- Silence or Swell
- Cue Sunday Bells
- Horsehair (feat. Mary Lattimore)
- Crooked Lines
- The Moment
- South Vienna
“It’s going to be hard to talk about this when it’s done.”
So begins A Mold For The Bell, the new album from Colorado singer-songwriter and producer Logan Farmer. What follows that enigmatic lyric is a collection of stark and ambient folk songs, tethered solely by Farmer’s unadorned vocals, acoustic guitar and moving embellishments from contributors like saxophonist Joseph Shabason (who also mixed the album) and renowned harpist Mary Lattimore.
With the help of Grammy-nominated producer Andrew Berlin (Gregory Alan Isakov), Farmer tracked all of the vocal and guitar parts over two days in the early months of 2021. The tracks were recorded quickly, live in the studio to capture the raw intimacy and immediacy of Farmer’s live performances. The rest of the album’s creation occurred remotely, over texts, phone calls and emails with Shabason and a handful of other musicians as wildfires, insurrections and the pandemic raged around them.
“I was working at a bookstore that winter,” Farmer explains, “and I’d walk to my shift every day, obsessing over lyrics and early mixes in a cheap pair of earbuds.” These daily walks would take him past a church, where he’d often stop on the sidewalk and listen to the bells at the top of the hour. “I’ve always loved the sound of church bells, but as the situation worsened, what began as a comfort began to feel ominous, almost threatening.”
This experience, alongside influences as disparate as Tarkovsky’s film Andrei Rublev and the novels of Olga Tokarczuk, led to a collection of songs that are similarly foreboding, expanding upon the stark and spacious universe of Farmer’s last album (2020’s Still No Mother) to reveal an atmosphere that’s even more oppressively still, like an abandoned Victorian home.
Despite its doom-ridden formation, A Mold For The Bell retains a distinctly warm and homespun quality, replacing the digital drum machines and synth pads of Still No Mother with the lonely flutter of a clarinet and the occasional swell of strings. The first track, “Silence or Swell” is a dance between finger-picked acoustic guitar and a mournful saxophone solo from Shabason, in which Farmer asks quietly, “What are you afraid of, silence or swell?”
This question is answered implicitly in the second track “Cue Sunday Bells”, amid a graceful backdrop of cello and clarinet: “Despite the silence,” Farmer sings, “I want to live”. The listener is drawn in further by tracks like “Horsehair” featuring harpist Mary Lattimore, and the strangely sinister “Crooked Lines”, which defies expectation with dissonant punches of distortion and swirling sax. The second half of the album features tracks like the gently orchestral “The Moment” and the climactic “Renegade”, which ends with unsettling bursts of glitchy, electrified woodwinds.
Unlike its predecessor, which was a personal exploration of Farmer’s climate anxiety, A Mold For The Bell reads like a collection of short stories, a series of disparate voices and doomed romances that seek dignity in a time of environmental and societal collapse. Lyrical imagery like bells, ruins, and archways appear repeatedly throughout the album, giving the impression that you’re overhearing a conversation, hushed and in confidence.
The closing track, “South Vienna”, finishes the collection with something that resembles a waltz, amid a stream of elegiac saxophone and delicate piano chords. The “this” that was so hard to talk about in the first track has reappeared, and Farmer exits with a confession, although it sounds as if he’s addressing an empty room:
“I never wanted this, I never asked for this”
The music finishes and the listener is left without further explanation, an intruder in an empty home, as a field recording of church bells lingers in the distance.”
Vocals, guitars, synths, field recordings:
Logan Farmer and Andrew Berlin