Personnel: Dawn McCarthy (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums); Nils Frykdahl (electric guitar, flute, bass guitar).
Recording information: 2010; 2015/2016.
Photographers: Katherine Copenhaver; Michael McCamish; Dawn McCarthy.
After five years, pagan psych-folk outfit Faun Fables return with their sixth full-length, Born of the Sun. Unlike its most recent predecessors, Light of a Vaster Dark and The Transit Rider, this is a collection of songs recorded over a period of years based on centered themes rather than a structured concept. Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Dawn McCarthy offers an earthy series of meditations on the ritual aspects of everyday life: raising children and embracing the wilderness, family, friends, and events of home and hearth. Multi-instrumentalist partner Nils Frykdahl and their collaborators (Mark Stikman on harmonica and Jenny Scheinman on violins) color these proceedings with an expansive, sometimes nearly exotic musical and sonic palette that nonetheless always sounds organic. Faun Fables have always woven European song traditions into a music that readily reveals its seams, but bears an idiosyncratic, original identity. The album's brief intro, "Holding the Sky," entirely comprises flute trills playing in counterpoint. "YDUN" has an unusual arrangement that simultaneously recalls the Watersons' Frost and Fire, Pentangle's chamber-esque jazz inventions, the occult folk on Led Zeppelin III, and Far Eastern whole-tone drones. First single "O My Stars" juxtaposes modal country-blues and Old English and Appalachian folk with rumbling hand drums, a lonely Morricone-esque harmonica, and marimba. On "Country House Waits," folk-blues, drone, psychedelia, medieval plainsong, circular percussion, glockenspiel, and Tibetan throat singing frame a lyric anthem about learning to be a mother. Lyrically and vocally, McCarthy is able to imbue impermanent daily life with glimpses of the eternal. It's followed by "Madmen & Dogs," where McCarthy and Frykdahl duet in a darkly tinged folk processional that borders on doom rock. "Ta Nasza Mlodosc" (Polish for "In Our Youth") is a reimagined cover of a song by Zygmunt Konieczny and Tadeusz Sliwak with English lyrics by McCarthy. It's a gorgeous meld of Polish folk song, contrapuntal madrigal singing, fado, and psychedelic folk that builds in intensity until the narrative nearly shatters. "Wild Kids Rant" is exactly that, with funky jazz flute, staccato rhythmic cadences, and vocals frantically chanted by the whole family (children included). Set closer "Mountain" is a mini suite. It commences with reverbed yodeling before a collision of modes and art song zigzag through the tune's body -- think Demis Roussos and Catherine Ribeiro duetting in English -- atop skittering, angular post-punk guitars, thundering timpani, and other percussion. The songwriting on Born of the Sun is wider and more focused; the performances and warm production are much more immediate. Combined, they offer the most "accessible" offering in Faun Fables' catalog (relatively speaking), thus adding a new dimension to an already compelling, complex musical persona. ~ Thom Jurek