Paul Fonfara and the Ipsifendus Orchestra – 7 Secrets of Snow press release

7 Secrets of Snow is the 4th record by songwriter, composer, multi‐instrumetalist Paul Fonfara. This album drifts from his previous songwriting ventures and ups the scale wih a fully fledged 12 piece Balkans styled Brass Band and Chamber Orchestra, playing a surreal cinematic score. 7 Secrets of Snow is the raucaus, yet delicate Pet Sounds of Spaghetti Western, Heroin Klezmer meeting with Psychedlia Shoegaze, Sci‐Fi, and Contempory 20th Century Minimalism.

Fonfara began his career in Denver playing Clarinet, Cello and Guitar with Devotchka, Woven Hand/16 Horsepower, and as accompanist to alt county stalward Jim White. He then later moved to Minneapolis to join local favorites The Spaghetti Western String Co., and the Brass Messengers. All the while he has recorded a number of albums leading his own band Painted Saints, also touring often as a soloist, and noted for his virtuosic whistling, clarinet and looping.

In September of 2013, Fonfara was touring in the UK opening for Jim White where he met with the film makers behind the BBC cult classic ‘Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus’. They were working on a new documentary following the famous/notorious Russian clown Slava Polunin as he makes a homeward trek through Siberia in the middle of Winter. Fonfara was asked to score the film, but they began to run into serious post production delays. In the meantime, Paul won a Minnesota Artists Initiative grant using the score’s sketches to record his own record, create his own films and illustrate the collection. The result was 7 Secrets of Snow owing it’s title to the original London based film and a Russian proverb. To realize the compositions, Paul assembled The Ipsifendus Collective , which takes it’s name from an Edward Gorey story. Ipsifendus is the sound a rather charming devil makes as it descends from the sky. The orchestra is made up of some of Minneapolis’ most prolific and notable composers/ film score players with Saw, Accordion, Cello, Clarinet, Cornet, Piano, Bass, Drums and Honk Festival favorites the Brass Messengers.

While the record’s inspiration began in composing for Siberian winterscapes, it soon took on its own life and each piece it’s own world. The Grass(DeGrasse) is Always Greener is a nod to physicst Neil Degrasse Tyson. Tar Sands, the lone vocal song, is a serene take on the desolate beauty of the waste that is the Alberta oil pits. Housitania comes from a short story written on the sinking of the Housitonic, the first vessel to be sunk by a submarine during the civil war. The record also includes a book of illustrations by Whittney Streeter, and the group performs with the accompanying films live.

The release of this record corresponds with a busy schedule as Fonfara will be touring solo supporting a West Coast tour with Cloud Cult, dates in the deep south with Jim White, opening for Romania’s legendary Fanfare Ciocarlia and headlining the Square Lake Film Festival.


Press Quotes

"(Seven Secrets of Snow) has a serene, wonderstruck quality, owing largely to the clean, penetrating tone of Fonfara's woodwinds...far reaching and vivid'         Brian Zimmerman, Downbeat

"Fonfara’s magnetic playing provided the evocative embellishment you didn’t realise a song could benefit from until you heard it. The occasional use of looping gave the (mostly) sad songs an otherworldly veneer."                                              The Scotsman, Glasgow

 

"Fonfara's unique stylings could be heard as some gentle perversion of Americana into modern, individualistic song".                                             Vijay Venkat,  The Guardian London

 

"Paul Fonfara isn’t exactly new, more undiscovered, or even unappreciated, it’s a shame, he’s one of those musical givers, one of those that you digest and it leaves you full inside, a more complete, better person.  Sure it’s not earth shattering or wildly original, it’s just better, like buying a car with leather seats or a better stereo.  It’s not bigger, frillier, just good, rock done fully, satisfying, care for - understood, solid.  In a disposable, flippant and irreverent world Paul, with or without the Painted Saints gifts us craftsmanship, a talent well-honed and god knows we’re crying out for skilled practitioners."

-Rudie Humphrey, Americana UK

 

Lead by multi-instrumentalist Paul Fonfara, a virtuoso clarinet player with a handle on just about any music-making device you can throw at him, Painted Saints are perhaps the most accomplished local band you've never heard of. A transplant from an incestuous Denver music scene, Fonfara possesses a technical prowess that has been on international display for years. He is a former member of Devotchka, 16 Horsepower Woven Hand and touring sideman to Jim White, along with local favorites Spaghetti Western String Co., and the Brass Messengers, but it's his songwriting and orchestral creativity that get the limelight with Painted Saints. Live, Fonfara layers guitar, clarinet, an archaic Argentinian squeezebox, and whistles that would make Andrew Bird blush, resulting in a spaghetti western, heroin klezmer, experimental gutter blues, shoegaze chamber folk, psychadelic motown dirge. Also a talented painter, Fonfara pens lyrics that detail the kind of dark and vivid imagery one could imagine Hieronymus Bosch creating, were he raised in modern-day rural America.

