Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Swung From the Branches - Foxes In Fiction

Swung From the Branches

Foxes In Fiction
Moodgadget Records.

SCQ Rating: 72%

Haze, being the weapon-of-choice for so many bedroom producers of late, has developed a reputation for being hollow. It’s an understandable skepticism; as much as I’ve tried to narrow the blame to those artists who use haze like a songwriting shortcut, records like Swung From the Branches incite a knee-jerk here-we-go-again upon first fuzzy cloud of keys. Warren Hildebrand, the lone composer behind Foxes In Fiction, deserves little of this skepticism for a number of reasons, the least of which being that strung-out haze doesn’t even figure into his work until the onset of Swung From the Branches’ massive middle-section.

Until then, Hildebrand sets the parameters of his full-length debut around budding tapestries of ambient gauze (‘Basement Window’, ‘Sleeping Building Unsuspecting’) and drifting vocals over half-erased beats (‘Coffee Cups That Won’t Break Down’). Both compositional camps engorge the same moody enterprise, with each track snowballing into a comforting but progressively remote cocoon of electronics. This glacial dissolve of sequencing comes to a head with ‘8_29_91’ and ‘Mialectric’; the former a beautiful soundscape of light beats haunted by a desperate monologue, the latter a lively break of tampered loops and confrontational synths. This couplet of stand-alone tracks may sonically climax Swung From the Branches’ first half but greater surprises await just beyond the threshold.

Announced by a dripping guitar and distant vocals, ‘Bronte Balloons’ defies its slight instrumental status by foreshadowing a serious shift for the second half. The gentle guitar arpeggios of ‘New Panic Cure’ and ‘Jimi Bleachball’ are quick to suggest Atlas Sound, with Hildebrand providing similarly muffled (although less androgynous) vocals. Here’s where the issue of haze – its merits, its cheats – arrives, gently coating these rock-oriented songs with atmospheres that negate the need to arm a song beyond its skeletal mould. And while a track like ‘Ativan (Song for Erika)’ or ‘Snow Angels’ contains no shortage of haze, spread like a varnish over Hildebrand’s vocals and instruments, I’d argue my skepticism lies not in whether his use of haze is a cheat – it isn’t – but how these examples sound insanely too close to Bradford Cox’s solo project. If Foxes In Fiction prove so capable of ambient electronics (to the point of discarding the skill halfway through an album) and alternately accomplished at hazy, vocal-infused compositions (check out ‘Memory Pools’ or the excellent ‘Flashing Lights Have Ended Now’), why pad Swung From the Branches with a few songs that sound so loyal to one of indie-rock’s most prolific artists?

At seventy-one minutes in length, Swung From the Branches suggests I don’t hold my breath waiting for an answer to that pressing question. While accusations that one sounds like Bradford Cox are in no way an insult, these suspect tracks do steal me from Hildebrand’s otherwise unique creation. Stretching over twenty-two tracks, Swung From the Branches deserves its multiple identities and its potent ability to frustrate. It’s a sequencer’s dream to navigate and mentally rearrange, a bipolar record that forces a serious study of haze and its possibilities.


Warren Hildebrand said...

Thanks for the review, I appreciate the kind words.


SCQ said...

Thanks for reading, Warren.

What I'm beginning to love most about your record is what initially frustrated me; that the impenetrability of its sequencing is something I now find comforting instead of puzzling. Hope you're having fun in NY!