HOLY SONS – THE FACT FACER
Portland’s highly prolific multi-instrumentalist Emil Amos (also in Om, Lilacs & Champagne and Grail) has released multiple albums as Holy Sons ranging as far back as the early 90’s. And while I previously only dropped in on him on occasion, I’ve come to understand that it’s almost impossible to pigeonhole his songwriting. Previously, his albums as Holy Sons sounded homespun and lo-fi; as a grainy version of bluesy folk that kept him well under the radar. However, there is seems to be shift on The Fact Facer; not only does the production sound comparably elevated, these songs are also relatively easy to get into. On tracks like “Doomed Myself” and “Transparent Powers” he borders the polished, infectious songwriting of Beck’s Morning Phase or Sun Kil Moon. But mostly, The Fact Facer is brainy ‘doom-folk’ balanced with piercing melodies with no trouble preserving interested throughout. Several tracks take a sharp left turn and introduces exciting new element to broaden The Fact Facer’s appeal; like a dusky drone on “Selfish Thoughts” or the slick ‘woah woah’ gutars and beautiful Carpenter-esque synths on “Long Days”. And then near the back-end, you have a track like “Back Down To The Tombs” that showcase Amos smoky baritone voice over a backdrop of complex, multicolored tones. The Fact Facer comes off as extremely focused (although musically and instrumentally varied) set of songs that constantly throws the listener off balance. I can’t recommend it enough.
GIDGE – AUTUMN BELLS
Gidge’s debut album Autumn Bells is what happens when you’re creating electronic music surrounded by nothing but thick woods in the northern parts of Sweden; the music unfolds as semi-surrealistic paintings of endless woodlands and frosty fields understood through the lens of spacious, stretched-out compositions. The magic of Autumn Bells lies in the beautiful but mostly hostile instrumentation clashed with eerie warped voice samples. The chilly piano and foamy percussions of “I Fell In Love” is an ideal starting-point, although the off-color, woodsy dubstep of “Dusk” and “Fauna, Pt 2” finds Gidge lodging the territory of The Field’s suggestive minimalism, and to some extend Burial circa Untrue’s spongy lo-fi scenery. And just when you thought you had them figured out, they finish off with “Norrland”, a soaring killer with airy horns and Balearic aesthetics, more in-line with what we would expect from Studio or the now defunct Air France. I can’t wait to hear where they go from here.
FOXES IN FICTION – ONTARIO GOTHIC
Maybe you’ve already read Warren Hildebrand’s thought-provoking reaction to Ian Cohen’s review of Ontario Gothic. It got its share of coverage (also here) since I believe the ‘Pitchfork Problem’ – widely discussed a few years ago as “self-righteous writing using ridiculous metaphors and pseudo-scientific ratings” – once more showed its ugly face. It’s easy to understand why Hildebrand reacted the way he did. Because, even if Cohen’s review isn’t without merit, it’s once again a smug tone that undermines content: “At no point during Ontario Gothic does it sound like an album that would be subject to outside expectations, let alone hype.” Or ““That speaks to the appeal of Orchid Tapes in the first place, a collective that stands to snag the interest of anyone invested in the concepts of “punk”, “indie”, “scene”, and “DIY””. Hildebrand felt these statements so completely missed his intentions with Foxes In Fiction and the Orchid Tapes record label that everything else written got lost on him. Cohen’s review brings us back to the Pitchfork Problem where the publisher in question continues to disregard music and indie labels who doesn’t bid into their own narrow view of ‘hype-worthiness’. I would never have expected a ‘Best New Music’ tag slapped on Ontario Gothic; ‘dream-pop’, ‘ambient-pop’ or however way you want to define this album, isn’t ‘of now’ or ‘timeless’ enough to fit Pitchfork’s self-glorification as the gatekeepers of musical trends. So better to leave it alone then. As Hildebrand stated in his response; I’m starting to think that Orchid Tapes / Foxes in Fiction isn’t something that I should continue trying to fit into an arena like Pitchfork. We’ve been having a lot of conversations on this tour about music writing and about what is considered objectively good in the minds of writers at places like Pitchfork, and I’m starting to see how that criteria sometimes disfavors people who are outsiders, or queers, or women or who are mentally ill; things we have tried to be inclusive about with Orchid Tapes forever.”
That only leaves us with the actual music, which I’ll leave up to Gold Flake Paint and Tom Johnson’s concluding remarks; “Deeply personal from a human point-of-view, endlessly creative from a musical point of view; collectively, and whichever way you choose to look at it, a vital and important piece of work.”