Faun Fables performed at the Press in Claremont on Saturday July 9th. The opening act called Umbra Vita is a local Claremont high-octane drum and bass duo whose use of movie clip audio samples and an old Japanese silent film provided a creative backdrop to accompany their band sound.
I saw Faun Fables six years ago as a quartet and was knocked out by the wonderful delivery of their material. When I heard they were coming to the Press as a husband/wife duo of Nils Frykdahl and Dawn McCarthy, I wondered if their performance could carry the excitement of the original line-up. Would only two people sound anemic compared to an expanded group? Both duo’s at the Press that night unleashed a vibrant potency that exceedingly answered my question.
As a duo, there is no place to hide. Full attention is drawn to their presence. The magnetism of their stage performance worked to their advantage as they drew the audiences’ wonder toward themselves. Firstly, Dawn and Nils are a very unique and visually captivating couple of people. After locking on to their image, I was then treated to their sublime and complex song structures. I was reminded that only seasoned artists could make complexity sound so natural and flowing. To describe their sound, I would have to use words like earthy freak folk with puzzling lyrics that have references to nature and mysticism sung and played in minor keys. The name of their band however, is probably the best description for them.
Both performers played a variety of instruments but the core was built on Nils playing acoustic and electric guitars with Dawn stitching and punctuating their rhythms with a variety of percussion instruments. On some songs, Dawn played acoustic guitar and Nils would pick up some flutes. Both of them were featured singers for solo and harmony. I am very critical of voice timbre as I find that many singers sound similar and somewhat generic and add very little to the sonic palette. With Dawn and Nils voices, the audience was treated to a memorable display of vocal weaving and contours.
Knowing they came from Northern California, maybe I automatically associated Dawn’s voice with Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane even though her phrasing took us through a different rabbit hole. Nils’ baritone output brought us an unexpected contrast that competed the duo’s picture. It’s gigs like this that make a clear distinction between the power of a live performance with their spatial command and spirited audience reactions compared to a recorded document.
~Tom Skelly, Sound of Pictures, Sundays 7pm-10pm