What does Megafaun sound like? Only Megafaun, baby. And that’s a good thing. It really is time that critics drop the Crosby, Stills & Nash comparisons. Yes, ‘tis true that brothers Brad and Phil Cook and bandmate Joe Westerlund are capable of laying down some stunningly beautiful harmonies, but CSN (or even CSN and ol’ Y) never dared to venture off into territory as strange as these beardos do when the mood strikes.
If you’ve never experienced the Megafaun sound, though, don’t let me scare you. The new 6-song EP Heretofore is a fine sampler of what Westerlund and the Cooks are capable of doing – and there’s plenty of easy-to-digest listening here. There’s a perfect left-arm-tan summer driving song (“Carolina Days”); there’s a lovely rocking-chairs-‘round-the-woodstove number (“Volunteers”) with cozy banjo, dobro, and harp; and there’s even a swampish riff that sounds like an acoustic cousin to Creedence Clearwater’s “Born On The Bayou” (“Eagle”). Of course, CCR would never spend the first minute of a tune with a lone voice stivvering its way along a mist-wrapped trail of sparse, slightly atonal chords and occasional thumps before locking in on the song’s theme. Or spin things ‘round into a lurching stop-and-go bridge that might have you peering into the slot on your CD player with a flashlight before percussionist Westerlund kick-starts the groove back up.
That’s the thing about taking a ride with the Megafauners: they always bring you back safely. They might leave you with plenty to think and feel, but you can do it on your own terms later on. The title track combines sweet electric guitar arpeggios and chords (dusted with just a pinch of raunch) with the wallop of Westerlund’s bass drum pedal and floor tom. Midway through, the rhythm drops away and weird sound squiggles begin to take hold; but just as you begin wishing you’d left a trail of crumbs behind you, here comes that big, booming floor tom leading the way home. Or how about the epic (12 minutes and 31 seconds, if you’re keeping score at home) “Comprovisation for Connor Pass”, which goes something like this: shy, tender strums meet and, with a way-gentle percussion cascade in the background, begin to slow dance > mood quickens (undercurrent of banjo) > dissolves into acoustic space that tumbles into itchy-skin fractiousness > softens into a moment of sweet butter and warm strings > inner reflection and unsure minor-themed dervish > gives way to a major-chorded sunrise, greeted by a little sweet, dewy harmonica. Phew!
The word from the Megafaun camp is that there’s a new full-length album in the works and Heretofore was recorded simply as “an exercise in songwriting and discipline.”
Thanks for sharing the workout, guys.