-Christopher Mathew Jensen City Pages

If Disney’s Fantasia grew up and released an album, if Golgo Bordello mellowed out and accuired an orchestra, if Morrisey was actually as deep as he wants to think he is, you would have somewhat of an idea of the sound of The Painted Saints. In short, The Painted Saints are pretty damn good. Their sound is somewhat small orchestra-like and I could of sworn that on some of them that I heard a theremin in the background. All of them are very dark sounding but not in a lame Goth kind of way, they don’t make you want to smoke cloves and worship Johann Vasquez or anything. The closes they come to ‘rock’ on this album is the song, ‘Tinder,’ which has more of a guitar part than most of the songs on the album but still stays true to The Painted Saints’ dark orchestra sound by retaining the same instruments, cellos etc. “For the Brokers of Bottles,” takes on somewhat of an eerie marching band sound kind of tone. The best song on the album I was pleasantly surprised with was The Painted Saints covering Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Oh, Comely.” They seem to slow it down just a tad more than Neutral Milk Hotel originally does it and naturally they throw in a cello. Also theres no mistaking the theremin in this one now. All of these songs all show off how wonderfully The Painted Saints can have their own distinct sound while not recreating the same song again and again. The album is good, period. I have no constructive criticism this time around and await the instructions telling me where I could buy it. Well done, Painted Saints. Well done.
— Hot Indie News
The appreciation for the odd or slightly out of whack sound served fonfara well. that sense of mood alng with fonfara’s eye for the unusual and his ability to seamlessly integrate different instruments and traditions into single songs keeps The Bricks Might Breathe Again from being easily pigeonholed. The sleepy, nodding “Paladin Whine” stands in marked contrast to the chain-gang country stomp of the title track and somewhere in the middle rests the Victorian March of “For the Brokers of Bottlecaps”. Tying it all together are instrumental interludes that give the record the cohesive feel of a soundtrack. It’s an intimate record of small pleasures that grows with each listen.
— -Steven McPherson Reveille Magazine
In your dream your car and breaks down in the middle of the American West. You’re at a non-place where you can see the desert, the forest and the plains stretching off into the distance. The shadows of mountains rise behind the fog that shrouds everything. I doesn’t take you long to realize that you’re lost in time as much as in place. “The Bricks Might Breathe Again” by Painted Saints could be the soundtrack to this dream. Painted Saints are lead by Paul Fonfara, late of Denver currently of Minnesota. To get from one to the other he had to make his way across much of the American plains and, apparently, make his way through every genre of Americana. He’s a multi-instrumentalist wielding guitar, clarinet and bandoneon, he also takes on the singing/song writing duties (he’s a damned good whistler,too). With other folks bringing the cello, saw, bass, violin, toy piano and percussion Painted Saints are more an ensemble than just a band. But there’s a humbleness to the “chamber country” found here. These songs are always accessible, never pointlessly virtuosic. Perhaps it’s the clarinet... or the cello. But this album doesn’t stay land locked in the middle of America. There’s a palpable European undercurrent washing through the songs. The clarinet brings in bits of klezmer, the guitar sounds positively flamenco at times and “For the Brokers of Bottlecaps” is a waltz for a broken Baltic capitol. These influences aren’t jarring they just help make the haunted rural landscape that much more otherworldly. We’re not quite in another world but the elegiac manner of the vocals is straight from the borderland between here and the Other Side. This matches the mannered, judicious percussion that’s so laconic you’re bound to think less of high spirited country music and more about somber “indie” rock like Morphine or Low. The rhythm section knows that you can’t go too fast if you want to hypnotize the audience. You can hear the influence of contemporary music throughout “The Bricks...”. This isn’t just another retro-folk album the song writing is so tight, so succinct that it feels completely modern. Even at their most protracted they evoke God Speed You! Black Emperor more than any meandering folky, just check out “Paladin Whine”. It’s nice that musicians can sound so world wise and still be so wonderfully youthful. All of these elements work together to create an amazing amalgam. This troupe feels like a French cafe ensemble that got lost time and was forced to work with sheet music from the last 100 years. But Painted Saints work it all into a cohesive dreamscape, the soundtrack to your dream if it was directed by Sergio Leone.
— SEPIACHORD
Company Town takes country-blues-folks at its finest and adds awe-inspiring cello, bar banter wisdom and a few wild cards for good measure, hearkening back to a mythical time when men were men, moonshine flowed freely and a musician couldn’t get by if he didn’t play a mean fiddle and whistle for a fistful of dollars in his sleep...Company Town is not merely an excellent and evocative album, but something rarer— one of those hair on the back of your neck records that comes out of nowhere and inhabits your CD deck for weeks.
— Nick Norton Splendid

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