When work sucks, the commute sucks, your roommates suck, your band sucks, everything just plain sucks. When that inevitable day arrives, certain records have the transformative power to soothe the soul from the day’s toll. Foxes In Fiction’s Ontario Gothic is a record that has such power; its uplifting spirit has everything one might need for a mood improvement.
Foxes in Fiction is the moniker of Canadian-born turned New York Cit transplant, Warren Hildebrand, also known distributing incredibly ethereal music like Alex G and Elvis Depressedly via Orchid Tapes. I’ve said this of FIF’s early work and it’s worth repeating: “His music is ambient, intimate, and surreal; almost all of his tracks feel like they’re floating on air, existing in a dream like state… Taking music past the point of what our ears are conditioned to experience, Foxes in Fiction nears the connection between music and Earth by combining the two: the world is an instrument, and Foxes in Fiction shows us this in a beautiful way.”
Ontario Gothic is a huge leap forward for FIF; where most of his previous works incorporate elements of phonography (the art of field-recording) and sampling to create vast and ambient soundscapes, the new album introduces a much more accessible pallet of a highly-tuned pop sensibility. But even still, there is always a shield between FIF and the listener, a forcefield that requires a little digging to get to the other side in order to find out what’s happening behind that washed out field of ambiguity. Despite this, Hildebrand leaves us just enough to break through, just enough so that if you look closely you can begin to see where he’s coming from and also where the powerfully nostalgic lyrics are pointing to. Ontario Gothic is about letting go. It’s about the fears that come with letting something out of your life, whether it be a place or a habit or a general way of being. “Now find me a way to divide/All of the noise on the other side/We’ll change where we live in the fall/Soon it will feel like nothing is wrong,” he sings on the title track, the most pop-driven song on the album; its hook is a bouncy synth masked under a bed of washy harmonies which beg to be explored below its surface. And then there’s the fear of reverting back to that ‘something’ that was left behind. On “Glow(v079)” Hildebrand reveals only three lines: “What if I become/What I left behind/Still I glow.”
There isn’t a single dissonant note on Ontario Gothic. Not one. The orchestral instrumentation (including violin and cello) is a step forward for FIF, much like the acoustic drums on “Shadow’s Song”, which brings us down to earth for a short time. Easily the standout track on the album, “Shadow’s Song” is a dreamy field of melancholia.
There’s something about ambiguity that keeps the mind wondering and listening. When you hear a sound that you can’t identify, your natural instinct is to find the source of that sound. Foxes in Fiction is doing something similar; he tempts us with a carefully placed ambiguity, and he’s definitely baiting us. As we wind down for the day let’s appreciate that Foxes in Fiction gave us a no-pressure, short little break to sit back and feel the vibes or look further.