Musicians who supplement their sounds with visuals risk diverting the audience’s focus away from their music, but Warren Hildebrand of Foxes in Fiction showed how perfectly art and music intertwine to make something brand new and wonderful. Foxes in Fiction, Hildebrand’s solo project from New York City, graced the stage of Comet Ping Pong on April 24.
Hildebrand’s 2016 creation, “Ontario Gothic,” combines dreamy beats with Hildebrand’s enchanting voice to build an alluring and cohesive album. His vocals are smooth, haunting and powerful. On stage, the music is just as good as after production, which he does himself as a part of his own independent record label, Orchid Tapes, founded in 2010. Hildebrand has no visible instruments on stage, instead standing as a lone figure, mimicking the vulnerability in his songs, in front of a workstation of buttons, switches and jumbled up wires.
The visuals behind him project a long slow-motion film depicting a drive through a peaceful countryside and a forest with light streaming through the trees. As it plays, his figure becomes an illuminated silhouette. The film enhances the music in a way the listener did not realize they wanted, painting Hildebrand’s words with broad brush strokes of branches swaying in a recognizable fall, cascading a curtain of nostalgia on the listener.
From the tangle of wires and his quick fingers comes the shadowy and opulent melody of “School Night” from his 2013 album, “Alberto.” “Forward moving forward, but nothing is found / Pointing fingers at the sky, and backs on the ground,” he sings, yearning for something that listeners cannot know.
The set is short, consisting of only four songs, but the music is so sublime, and the songs blend into one another so seamlessly that time seems to stretch on for miles. As Hildebrand closes his eyes and stands on the tiptoes of his white Reeboks, it is easy to see that the music is deeply personal to him. His performance, filling the tiny room emptied of its ping pong tables, is distinctive in its solidarity. Perhaps it is the venue, with its small globe string lights and the stage reserved for one single performer leaving you to gaze at the projected VCR-like film and Hildebrand himself. The show relinquishes you of all other feelings beyond the music and a memory you can not place.
He plays two unreleased songs from his new album, “Extinguisher” and “Summer of The Gun.” Although it is difficult to distinguish them as they dip into one another, uninterrupted by silence, his new album promises something as spectacular and otherworldly as “Ontario Gothic.”
As Hildebrand finishes his set, gliding smoothly into the title track, “Ontario Gothic,” the familiar hook reels the crowd in. He sings, or rather sighs, “And I felt just like a child / I’m taking it all from the other side / Driving with you in your car / The home that I know seems so far / Spring, fall, I’ve lost it all (the morning fog),” as he replaces the silence he once took, leaving the listener wistful and pining for more. The performance itself created something new entirely, and, with just four songs, Hildebrand wove his already beautiful songs and thought-provoking film into a brilliant and innovative dreamscape.