In fan on, the follow up to the Los Angeles duo’s stunning 2017 debut awash, the band’s roaming, atmospheric avant-garde folk pop falls completely inward, both physically and otherwise; Recorded in a garage, the lack of space and rising temperatures of the weather outside result in hyper-aware, confessional narratives that perpetually inch closer to emotional catharsis.
Though initially founded and fronted by singer and multi-instrumentalist Noah Weinman and drummer Nate Lichtenberger, fan on was recorded over the past year with the help of additional musicians, now permanently expanding out into a seven person band when performing live. And yet, somehow this newer, more physically expansive sound rivals the more exuberant tone of awash, but not in the way you might think – ironically, they work to evoke something even more incredibly intimate in the instrumentals, perhaps in order to fully match Weinman’s thoughtfully written, melancholic narratives; Even the banjo peppered in sounds soft, a word I never thought I would use when listening to the signature twang of its strings.
“It’s a record made for & from little moments spent at home. It’s background chatter during daily routines. It’s daydreaming at a party. It’s a fan on in the back of the room.”
While initially comforting due to its instrumentals, there’s something within these songs that work to evoke experiences that, while conceived in a physically comforting space, ultimately feel lonely, isolated, even helpless at times. Though we want to work through our pain, to untangle the loose ends of our vulnerabilities, life is a series of responsibilities and everyday routines that cannot be ignored, and the EP acts as the static, yet increasingly unpredictable space that exists between balancing these two ideas – which, in turn, almost always leads to some sort of compact, potent outburst of vulnerability, as if suddenly loosening a pressure valve just as its about to burst. Opener “Sublet” and “Eggshell” entertain the former, while closer “Frame” oscillates between these ideas the most violently, a constant back and forth between the mind and heart with instrumentals just as pained, textured, and transparent as the narrative – Weinman somehow both yells and blissfully murmurs the fact that “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore” in between a menagerie of horns and guitar, the equivalent of secretly praying no one heard his outburst halfway through getting it out.
It is, however, the title track that, while the shortest, remains the most fascinating, for while the rest of the songs on the EP return to some sort of calm no matter the intensity of emotion exuded, “fan on” instead abruptly cuts off after a series of haunting effects, completely indifferent to the honest, ruminant narrative conveyed just moments before. The guitar opens with a melody that evokes the image of a box fan continuously on at all hours of the day but only seems to push the hot air around the room, which, in turn, leads to a very specific annoyance and helplessness that, considering you also live in a perpetually hot climate, you’re able to understand all too well. Weinman admits “I can’t explain it now/ why my head’s so fucking loud,” just as the heat grows thicker and nurtures those festering, unwanted thoughts like bacteria in a petri dish, trumpets bogged down with demonic chanting and whirring machinery.
For me, Runnner’s music evokes a singular image – the equivalent of looking deep into a worn down, dilapidated building through its pristine and multicolored stained glass windows, continuously finding beauty – or, at the very least, a beautiful fascination – in what is repeatedly dismissed as the painfully mundane, evoking an image of peace even in life’s most trying moments.
fan on is out now.
photo by Nell Sherman and Silken Weinberg