Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Chris Bartels - Myths and Mold (2017)

Myths and Mold / Album Video Teaser #1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8y-LCoVbAE

Written by Frank McClure, posted by blog admin

Minnesota native, songwriter, husband and father Chris Bartels’ second release under his own name, Myths and Mold, is a five song EP with the same unique sound and approach to songwriting defining his other work with projects like Bora York, yet displaying a flexibility that should be a surprise to no one. Despite the EP’s incremental sound, Myths and Mold has a surprising immediacy derived from the confidence of its presentation and the strong vocal arrangements. The latter quality is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of this collection. Bartels, more often than not, pursues a widescreen vocal approach multi-tracking his voice, but he varies it enough to provide some needed diversity. If he opted for this style, song in song out, the EP would likely suffer from too much uniformity and sound too repetitive. Myths and Mold is consistently creative from the first and challenges listeners preconceptions about the limits and potential of modern popular music.

There are some obvious influences on Bartels’ music, but he never belabors them. “Blind” sports the same sort of vocal arrangements popularized by mainstream acts like Bon Iver and others, but Bartels’ has a distinctive twist on these devices that differentiates him from such contemporaries. “Missoula” creates a definite mood from its opening sounds and continues elaborating on that throughout the song’s duration. This is a much more direct arrangement and performance than the first number, but the song retains the same individualistic flair that distinguishes this album from the pack. “Stay” has an unusual and slightly mechanical sounding percussion part and the rhythmic pulse it provides helps give the song a sharper, clearer shape. Piano plays a far more prominent role here as the chief melodic instrument, but the wash of synths and keyboards introduced during the performance make an enormous impact on the final product.

The title song is the EP’s shortest performance, coming in a little less than three minutes in length, and certainly its most self-consciously artful. Piano, once again, seems to be the focal point, but it has a more diffuse and spectral quality with this song than the earlier performances. Other electronic sounds are tastefully interspersed around the piano work and the song gradually coalesces into some sort of being. Bartels’ vocals are treated with noticeable effects, but they are emotive and memorable. The choral style we’ve heard on earlier tracks is in effect here as well and closes the song on a nicely melancholic note. The EP’s last song “Counting Hands” has a marching tempo, never strident, and brings guitar back more strongly in the mix. There’s some of the same multi-tracked vocal harmonies here as we’ve heard earlier on the album, but they are intelligently arranged around the much straighter vocal passages. His guitar work has an unique sound as well that gives the song an added signature element. Myths and Mold has just enough mysteriousness to linger like a question mark with a few listens, but Bartels’ artistry and intentions become clearer and more uniform with each additional hearing.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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