Sing Out! Magazine
summer issue 2011
BIZARRE Magazine ( PDF – 306 kB)
MULE Magazine ( PDF – 3.8 MB)
(Interview by Jenn Brandel) Issue 3
res Magazine ( PDF – 210 kB)
(Jesse Ashlock) July/August 2006
Oakland’s Faun Fables aren’t really a folk group, but there’s no adequate name for the music Dawn and Nils make together, music that is so total, otherworldy, and heretical a vision of traditional music that it can only be compared to THE RESIDENTS’ version of rock ‘n roll. Frykdahl’s instrumental virtuosity is strictly in the service of making every sound you’ve ever heard unfamiliar. This band has the uncanny ability to blow through original songs, ancient ballads and European avant garde numbers in a set without a single note seeming out of place. Even if you don’t like traditional music, avant garde music, or music at all, you still need to hear McCarthy’s voice, which will kill you dead.
(Oliver Hall) Jan. 05
A catergory-defying musical entity, Faun Fables is Dawn McCarthy’s vivid imagination come to life in song. Faun Fables’ totally personal expression is one of those things that couldn’t possibly be contrived or mass-produced. Instead, it’s more of a guided tour through the living room of McCarthy’s meandering, seductive and refreshing childlike ideation.
(John Sewell) Feb. 05
Dawn McCarthy makes music of near-frightening beauty, at times sweetly sad, other times heartrending and disquieting, rendered with an intensity akin to supernatural force. Faun Fables interest in the elemental and spiritual comes through abundantly in McCarthy’s singing and their distinctive choice of guitar chords.
(Jonathan Marx) Feb. 05
dB MAGAZINE (AUSTRALIA)
McCarthy’s intoxication with folkloric tradition is evident in her music and artwork. Her voice is utterly bewildering; one moment she swirls, siren-like, the next she yodels, wails and screams like a teary-eyed gypsy. Frykdahl is a heavy metal woodsman playing horrorshow acoustic music, abetted by wolves and crows. The singers engage each new song with a sensual versatility, harmonising like ill-fated lovers. When listened to as a whole – as this record is intended – one is transported, charmed to the point of hallucination. FAMILY ALBUM is filled with pagan carols for starlit sons and daughters of the earth. To embrace this record is to immerse oneself in the beauty of nature and the tendernes of fellowship. Balancing darkness and light, it traipses like a garden sprite. The duo has forged one of the terrific records of the year.
(Lenin Simos) Nov. 04
Think of how you’d feel if you were being chased through the forest by a very hungry old woman whose intentions were to bake you into some small tasty pastry. That terrific sensation is something quite rare and nonetheless effortlessly possessed by Dawn and Nils. FAMILY ALBUM captures the multi-instrumental duo at a hauntingly atonal pinnacle. Live is always something different; they’re riding on a train or they’re both dressed as milk maids and Nils’ teeth are blackened out. I’ve seen Dawn start a show acapella, while stomping on the stage in witch heels. Wonderfully bizarre and completely out of time. I imagine them writing songs in the dark, around a fire at their campground, in secrecy, between numerous tour dates. FAMILY ALBUM commands your attention with the temptation of a tragic mistake that it simply won’t make.
(The Black Apple) Sept. 04
San Francisco BAY GUARDIAN
Joined by the freakishly talented Frykdahl, McCarthy has evolved from a pensive, swooning songtress gale-force art diva with a husky, fluid alto that would give Carla Bozulich a run for her alterna-goddess money. Somehow I think McCarthy barely scratched the surface of a vocal repertoire that could evoke Dagmar Krause in one instant and Sandy Denny the next. Frykdahl’s harmonies, like her lead vocals, suggested oceans of musical blessings that were barely tapped yet overwhelming – they were at once as coarse and strangled as a poisonous snake, yet tonally flawless. Perhaps her artistry is a bit too fragmented for fans of life’s sweet, simple melodies, perhaps her poetic turns are a touch too unsparing for those who prefer their allusions merely wistful, but when she makes a fan, it’s for keeps.
(Josh Wilson) Aug. 04
The main instrument here is McCarthy’s astonishing voice which she uses to build up layers of fantastic imagery pulled from the gigantic storybook inside her head. Echoes of The Incredible String Band and even The Great Society are present, but the wolf haunted world that Faun Fables invites you to explore has been solely invented by McCarthy. FAMILY ALBUM is a magical collection of songs that transports the listener into another dimension, where the only thing you need to pack is your imagination.
One of the few people who have managed to carry magical thinking into adulthood, McCarthy writes songs that capture the terror and wonder of the natural world. FAMILY ALBUM seems to be visiting a childhood unsanitized and uncensored, chasing after beauty with a sort of animal ferocity. When she and steady collaborator Frykdahl duet, they’re a primal RICHARD and LINDA THOMPSON without the remorse. Their crooning and shrieking would degenerate into noise very quickly were it not so oddly perfectionist.
There are other bands that deal in this gothic mix of nature, fear, death, sin and innocence. But I can’t think of a single act that’s done what Faun Fables does- not just sing about nature but actually sound like nature, in all its howling ferocity.
(Monika Kendrick) March 04
FAMILY ALBUM incorporates a palpable prog-rock influence, and prominently features the goth-theatrical songwriting and vocals of Nils Frykdahl. McCarthy is a sort of medium, bringing together diverse elements not of her own creation and channeling them into something wholly her own. It’s the very multiplicity of influences and sources that make their music so interesting. More than musical eccentrics, McCarthy and Frykdahl are true musical magicians.
(Michael Cramer) March 04
NEW YORK PRESS
Think of BOWIE’S faux-folk “Memory of a Free Festival” tackled by a high-pitched MADDY PRIOR and you get the picture of a devil’s daughter/siren in love with her “keeper of the past.” All the eerie clanging Frykdahl places onto Sleepytime Gorilla Museum is winnowed into bittersweet, atmospheric song for Faun Fables- letting his reed-thin melodies be guided by the muse in McCarthy; a dramatic diva whose take on gauzy folk (Eyes of a Bird) and religious-tinged opera (Higher) is akin to an aural version of ROSEMARY’S BABY.
(A.D.Amorosi) March ’04
SF WEEKLY (San Francisco)
The first time I saw Dawn McCarthy step out onstage, she wore a long, black dress with a dark wig and shawl. She stood tall, with her acoustic guitar pressed high against her chest, plucking the strings as if she would rip them out by their roots and wield them like venomous snakes. It was impossible to determine her age. The straightness of her spine suggested youth, but her ferocious authority suggested lifetimes. Her voice was similarly inscrutable: at once ethereal and careworn, it was like oily smoke from a Spanish dump fire or a dark moss poultice mixed with spring water.
With a concentration on the unearthly, MOTHER TWILIGHT was both bittersweet and titillating, only three tunes hinted at the feral energy generated by her union with Frykdahl. FAMILY ALBUM makes no such omissions, swinging between the dulcet nostalgia of a child’s song and the wild desperation of a pack of wolves.
(Silke Tudor) Feb. ’04