Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Not really sure what time of the night it is when those nocturnal animals stretch their warm bones, yawn themselves awake and set out to find where their midnight breakfast is going to come from, but it's at that time that we should tell ourselves to use the utmost caution. These are the times when it's better to just stay behind closed doors and to count our few blessings, before letting a long night's sleep be our deliverance away from all of those ghostly things that go bump in the night. Portland band Tu Fawning, led by Joe Haege - formerly of the great 31 Knots - and Corinna Repp, moves in the shadows of the beasts and the phantoms that come out during deepest parts of the nighttime, when there are fewer rules and more goose bumps per square inch of skin than at any other time during a day. They've made a debut album that feels like a dark and cloaked gospel revival for those filled with skeptism and a sense of doom. All the while, we're here listening to four people make music that sounds as if it could have come from the hands of the devout - those who have seen unbelievable things with their own eyes, things that they cannot explain. But they've seen enough sadness to also know that there's no balance out there and one does not eradicate the other. These things and these conditions are communal and they cannot be threshed from one another. The darkness of light is the lightness of the dark.
"Multiply A House" sounds as if it's the soundtrack for a backwards baptism, where maybe the purpose isn't necessarily to be saved, but to feel what it's like to be dunked into those cleansing waters as a sinner on fire, sizzling as the hair and the face go under. While it feels as if something highly spiritual is happening here, we're not sure what the outcome is going to be or what the person is going to look like or feel like once they've been pulled back up, as they begin to air-dry in the chill of the dusk. We're left rattling off at the end of the song, to the sound of a snaky tambourine, hissing its tail and its tongue at us as we drift away from what we just heard. All of "Hearts On Hold" gives off the sensation of some kind of spiritual misgiving or of an uncertainty of what's out there, what's up there or what's below us. There's a degree of submission in the songs on this record, not of people giving up the ghost, giving up the will to fight the elements, but rather a submission to the powers that be. It's those invisible powers that aren't to be fucked with, but rather marveled at and sometimes cursed, for they rule with a sneaky iron fist and we're theirs for their erratic puppeteering. The question that seems to be asked over and over by Tu Fawning, in new, mysterious ways every way you turn is, "How does a songbird sing for the world/And how does our loneliness deserve what a songbird…sings?" which Repp asks on the album. I think the answer is, "Who the hell knows." It keeps us from losing it, but that answer never keeps or stops us from getting it.