Release Date: Nov 16, 2010
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Folk, Folk-Rock, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Neo-Traditional Folk, American Underground, Acid Folk
The music of Faun Fables is linked, at least tangentially, to the British Isles folk explorations of the Watersons, Steeleye Span, Fairport Convention, and Pentangle, along with nearly ancient strains of music from France and Hungary, all woven into a healthy dose of American primitivism, 21st century psychedelia, and modern production. Yet they sound like no one else. Light of a Vaster Dark is beguiling and intoxicating; it demands attention in order to gain the full spectrum of is happening musically.
Back at the start of 2004, British music writers and associated blaggards would have received a package containing two CDs – released within a few weeks of each other, both by Californian artists making their debuts for the same label after a couple of under-the-radar DIY discs, and both driven by idiosyncratic female voices over ambitious readings of folk-rock. They were both great and, it seemed at the time, a world away from anything likely to be absorbed into the musical mainstream, but for Joanna Newsom, The Milk-Eyed Mender was a springboard to precisely that. For Dawn McCarthy, recording as Faun Fables, Family Album was not.
Previous albums by Oakland folk benders Faun Fables often put the compelling lyrical ideas of founder and architect Dawn McCarthy in frames too baroque for the songs' good. The Transit Rider, the band's 2006 record, explored the woes and wonders that modern technology holds for our social existence. With subways, computers, and the Internet, our relationships might become more casual, McCarthy posited, and our encounters less meaningful.
In an age where it seems like many bands are content to arrange disparate influences, tack on anachronistic iconography, and douse the whole mess in reverb, composition-by-triangulation is the name of the game. In the face of such obscurism, Faun Fables — though drawing from a dizzying variety of folk traditions, from Merlin to Laura Ingalls Wilder — compile a satisfyingly coherent package of mystical, neo-pagan bullshit. More moody and free-form than Dawn McCarthy and friends’ previous efforts, Light of a Vaster Dark marks their first release since 2006’s The Transit Rider.
Dawn McCarthy hasn’t necessarily made it easy to read her Faun Fables. Through her dalliances with performance art theatrics, rustic film-noir atmospherics and heady conceptual songwriting – which reached a peak on 2006’s The Transit Rider – McCarthy and her primary Faun Fables sideman Nils Frykdahl have in part been ghettoised by both inverted snobbery and forgivable misunderstanding. However, thanks to the profile-lift of McCarthy adding her keening authoritative tones to Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s acclaimed The Letting Go and a greater sense of inviting warmth, this latest Faun Fables LP deserves to reach far beyond a niche audience.
Helen Merrill and Dick Katz By the mid-1960s jazz was obviously not popular music anymore. Gigs were scarcer; great musicians were leaving the country or looking for work on television shows. But all this had an upside too. Jazz was becoming wise, strange and bitter, a dream world full of wide-open space or density, meta-thoughts and paradoxical impulses.