BTV079 Foxhole : We the Wintering Tree

We the Wintering Tree (btv079)
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Track listing:
1. A Series of Springs and Falls
2. The End of Dying
3. Dead Rimes
4. Spectacle
5. Lent
6. At Right Angles
7. A Children’s Canto
8. Lamentation
9. A Lion in Winter / Long Live the King
10. Through Bone and Marrow
For the better part of a decade, Kentucky’s Foxhole has sought to create music that speaks from—and to, and of—the soul. And nowhere is that pursuit so potent as on their debut full-length album We the Wintering Tree. Beginning with the blooms and fades of “A Series of Springs and Falls,” into the relentless, back-and-forth rock of “The End of Dying,” and capped by the somber reflections of “Through Bone and Marrow,” the ten songs on We the Wintering Tree take listeners through the life, death and cyclical rebirth of nature. The imagery is echoed through the white snow and sleeping tree of the letterpressed album artwork. We the Wintering Tree is an overwhelming look at life and death, of mortality and transcendence—or, to quote the band’s liner notes, “The sign of a promise of a new and better life.” From start to finish, We the Wintering Tree is a sober (if not altogether somber) reflection on the unclassifiable emotion, as well as the tenuous hopes and relentless fears of humanity.

Recorded across two weeks of near-constant activity in the sanctuary of a small-town Kentucky one-room church. “We wanted something big, something that made the drums sound massive, but we wanted to do it without artificial effects. Everything was recorded with two ambient condenser mics out in the pews, along with direct mics on amps, so that we’d have stereo room sound wherever we wanted it. I’ve always loved one-room country churches — there’s something about the high ceilings and simplicity of the architecture that makes anything you put in there sound rich, and I think that natural effect lends an honesty to the songs.” says Foxhole’s Greg Leppert, who also engineered the album.

Foxhole’s sound has generally been classified instrumental “post-rock.” The interplay of guitars, bass, and trumpet atop a barrage of deft percussion has brought comparisons to instrumental bands such as Explosions in the Sky, Mogwai, and Do Make Say Think, though the offering on We the Wintering Tree is much more diverse than those comparisons might indicate. It is the beautiful trumpet backbone that sets them apart from others in the post rock genre, the horn tones filling the melodic space of a guitar amp or the voice of an absent singer.

Most of the band grew up around Louisville, and that ‘90s indie rock scene profoundly affected the group’s approach to music. Shades of Slint, Rodan, Rachel’s, and Papa M lightly color We the Wintering Tree, though a decidedly more optimistic note rings through. Contrasted against those seminal bands, Foxhole’s composition comes across as more traditional; yet the band’s overall approach on We the Wintering Tree was more dynamic, and arguably more articulate. Through major shifts in tone and emotion, Foxhole holds constant to what might be called post-humanism — looking in while ringing out.

Formed in and still centered around Bowling Green, Kentucky, Foxhole released their late 2006 Push/Pull ep on Philadelphia’s Burnt Toast Vinyl. Despite its brevity (five songs in about 30 minutes), it was selected as No. 7 on The Silent Ballet’s Top 50 Instrumental Albums of 2006 list (one spot above Mogwai, in fact).

“Foxhole is the anti-Explosions in the Sky, in the sense that it succeeds in remaining exciting… This is a particularly hard album to define because inside its extreme coherence one feels much more broad musical influences and an extreme ease and self-confidence of it… With Foxhole, one finds feelings which one has not had in ten years, from the time when the genre was young and free and where each group was able to bring its own vision… The heart of the musical myth that is Louisville starts to beat again.” –Translated from the French zine Derives,

“As one of [the] most overlooked albums, ‘We the Wintering Tree’ is a testament to Foxhole’s talent and artistic creativity. The album moves with varying force, changing forms slightly from song to song in order to creative a diverse arrangement of compositions and sounds.”–