Allan Rayman had to get away. While some artists are blessed with the ability to balance their passions and responsibilities, Rayman found himself singularly consumed by his music, and retreat was the only option. It was a selfish move, and perhaps deep down he knew that, but ultimately, in his eyes, escape was an act of survival. To those he left behind, it felt more like betrayal, but by now their voices have long since faded away, unable to reach him in the isolated cabin he calls home. There, deep in the woods outside the barely-on-the-map hamlet of Lost Springs, Rayman set up residence and began to write and record a stunning sonic chronicle of his slow descent.
At his core, Rayman is a storyteller, and his lyrics capture desire and loss in vivid detail, despite the fact that he's avoided love and human connection almost religiously for most of his adult life. Knowing he wears his heart on his sleeve and falls easily, Rayman built up barriers to safeguard his fragile emotions, to keep at bay anything or anyone that could potentially distract him from his art. Love, in Allan's mind, has always equated with death, both literally and figuratively, and it's a theme that turns up throughout his music. In "Sweetheart," he confesses his fear that a lover will "leave nothing for me / for my music," while "Jim's Story" recounts the tale of a man who "loves sufficiently to keep death away / until true love finds him and kills him." Someday, Beverly, the girl Allan left behind, will reappear to show him just how right he is, but for now, it's all art all the time.
The visual aspects of Allan's work—his dark and cinematic videos, the theatrical design of his stage, even the clothes he wears—are just as essential to telling his story as the music, which itself defies easy categorization. Seductive R&B bass and hip-hop beats underpin vintage synthesizers and elegant, overdriven electric guitar lines. His voice alternates between a languid, warm-honey tone and a gritty, aggressive roar. There is an uneasiness and an anxiety that haunts the music as Rayman grapples with his demons. The songs are emotional, intimate, and intense, but what we see and hear from Allan is just the tip of the iceberg. Only once you've slipped beneath the surface can you grasp the magnitude of it all.
If Rayman's music feels schizophrenic, that's quite simply because it is. Mr. Roadhouse is Allan's alter ego, a character he created to house his blame and justify his selfish behaviors. Roadhouse is antagonistic, confident, at times even misogynistic. He's everything that Allan isn't, and yet Allan needs him because Roadhouse can handle the recognition and the fame that come with his burgeoning music career. Roadhouse feeds off of that attention. The more successful the music becomes, the stronger Roadhouse grows, and the smaller and fainter the signs of Allan Rayman appear in the songwriting.
Rayman's music, in fact, is a soundtrack to the struggle for power inside his delicate mind. On "Wolf," we meet a shy young man consumed by his passion for art, determined to take the risks and make the sacrifice of going it alone in order to achieve his dreams. On tracks like "December"—the story of a young couple that must give up their ambitions when an unplanned pregnancy ties them forever together—Rayman is a modern Samson, frightened of losing his powers to a woman. But the fluttery, hip-hop flow and female vocals of "Repeat" reveal that he still possesses a vulnerable, feminine side.
By the time we've reached lead single "2522," though, success begins to get the best of Rayman, and we hear his alter ego taking on a more prominent role in his psyche than ever before. Roadhouse asserts his dominance on "13," calling out the too-cool-for-school girls that have suddenly come knocking despite their complete lack of interest in Allan before the fame and accolades, and on "God Is A Woman," Allan finally gives himself fully and completely over to Roadhouse. He doesn't realize it yet, but he's in so deep now that, to paraphrase Macbeth, it would be just as difficult for him to turn back as it would be to keep going.
This is where we leave Rayman, a ghost in his own body. What lies ahead we'll learn soon enough, but in this moment, fueled by ambition and success, Roadhouse has wrested control, and his creator's voice is but a memory. Allan Rayman had to get away, and he did.