Allan Rayman | February 24, 2017 | Rating: 9/11
“I am the wolf / I walk alone”
In those words lie, for the curious and the uninitiated, the crux of the Allan Rayman narrative and begs that we forgo individual song dissection or a bullet point list of the worth of Roadhouse 01’s 13 songs: it deserves better than being severed and consumed in individual pieces which is why album songs released in advance like “13,” “Repeat,” “25:22” – maybe not “Faust Road” – felt so much like irritating emotional cliffhangers.
Yes, that is a compliment.
What we’re dealing with is a guy who eschews the light that high art will and will always attract, so – right off the bat – Rayman has set himself up for failure (or at least a hell of a struggle) by releasing this record. It’s telling when a body of work strikes the odd and – more importantly – unexpected of chords in the heart and mind and that is Rayman’s point: to be telling without having to. Catherine Parr’s seminal work, The Lamentation of a Sinner, was a doctrine on many godly views, not the least of which was confession and here Rayman’s alter, Mr. Roadhouse, sounds off on his self-possession; a self-containment as self-preservation and exile as far away from Main Street as possible. Somewhere in the woods of Toronto, to be inexact. While not cardinal sins, there is the opening multiple veins to exorcise his faults, selfishness, strengths, fears and love all from the safety of his shadows of choice. So what’s to dig about such a self-indulgent venture?
“Interview, interview, interview please…wanna know about me…”
Rayman’s first album, Hotel Allan (fashioning himself into a destination of occasional, casual visits but no permanent occupancy) set the framework of the game: upon reflection, deciphering the patterns of the complicated yet beautiful emotional destruction that a man with no true ill intent could wreak in the name of his one true love and a prescience of death. Once Roadhouse 01 opens with the eerie fairy tale that “Wolf” tells, more linear lines get drawn (grating out his disinterest in fame on “Sweetheart,” still mindful of turning 27) between that love and it’s potential to upend his personal asylum with ornate yet earthy storytelling on an edge with innate grooves that fluidly hit allegorical sweet spots: a wolf…on a road…Faustian in nature. Diametrically opposed though it all may be, Rayman manages to craft absurdly elegant (yes, elegant) mind trips of song. Even his throaty, clipped enunciation – focused, cutting, tense, restrained but unyielding – is an artistry unto itself and half of the story. The voice that sing/rap/sings may have suffered and it’s highly probable those wounds were more self-inflicted than not (you know, how the gates of Hell are often locked from the inside?), but Rayman is sharing what gives him peace (the music) even at the expensive expense of anything deeper (and necessary) than periodic comfort of human/sexual connections. But Roadhouse 01 emotes with all of the pointed intensity of a relationship record: Walls go up and walls come down; things get beautiful then messy as fuck, yet chances are strong that – due to your better nature – you will feel the hell out of him. Feel for him. Counters to the weight of his world is the presence of Adria Kain and Jessie Reyez tasked with providing feminine echoes of the past (perhaps future): a scream, a conversation, gunshots. Some things really are best left to the imagination.
Call it a musical diary where soulful and modern R&B bumps up against an indie hip-hop attitude, folk and folklore as loving as it is sinister as it is sensual as it is consumed by its own capacity for acerbic gorgeousness right down to the record’s closing with the haunted lullaby, “God Is A Woman.” While dark and seemingly – on the surface – kind of fucked up, it truly is not because Rayman knows his own mind, how vulnerable a thing he is, and that – in itself – is the gold. Because it’s not that he’s cold-blooded; far from it. Rayman runs quite hot, just in an alternate emotional direction.
“I’m a man with the courage of his convictions, I swear”
This shit is going to be maddening and drive a portion of his ever growing fan base crazy – yes, mainly the female portion along with every other journo eager to be the first to break Rayman’s seal. It’s not rocket science, but it will be fascinating to watch unfold.
Essential Tracks: Just press PLAY.
*Alternative review: Goddamn this record. Just when you think you can’t get owned any harder than you were by How To Dress Well and a dude’s warped and weirdly passionate headspace, Allan Rayman slinks in, verbally runs his fingers up your spine and jacks your emotions all. to. hell. Son of a bitch.*