Under the Palace name or his popular moniker Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Will Oldham — rarely letting a year pass without releasing a record — has been a monumental voice in folk music for nearly two decades. His staggering repertoire fuses a punk-esque aesthetic and classic Americana style with authenticity that is as thoughtful and honest as it is off-beat.
Dirty Three: “Rising Below”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/1-04_Rising_below.mp3|titles=Dirty Three: “Rising Below”]
It’s been seven years since Aussie post-rockers Dirty Three have released an album. That’s not to say the band members have been lying low: residing in Melbourne, guitarist Mick Turner has kept himself busy with the Tren Brothers and his solo career, as well as his visual art; currently Brooklyn-based drummer Jim White has been touring the world with the likes of Cat Power and Bonnie “Prince” Billy; violinist and recent Parisian Warren Ellis, when not on the road with The Bad Seeds or Grinderman, can be found working with Nick Cave on film scores (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Road).
The past seven years have been one of the most creative periods in the band’s history — and it shows on the the trio’s new album, its Drag City debut, Toward the Low Sun. Each member seems to have benefited from the hiatus, as they return with a sound that’s more definitive than ever.
Faun Fables: “Light of a Vaster Dark”
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Morrow: Borne of principal songwriter Dawn McCarthy, Faun Fables is a powerful, somber, and multifaceted brand of neofolk songs and theatrical performance. The group’s works also are developed by co-conspirator Nils Frykdahl of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, and their breadth of instrumentation comes courtesy of assorted guests.
Light of a Vaster Dark is Faun Fables’ first album in four-and-a-half years, and it again is led by the dynamic vocal interplay of McCarthy, Frykdahl, and others — blending elements of the 1950s/’60s American folk revival, medieval and Celtic music, and the catchall “psychedelic folk.”
Though McCarthy’s clear intonation and wavering vibratos are the real star, Frykdahl’s backing vocals add a necessary baritone presence, and the album’s range of sounds is just as vital. Guitars, violin, flute, bass clarinet, autoharp, Theremin, and homemade instruments all offer different sonic flavors behind a vocal presence that can sound a little homogenous from time to time.