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In my mind, though, Megafaun have nothing to do with Bon Iver. Instead they're the weird, hirsute trio I first saw as the oddly simpatico backing group for veteran minimalist composer and La Monte Young disciple Arnold Dreyblatt at the Empty Bottle in 2008, as part of the Adventures in Modern Music festival. They all played acoustic stringed instruments on that gig, but their hammering, mesmerizing attack helped bring out the ringing overtones that are the raison d'etre of Dreyblatt's work. The instrumentation was similar on the trio's 2008 debut, Bury the Square (Radium), but I was a bit thrown by how different its sound was—a twisted take on rural Americana that mixed in bits of rock, folk, and gently weird tape collage.
Last year Megafaun took a huge leap with its second album, Gather, Form & Fly (Hometapes), maintaining its stylistic sprawl but sharpening its execution and songwriting: there are beautiful vocal harmonies and nimble fingerpicking, crackly old-timey throwdowns and gentle post-Nick Drake meditations. The album was recorded by Chris Stamey, and a handful of guests flesh out the vocal arrangements; the trio itself plays loads of instruments, including guitars, banjo, fiddle, piano, drums, and bass. Few combos could so nonchalantly juxtapose gorgeous folk rock ("The Fade," which you can hear below, suggests Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at their best), Steve Reich-tinged pop ("Impressions of the Past"), and weird analog-synth pieces ("Columns"), and make it all seem like the most natural thing in the world.
Megafaun plays tonight at the Empty Bottle.
Photo: D. L. Anderson
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet, At Molde 2007 (Okka Disk)
Pylon, Chomp More (DFA)
Leroy Jenkins, The Legend of Ai Glatson (Black Saint)
Ana Costa, Novos Alvos (Zambo)
Chet Baker Quartet, Köln Concert (RLR)