Well Kept Thing (btv115) cd/LP
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1. After the Walk (3:37)
2. Count Basie and His Daughter’s Shoes (4:59)
3. Noble Scales (4:28)
4. Something or Other (3:11)
5. Gottlieb Deux (2:19)
6. Enlist Now (3:20)
1. Gottlieb’s Dragon (4:52)
2. Calm Blood (5:10)
3. Supermonster (5:55)
4. Eight Belles at Midnight (2:33)
5. Pine Resin Transfer, Amber Hands (4:15)
Blistering drums, masterful melodic interplay, dynamic composition and a distinct smattering of brass — these are the defining qualities of Foxhole, a post-rock group of limited output but surprising longevity. And on their third proper album, Well Kept Thing, the band builds on their diverse foundation to deliver a (mostly) instrumental album for the ages.
Written across 12 years, five states and three countries, Well Kept Thing is a sonic autobiography, telling the story of a band growing up and journeying apart, while fighting against distance and the demands of adulthood to preserve their friendship.
The beginnings of the album lay in Bowling Green, a midsize Kentucky town where the members met as teenagers nearly two decades earlier. Those threads are laid bare in the album’s oldest track, “Noble Scales,” a cavernous post-rock ode with a linear build punctuated by an iconic guitar riff; one of the few tracks to have been written with the members together in a single location, its name honors the late Jason Noble, a fellow Kentuckian whose bands Rodan, Shipping News and Rachel’s were formative to Foxhole’s sound, and to the region’s distinct musical stylings.
The album’s opener, “After the Walk,” is a party anthem (if ever post-rock had one) that hints at the more complex structure and tone that would come to mark Foxhole’s next decade of songwriting. After two members coincidentally moved to Austin, TX within months of each other, they penned the song’s melodic guitar and piano parts under a live oak tree off South Congress before sending the tracks east for additional guitar work in Louisville and drum tracking in Nashville.
Slowly, a new writing process emerged, and with it a new aesthetic. Emails and mp3s were exchanged with scraps of ideas captured on phones and laptops. As those scraps became songs, they graduated to a server where a version control system tracked every change — syncing them to all five members and bridging disparate locations, time zones and work schedules. It was a rhythm that a different band might have found frustratingly slow, but played to the strengths of a group committed as much to each other as their music.
As members started new careers (as a coffee shop owner, a farmer and commercial fisherman, a creative director, an admission to MIT’s Media Lab), married, had children and continued their nomadic tendencies (Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Alaska, Switzerland, Austria), each change brought a new perspective on a growing repository of ideas.
A solemn bass line written in Vienna in the Spring of ‘07 was overlaid with a hopeful Rhodes piano in the winter of ‘11 to become the hypnotic “Calm Blood.” Feedback recorded in a Kentucky church in ‘05 underpins wailing Tennessee guitars from ‘09 to produce the thrashing “Gottlieb Deux.” And a rumination on a dead racehorse from ‘08 gained haunting electronics in ‘17 to become “Eight Belles at Midnight.”
In December 2016, it was time. Using an earlier, week-long tracking session as the foundation (recorded in 2010 at The Brown Owl in Nashville by former drummer Jason Torrence), the band convened back in Bowling Green to turn these independently evolved ideas into a coherent whole. Each song was mapped and a project plan produced, outlining the brass, keys, and electronics that would eventually stitch the album together during a recording session in a rural Massachusetts cabin.
Mixing soon fell to Grammy-winner Stephen Roessner (Saxon Shore), with mastering by Bob Weston (Shellac) — the same Weston who’d tracked Jason Noble’s Rodan some 23 years earlier. Packaging design by Adam Moore hides hints to the band’s 18-year history throughout, with the nine cities involved in the production etched into the margins of the vinyl.
The album concludes with “Pine Resin Transfer, Amber Hands,” an operatic ballad sung by harpist and long-time collaborator Timbre Cierpke, containing the album’s sole lyrics. They tell the story of the Well Kept Thing: the friendship among these members, after all these years — the expression of which is the music contained therein.
Foxhole is Derek Holt (bass), Greg Leppert (brass, keys, electronics), Adam Moore (guitars), Justin Shepherd (guitars) and Chris Vicari (drums). Past members include drummers Matthew Wilson and Jason Torrence, electronics guy Brian Toppenberg, and founding member Nathan McBroom.