Chris Bartels – Myths and Mold

The release of Chris Bartels’ second song collection under his own name, Myths and Mold, signals a further refinement of his already deep artistic vision. The five song EP doesn’t solely rely on a magical weaving of traditional instruments alongside synthesizers, sequencers, and other electronic instruments.

Instead, the vocal arrangements here provide listeners with every bit as much of a show as the instruments and Bartels has an impressive command over the listener’s attention despite his less than conventional voice. Post production efforts have left his performance largely untouched, but the scattered elements they do bring to his vocals make an enormously positive impact on the final product.

Myths and Mold could have easily lapsed into artful obscurity, but the Minneapolis based singer/songwriter manages to keep the songwriting accessible throughout the course of Myths and Mold. His production is equally sharp eared – the five songs on this EP are presented in the best possible sonic light.

Blind is a powerful song to begin Myths and Mold. There’s a lot of rising and falling in this song, a careful orchestration of dynamics that pays immediate dividends for the song. The naked vulnerability of Bartels’ voice doesn’t have any sort of the vocal beauty we normally associate with first class singers, but he quickly wins his listeners over with the aforementioned vulnerability and a quivering emotional tenor that cuts through the musical arrangement.

Missoula has a surprisingly pastoral quality, underscored by the brief snippet of chirping crickets heard at the song’s beginning, but it’s largely memorable for being a first class musical expression of heartfelt longing. The guitar work on this track is the best and most direct we hear on the EP as a whole and it’s mixed well with the performance.

The patient and exquisite lyricism of Stay is brought to life by tasteful piano playing juxtaposed against Bartels’ typical array of synth and keyboard lines. His voice has even more of the emotive force here that we heard in the earlier Missoula.

The title song takes a 180 degree turn with a song that doesn’t have any traditional shape, per se, but makes use of recognizable devices that make the song work for both the seasoned and casual listener alike.

The EP’s final song Counting Hands has a sharply defined line of attack from the first while still containing all of the humanity common to Bartels’ material. The emphatic nature of the musical arrangement helps make this an ideal closer with all of the intimacy that makes the EP work as a whole. Myths and Mold is a substantial achievement from its first number onward and achieves it through a combination of artfulness and profound musicality.

4 out of 5 stars

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If you enjoyed a sneak preview from Myths and Mold, check out Chris Bartels’ official website by clicking here. Give him a like on Facebook by clicking here & a follow on Twitter by clicking here.

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