Originally published and still available on Gigslutz (08/09/14).
Album artwork, in purpose, provides the listener with a vision to the symbolic meaning of the composition they are about to absorb. With that in mind, a searchlight pointing in the opposite direction from its missing suitor sets a rather melancholy tone for Field Report‘s second album, Marigolden.
The band, creatively led by Christopher Porterfield – the one time affiliate of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon – compiled an impressive collection of well known fans following their self-titled 2012 debut, including touring with Counting Crows and Aimee Mann, being championed by Mark Eitzel and Richard Thompson and having their songs covered by the legendary Blind Boys Of Alabama. However, with such inherent praise comes a certain level of expectation, and therefore it is customary of any self-respecting band to partake in a voyage to isolation to seek inspiration. Being cocooned in the womb of a seemingly never-ending Ontario blizzard (which saw the band only pause to pile firewood into the stove) gave Porterfield – of which “Field Report” is an almost pun-worthy anagram – time to mull on his troubles and the riddles of his life. As a result, Marigolden combines his anxiety over loved ones, distance and the passage of time with minimalist composition to produce a piece of work that is worthy of the stark, disparate and arresting surroundings from which it was birthed.
The sombre introspection of Porterfield is potent from the off in the steady rhythms of ‘Decision Day’, his lyrics weaving echoey tales of the tribulations of love and marriage, before unexpectedly lurching into the radio-friendly tones of ‘Home (Leave The Lights On)’. Touring for such long periods of time no doubt takes its toll, with Porterfield remarking on the aforementioned song that he is “Waking up every day just a little bit changed”, and this personal detour down a route of life unknown is a recurring one throughout Marigolden. As such, the gravelly, yearning tone of Porterfield’s voice and his meandering parable entwined with the delphic harmony of the music makes ‘Pale Horse’ positively heart-wrenching.
Such composition and musicianship is, at times, easy to overlook in the humble wake of Porterfield’s influential presence, however the talents of Travis Whittey, Shane Leonard and Ben Lester marry to shape an intricate and emotive set of songs best quipped as cinematic minimalism. Together they combine skittish drumming, pensive plucking and tidal synths to create sourly emphatic tracks that often ascend to what can be considered art instead of mere songs. Pieces such as ‘Cups and Cups’ (which addresses Porterfield’s alcohol addiction with lyrics such as, “So I followed the river underground and drank it up”) and recently unveiled number ‘Wings’ levy a certain experimentation in both structure and sound, whilst ‘Michelle’ is a moving and sombre ode to the plight of an estranged lover.
It is this penchant for experimenting and pushing the conventions of their genre that make Field Report soar above their contemporaries, for in the non-linear structure of their songs and their combining electronic elements with the often repetitive and deep-rooted sentimentalities of folk – it being such a closed genre – they have breathed new life into style that can be very static. This, united with Porterfield’s talent for creating enchanting lyrical poetry (among the many, “Soaring close to God until his love melts my wings”) creates a beguiling and textured sound that enchants with the tales it weaves.
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