The third album from the other former members of Justin Vernon’s band (better known as Bon Iver), Megafaun (formerly DeYarmond Edison), a North Carolina trio that would make Gram Parsons turn in his grave (they don’t hide it, the Cook brothers, Brad and Phil, and Joe Westerlund are diehard fans of the guy who won Emmylou Harris over and put out at least one of the greatest country hits of all time, the fabulous “GP”). Why? Because their Martian alt-country (they are addicted to improvisation, and from it arise instrumental jewels lasting nearly 13 minutes, like “Comprovisation for Connor Pass”, a stormy and, at times, tremendously delicate jam session that twists around until the last minute) shows a heavy Parsons influence, but also others (people like Crosby, Stills & Nash or Akron/Family) and the result is, of course, Martian. In the mini album at hand, “Heretofore” (short, at barely 34 minutes, but intense), they once again explore the swampy ground of free folk, acid roots, the uncomfortable weird America, enjoying themselves in the instrumental parts (the instrumental, in folk music, continues to be a strange beast, however much M. Ward insists on sprinkling his albums with little references to J.S. Bach) and making the background noise (the rustling of a chair, a string that gets too taut) into the start-up of songs like “Eagle”, which seems to have been taken from a bizarre version of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.
Recorded in a week, probably in motel rooms and the back of their van (they recorded it in the middle of touring), while the previous one (the surprising and almost psychedelic “Gather, Form and Fly”) was recorded in kitchens and yoga studios, “Heretofore” is, like the previous albums, a detour on the country folk route taken by the group. Vocal harmonies are back ( “Carolina Days”) and interferences (the song that gives its name to the album is, without a doubt, the best example of the Megafaun brand name: perfect sound constructions, a bittersweet tone, bearded saloon lo-fi). The adorable boys are back ( “Volunteers”), and the simply lovely songs about lovely girls that end up going wrong are too ( “Bonnie’s Song).
This year’s album (since they debuted in 2008 after Vernon left, they’ve put out an album a year) is definitely worth it. Especially for people who miss that folk music that distances itself from the road and explores forests and bars. They aren’t Castanets (they are good guys, the prefer motel neon lights, even if they’re covered with mosquitoes, to the latter group’s sinister turn), but right now they are one of the key pieces in the new Americana. But if you’re looking for their best work, there’s nothing like their first attempt, “Bury the Square”, a declaration of intentions, starting with the title itself. Laura Fernández