Field Report

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Marigolden Review

by Mark Deming

Field Report shrunk from seven musicians to four within a year of their eponymous debut album's release, but while listening to their second full-length, 2014's Marigolden, much of the time it doesn't seem that there are even that many people on hand. Marigolden's sound is purposefully spare and uncluttered, and one imagines the group's leader and songwriter, Christopher Porterfield, could have worked up many of these tracks by his lonesome if he'd been so inclined (and "Ambrosia" is indeed just Porterfield and his piano). While Porterfield's bandmates certainly help invite some striking atmospheres (especially Ben Lester on pedal steel and guitar and multi-instrumentalist Shane Leonard), and Robbie Lackritz's production finds a satisfying middle ground between cool, electronic surfaces and the more organic tones of acoustic instruments and percussion, ultimately this is Porterfield's show, guided by the understated force of his vocals and the evocative intelligence of his lyrical imagery, and it's impressive work. Marigolden is the sound of a world of endless prairies and snowy flatlands where a handful of characters ponder the loves they're left in transit, the peaks and valleys of the drinker's life, and a loneliness that seems at once like poison and a balm. Some albums are about mood more than anything else, and on Marigolden Porterfield shows he's a master of creating an ambience that's cinematic in its strength and emotional impact. If anything, the relative minimalism of Marigolden brings out the strengths of Porterfield's songs and the group's sagacious approach to arrangements and the studio; while it might be counterproductive if Field Report were to shrink past a quartet, the streamlined approach of Marigolden is a superb example of how less can truly be more.

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