You don’t need an orchestra to express greatness. Intimacy and reality can speak louder than the thickest arrangement. But tapping into all the available sonic channels can provide a rich truth. The sound of far-off howling underneath the breathy cry of a “Flamenco Sketches” saxophone at the outset of Logan Farmer’s A Mold For The Bell does just that. It starts like a good film. It paints a picture, sets a scene, and places the listener in a new, beautiful world.
Following in the Soft-Croon tradition of fellow Colorado folkers Covenhoven and Gregory Alan Isakov, Fort Collins’ Farmer paints with a palette of little more than acoustic guitar and vocal. But a flutter of woodwind textures, flecks of orchestral harp and thoughtful string arrangements elevate the album’s eight songs to a 10.
Fans of Bon Iver will love A Mold For The Bell, but expect a few unique brush strokes in this impressionist piece, namely, the pointed, trembling timbre of Farmer’s vocal: It’s hushed and rife with vibrato yet convinced with a determined grit.
The record stands on the strength of understatements, but Farmer doesn’t let it slide without a few shock-tactics. “Crooked Lines” strikes through the tranquil collection with what sounds like Sonic Youth destroying a guitar amp, crushed through an 8-bit sampler. But this disruptive stab is quickly balanced by all the record’s orchestral pieces coming together in the wonderfully enveloping “William.” The silken lines of Joseph Shabason’s saxophone hypnotize as Farmer laments on balladry’s oldest subject: pining. “The Moment” is another highlight, filling lush spaces a la The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs soundtrack or an Iron & Wine EP.
Perfect for an intent listen by a November fireside, A Mold For The Bell marks Farmer’s second release with Austin-based label Western Vinyl. Many of the album’s touchstones can be credited to Shabason and producer Andrew Berlin, who, known for his work at the Fort Collins punk institution The Blasting Room, shines as a dynamic, minimalist producer willing to take risks on an art-folk record.
“…You will paint a landscape on the door, I will fake an illness for your warmth,” Farmer sings. “Suddenly remember what the firewood was for: casting jagged shadows on your wrist – I always wanted this.” It’s easy to guess that Colorado’s most discerning listeners have always wanted the imagery and dynamic beauty of A Mold For The Bell too.