To say a band is capable of anything is usually either a vague threat or bald hyperbole. But sometimes it’s the only shorthand that will do when trying to capture the vast proportions of a truly open-minded, highly skilled group. It’s one of those descriptors that should be used sparingly like “genius” or “brilliant,” but if the phrase fits, well, you know. North Carolina’s Megafaun is capable of anything, and the hearty proof of that resides in their new mini-album Heretofore (released September 14 on Hometapes). Slice into this six-pack and one finds ring upon multicolored ring, thickly hued creative concentric circles within a tall, rooted structure, branches reaching outwards and upwards, foliage dense with shadows and snared sunlight. There’s something ancestrally rich yet newly grown about Megafaun, especially on Heretofore, where one can pick up on the minerals in their soil but can only guess at what will spring from their seed.
Drifting down from metaphor mountain, Megafaun is an unpredictable mash-up of 60s modal jazz, classic rock, highbrow experimentation, gritty improv, tender folk and sacred music. Such hodgepodges are often muddy by the time they reach the listener, a case of “too many cooks,” but this trio – multi-instrumentalist-composers Joe Westerlund and brothers Brad and Phil Cook – exercise a sweet, slow hand in molding elements. The final results possess a sculpted quality, where the fingers and thoughts behind them remain in surface traces but what’s below is solid in every regard.
Heretofore melds their growing facility for hooks with their yen for out-of-bounds adventuring. The opening title cut is holy, a paean for those with empty hands and yearning hearts. It’s followed by “Carolina Days,” the closest thing to power-pop Megafaun has conjured, and “Eagle,” a tinkling, stutter-step ditty that reminds us “heart is the healer, heart is the core” before venturing convincingly into Creedence territory. The banjo comes out for “Volunteers,” which evokes early David Crosby and the San Fran scene in 1970. Then, “Comprovisation for Connor Pass,” a patient mood piece that’s part reverie, part ambient drift, part brainy New American Weird and all kinds of original. Closer “Bonnie’s Song” rings with country comfort not unlike The Black Crowes’ recent acoustic work. As mentioned at the start, it takes a special band to truly “be capable of anything,” yet this mini-album demonstrates these three more than have the skills to pay that bill. And there’s plenty more on either side of it to make one prick up their ears.