Thursday, October 26, 2006

Faun Fables--Family Album (2004)

Artist-Faun Fables
Album-Family Album
Release Date-Feb 24, 2004
Label-Drag City
Genre/Style-Indie Rock/Folk-Rock

Biography-Washington-raised artist, dancer, and songwriter Dawn "The Faun" McCarthy formed Faun Fables in 1997. After a self-released debut, 1999's Early Song, her powerful voice, penchant for performance art, and British folk-infused rock with lyrics steeped in Pagan imagery attracted the attention of Nils Frykdahl (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum). Frykdahl became a frequent collaborator, appearing on 2001's Mother Twilight. The following year, McCarthy premiered her musical The Transit Rider, with the accompanying soundtrack due in 2004. The duo released Family Album that same year on Drag City Records, followed by the conceptual Transit Rider in 2006.

Review-In the early '70s, there were numerous obscure British folk-rock albums with an out of time quality treading in mysticism. Family Album is like those albums, yet even more out of time in a way, considering there were very few artists on either major or indie labels doing anything like this in 2004. You get the feeling you've stumbled on a musical play in a forest that's enacting some mythical tragedy or epic adventure, though there's no actual central plot or story tying the songs together. Vintage British folk-rock is the musical touchstone, as many of the songs feature similar kinds of folky melodies with an ancient haunted (and sometimes morbid) quality, sounding as if they've drifted into modern times by mistake, as well as fairly acoustic-based instrumentation. It's atmospheric, but not all that enchanting: the songs can be overly precious, with a tense melodrama to the vocals and melodies that sometimes makes you feel like vocalist Dawn McCarthy is wrestling with an invisible demon the audience can't see. McCarthy sings most of the material in a high though not exceptional voice that again recalls many British folk-rock sirens of yore, occasionally stepping aside for collaborator Nils Frykdahl to take lead vocals in a less effective rough growl. The menu of storytelling-like songs is certainly varied, and it's not all folk-rock, going into opera and eerie gospel on "Higher," theatrical music that sounds like a combination of Judy Collins and Grace Slick on "Carousel With Madonnas," Nick Cave-like angst on Frykdahl's "Rising Din," and new wave-ish dance rhythms on the cover of Brigitte Fontaine's "Eternal." It all adds to the weirdness of a record that's genuinely strange, even if the results don't seem to match its ambitions.


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