On September 9 at The Imperial, Foxes in Fiction delivered their opening set like a calmly taught lesson. Vocally, the songs were structured with patience and deliberation. Project-founder and guitarist, Warren Hildebrand’s lyrics floated from his lips like bubbles as each syllable arched before being rounded entirely in careful enunciation.
In steps as smooth and angle-less, bandmate Emily Reo’s keys had a celebratory quality to them. Less unruly, more respectful, Reo looped riffs as a giant blue snowflake was projected on the wall behind the stage. The pairing concepts invoked reverent Christmas connotations.
Part way through the set Owen Pallett joined Hildebrand and Reo on violin, looping glassy bow strokes. These added emotional height to each tune, particularly “Shadow’s Song,” a collage of swelling instrumental loops that brought the set to a close. Colourful and thick, these layers were a platform for Hildebrand’s steadily sung falsetto.
Next up was California band Avi Buffalo, a notable change from Foxes in Fiction. In the first tune, lead singer and guitarist Avi Zahner-Isenberg’s words collected together at the chorus, holding none of Hildebrand’s isolated placement. Another palpable distinction from Foxes was Avi Buffalo’s overall un-ambient sound. The four person group put together undistorted indie pop tunes using keys, bass, guitar, and drums.
For their fourth song, purple set light shone on Zahner-Isenberg, distracting the audience as the other three members of the band exited the stage. Singing “Summer Cum,” Isenberg’s balladry had the feel of a ‘60s folk cover. As the tune’s loveliness unravelled, the spotlight turned white and panned into the crowd. This would prove to be one of many clumsy lighting manoeuvres that distracted from the night’s music.
Owen Pallett’s headlining set began with him addressing this haphazard lighting. He instructed that the lights be set to half their current brightness as he and his bandmates, Robbie Gordon (drums) and Matt Smith (bass, backing vocals) set up.
Beginning with “That’s When The Audience Died,” Pallett plucked his violin, tumbling notes like raindrops. With the addition of broad violin strokes, the popping rainfall was put in panorama. Like his Final Fantasy moniker, Pallett’s creation was fantastical.
Announcing, “Okay this one’s tough,” Pallett launched into “Song For Five & Six.” A world in five minutes, Pallett’s loops of plucked violin strings stepped quickly in the empty spaces in between one another. This outlandish use of a classically esteemed instrument was the crux of his performance throughout the night.
Continuing his chronicles, Pallett’s siren-like bow strokes rose through tunes with a chilling and artificial air. Their whine used science fiction tropes to textures songs.
At one point Pallett begrudgingly announced he’d be playing a “bummer song” because it had been requested of him. Performing “The Passions,” his bow blew dark gusts. Barely discernible, Pallett used these gusts to shadow his voice as he repeatedly sung out “Compassion, compassion.”
Over the night Pallett and his band played 17 songs. While everything they played was cinematic, tunes from his first album, such as “Tryst With Mephistopheles,” were less sinister than re-enactments from his 2014 album, In Conflict. On these, Pallett’s most haunting technique was his threading bow strokes. Even on upbeat tunes like “The Secret Seven,” Pallett’s reveries flashed as foreboding. While his performance was magical and adventurous, these undertones prevented it from being entirely whimsical.