SONIC REDUCER Of the many unsung, possibly fabulous, potentially limitless unexplored combos floating round in the ether up there with the now-familiar chocolate and peanut butter or pizza flavoring and dog-biscuits-for-humanoids has to be rock music and housework. Natch, Heloise would probably be in hell contemputf8g the crusty state of most band's vans or rehearsal spaces. Few jam it home-econo.
Leave it to Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables a Bay Area player who has been consistently reimagining old music and traditional folk with an often theatrical, punky sensibility to rescue the most mundane of tasks, so far from the neggy decadence and glam hysterics of most rock and pop cliché-peddlers, and bring together music, hearth, and home on her new EP, A Table Forgotten (Drag City). Coproduced by Nurse with Wound's Matt Waldron, Table is a palate-tickling, four-track taste of Faun Fables' 2009 full-length roving compactly from the Irish bodhran drum beat and "happy clinks" of spell-casting opener "With Words and Cake" to the spine-tingling, fiddle-swept "Pictures" to the epic "Winter Sleep," cowritten with Björk producer Valgeir Sigurdsson, whom McCarthy worked with on Bonnie "Prince" Billy's The Letting Go (Drag City, 2006).
The focus on home and family came in part from McCarthy's residency at Idyllwild Art Academy in the San Jacinto Mountains, where she began to develop some of these songs as part of a student musical theatrical production, although she's been meaning to undertake this ode to home work for a while. "I'm going to sound like an Amish woman or something," she says with a chuckle by phone from Oakland. "But over the years I found a lot of solace and joy in doing household stuff. It's kind of one of those hidden arts. And I find that it's those little day-to-day things that make or break my happiness."
McCarthy's family is expanding: she's pregnant and expecting her child around the time of year she herself was born, Oct. 30. "I have pregnancy brain," she says after one inadvertently long pause. And her home is shifting: after living near the Oakland zoo for eight years in an old rustic cottage "that time forgot," as she describes it, and more recently in an artists' warehouse near Jack London Square, she's hoping to move to Sonoma. In the meantime she hopes to make edible saleables like vinegar pie for her Café Du Nord merch table. "The singing and performing and shows feel amazing," she says. "I can tell the baby is happy with it."
FROM THE GUT On the bill at Faun Fables' upcoming Du Nord show: über-productive bicoastal player Bonfire Madigan Shive, who also headlines at the Henry Miller Library Aug. 2. The activist-musician dazzled all and sundry who caught the recent American Conservatory Theater production of John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's A Whore where she performed, suspended above the stage and outfitted in angel's wings, ripping alternately dulcet and dissonant unearthly sounds from her cello and thereby commenting on, counterpointing, or lamenting the gory, incestuous goings-on below.
"Now that it's wrapped, I'm proud and happy with what I created for that," Shive says of her "duets for hair and gut," as she dubbed the music she composed for 'Tis Pity. "For me, it was a lot of surrender, getting out of the way of preconceived notions and focusing on the style and time and being a part of this world, to work on this text that's 400 years old, and how that world reflects this one."
Up amid the sensuous lines of 'Tis Pity's almost futuristic discotheque set, Shive told me speaking in the ecstatic, enthusiastic streams of an earthbound angel she'd often study the audience's reactions from on high.