Faun Fables Early Song / Mother Twilight

One of the first to breathe new life into medieval folk tunes, Dawn "The Faun” McCarthy delivers a wayfaring blend of dark histrionics and ominous spirituality that often falls victim to its own overbearing dramatics and seriousness but just as often succeeds for the same reasons. Early Song and Mother Twilight are, respectively, Faun Fables’ debut and sophomore albums, and until being reissued by Drag City were only available at McCarthy’s live shows or through the band’s website. Early Song, originally released on CD-R in 1999, is all McCarthy — her voice (which recalls Jarboe from Swans) takes centre stage and is only accompanied by her acoustic guitar and the occasional flute, cello or vibraphone. McCarthy’s confident howls and moans are sometimes hard to take and the sparse nature of her songs is often mortally chilling, but Early Song definitely portrays a mature artist deeply immersed in her own unique vision. 2001’s Mother Twilight fares better, with its drastically denser use of instrumentation and exploratory tendencies. The addition of collaborator Nils Frykdahl as a full-time member balances out McCarthy’s songs by toning down the grandiosity and filling out Faun Fables’ sound, which would be almost gothic if not for their use of folk instrumentation. So be warned — this is dark, demanding and serious stuff that won’t please all ears but will surely make devoted fans out of the right souls. (Drag City)