Extra-cultural reviews by synaesthetes, symbolists, and strangers.
At the beginning of the show, her fingers moved nimbly, obliquely obscured by her un-sounded drum. Is she tying a red string? Is it part of a spell? It certainly felt that way when they began to move, rhythmically pounding their chests and breathing and sounding notes, stepping and crushing the air under throat and foot. The chorus of sounds built like an orchestra of the elements, until the room was fully enveloped in the rising storm of visceral, yet harmonically thrilling tones. And then they began to play.
If there were tarot cards for Composition and Utterance, surely they would feature the images of Nils Frykdahl and Dawn McCarthy. After witnessing their exemplary introduction to the room, it was clear that each member of this pair is a synchronous complement to the other. Nils, whose name may seem familiar because of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, played so many instruments throughout the show that I actually lost count. His surprisingly beautiful voice provided a perfect baseline for Dawn’s uncanny harmonies, and his style of guitar was much more elegant than I expected from the little information I gleaned about his band history. At one point, he played a flute and seemed to inherit the essence of Pan. Though he didn’t change garb, his musical expression was so altered to enhance the symbolic weight of each song that he seemed to be in an ever-shifting series of costumes. I wouldn’t have been surprised to blink and find him in blacksmith’s gear, creating percussion on the edge of an orange-hot cauldron. This couple is an affirmation of the value of ancient storytelling tradition, and their weavings of the new American folklore are nearly palpable.
For all the shifts of Nils, Dawn was the foundation of the atmosphere. She seemed to exude facets of every element with her soaring voice, fiery expressions, and fluid movements as her arms pounded a drum one might expect to hear in the belly of a mountain. If a hurricane tore the roof off of the venue while she sang, I’m fairly certain it would sit down and listen until the last note of her voice was completely evaporated by the ambient sound waves of the dark room.
I was thrilled when they played the song of theirs that first hooked me, Sleepwalker (video below), from the impossible to find album, Mother Twilight. I can’t be sure, but I’m fairly certain that I heard them sing a song that was summoning their (at the time it was written) soon to be born child’s soul into Dawn’s body. Otherworldly creatures made their shadowy appearances in the lyrics, but next to these two, it was clear that the supernatural took second chair to their collaborative, utterly entrancing presence.
Faun Fables is in the middle of a U.S. tour right now, so check the itinerary here, and catch their covered wagon while you can.