By: Dennis Cook
This is magic, pure and not-so-simple. Megafaun creates exuberant, never-predictable music that makes one's brain expand and crackle like Jiffy Pop on a fire hot stovetop. That they accomplish this feat largely without the sturm und drang of punk or machine clatter (think TV on the Radio or The Mars Volta) is doubly impressive. While Megafaun can bring da' noize (as the kids say) it's their aptitude and finesse with quieter sonics and gentler emotions that generates much of the wallop on their freakin' fabulous sophomore album, Gather, Form & Fly (released July 21 on Hometapes), which draws sinewy lines of connection between African strains and barbershop harmonies, vintage British folk rock (a la John Martyn, particularly) and modal jazz, Kinks-ian pop and musique concrete.
The vast array of musical colors on Gather could be kinda dizzying except for the firm grip the trio - Joe Westerlund (percussion) and brothers Brad (guitar) and Phil Cook (banjo, keys, various), aided here by members of The Rosebuds, Mount Vernon, Tender Fruit and others – possesses. While seemingly all over the place listed in print, the shape they build here is all Megafaun. What bubbled up in a germinal form on their terrific debut, Bury The Square, has metastasized marvelously. They fearlessly play with space and sharply jabbed statements on the title cut but prove equally skilled at unadulterated sunshine pop on "The Fade" and spirited, right in the moment white country blues on "Solid Ground," which delightfully recalls Johnny Winter's yelping, string brutalizing giddiness on the Muddy Waters albums he produced in the late '70s. Past experiences collaborating with Dreyblatt and Akron/Family have sharpened their high brow, mighty conceptualizing chops, which hover in the background, but Megafaun boldly chooses to extend a friendly paw on Gather, eager to wag their tail and gobble up Scooby snacks with any kind human that reaches back towards them.
It's a path perhaps less angled at general critical tastes, which tend to reward darkness and edginess with gold stars far more readily than they do empathetic, positivity arched chameleons like Megafaun. Their loss because Gather, Form & Fly is the kind of record that will pull you from the dumps, change your thinking (on a number of subjects) and remind you of music's endlessly mutable charms.
Megafaun is currently on a co-headlining tour with Bowerbirds. Click here for tour dates.
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