Christopher Porterfield might be a name familiar to those who have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bon Iver timeline – he used to be in a band with Justin Vernon, DeYarmond Edison, before going their separate ways. Whilst Vernon found international success, Porterfield very much stayed put. He gave himself five years to practise his own musical chops and it’s only now that Field Report, his new project, emerges.
Since its inception, there has been plenty of buzz for the newly-formed sextet and the likes of Aimee Mann and Emmylou Harris have invited them to open up their shows. In America, where their debut effort has been out for some time, they have been critically revered. Recorded with Beau Sorenson at Vernon’s studio in Wisconsin, this is a rich album that mixes simple songcraft with lush arrangements. It also reveals Porterfield to be an impressive singer, showing off different ranges as he goes along. Taking Alcatrazz sees his harmonies rise triumphantly above the sparse instrumentation, without sounding too overbearing.
Musically, this is shorn of any rough edges, there is a good deal of polish given to tunes like the soaring ‘Incommunicado’ and ‘Evergreen’. However, this doesn’t make them sound any less authentic or engrossing. All of the ten songs on Field Report have a love for atmosphere. ‘Fergus Falls’ is one of many solid tracks. The song gently builds upon its layers, seemingly forever ascending until it eventually does stop. Then there’s ‘Chico The American’, which is a thing of elegant, understated beauty.
Whilst this isn’t going to set the world alight, there is something comforting about Field Report. It’s a mixture of their warm, gorgeous aesthetic and Porterfield’s earnest vocals that ensures that the songs remain captivating. This is nothing more than another slice of Americana, but it’s a damn good one at that.
Words: Max Raymond