In many respects Megafaun’s new mini-album Heretofore comes across as a ‘straighter’ record than Gather, Form, and Fly, the band’s excellent debut album from last year. The method is the same in the way they explore tight song structures but also inject space with a kind studied jam feel. Repeated listens also reveal those peculiar idiosyncrasies that made their debut so compelling – those nasally sax skronks on ‘Eagle’ (provided by Slaffrenland), or the pins and needles mid-section of ‘Heretofore’. In cynical mood this experimental edge might seem like an affectation, but the truth is that the band work these ideas together so well that you genuinely can’t see the joins.
The most useful comparison is probably Wilco, who have similarly worked frazzled electronics into traditional song forms, but where their trajectory has been a measured move into experimentation, Megafaun have it there at the source. A track like ‘Carolina Days’ is the obviously Wilco-inflected, and is probably the most straightwforward track here. It displays their adeptness as songwriters, and also the way they work the US landscape into their mythology. With this in mind the electronics become like implanted field recordings, fizzing beneath the surface of the songs.
‘Comprovisation for Connor Pass’ is the 12-minute centre piece, and where they display their sonic experiments in full. The track moves from a busy almost free opening section, dominated by percussion, atonal guitar and some ominous, near-buried sax. It sinks into a horn-dominated mid section that might have graced Illinoise if it weren’t so damned determined to avoid an obvious melodic course. The finale, such as it is, is a gentle warm breeze and so effortlessly lovely it makes the preceding 10 minutes entirely worth it, and has a sense all of its own. It’s what makes Megafaun so interesting.
Heretofore ends with the quietly gorgeous ‘Bonnie’s Song’ and the tracks seems to organically fall out of the Comprovisation session. And it’s the way that these moments flow rather than jar that gives the lie to the idea that the compositional methods are in any way a contrivance – they simply meld the experimental and the traditional too damn well, and in just the right doses. Heretofore is yet more evidence that Megafaun are a band to watch out for.