose record forever.  the eau claire outfit has been holed up at justin vernon’s april base for the latter half of this year, perfecting a new batch of tracks.  i’ve heard a couple at various live shows, but i’m excited to finally hear another finished project from addie and company.

cloud nothings – remember when cloud nothings was on both editions of my “most anticipated” lists this year?  oops.  the good news is that the now-power trio posted a short video of them working on new songs in the studio, hinting that dylan baldi will probably dominate my headphones again in 2014.  bring it, dude.

foxes in fiction – warren hildebrand enlisted owen pallett to write the string parts for his new album, so i have to hope that the end result will be good.  the new york by way of toronto ambient act has had my attention for sometime, and i’m excited to hear a long-overdue full length album from him.  the thing could drop tomorrow or in six months; i like a project that keeps me on my toes.

gem club – the boston chamber pop trio’s sophomore album in roses is due out january 28th on hardly art records.  if you’ve heard the gorgeous lead single “polly,” you’ll know why i’m looking forward to this record.  if you haven’t, head over to their soundcloud and fix that problem.

 

memoryhouse – memoryhouse played some new songs on npr’s world cafe last month and prefaced them with the announcement that their sophomore album will be out sometime in the spring.  i’m always game to see what those two have to offer.

pillar point – i can’t tell you what got me hooked on pillar point, but i can tell you that scott reitherman’s moody synth-pop gave me an entirely new appreciation for the genre.  after a strong showing on his debut 7″ single “diamond mine” b/w “dreamin’,” reitherman stepped out of anonymity and announced the release of his self-titled debut full length album, out february 25th via polyvinyl.  if that wasn’t enough, he offered up another single, “eyeballs,” which might just be his best work yet.

 

tenement – get to know tenement.  i’ve been following them since they used to play dingy basements and coffee houses around central and eastern wisconsin when i was in high school, but now they’ve signed to don giovanni records and are prepping their first release for that label sometime next year.

tennis – the small sound ep may have served as a filler in between tennis’ second and third album, but it also hopefully forecasted the continuation of sharp songwriting and irresistible pop hooks i’ve come to expect from the band.

vancouver sleep clinic – my favorite new artist of 2013 hasn’t even released a full body of work yet.  in fact, seventeen year-old tim bettinson has only announced an ep for vancouver sleep clinic, due out early next year, but that’s enough for me.  both “collapse” and “vapour” highlighted his skill as a songwriter and his ability to evoke entire landscapes through three or four minutes of song.

 

wye oak – a recent feature over at spin revealed that wye oak is working on their fourth album, and that it will be totally different than their previous output.  guitars have been swapped for bass guitars, and the keyboard pads will be replaced with more melodic lines.  no word on a title or release date, but look for it sometime next year via merge records.