The creative force behind legendary grammy-nominated, dreampop pioneers For Against, Jeff Runnings makes his solo debut with Primitives and Smalls. Featuring lyrics that sting and music driven by Cocteau drums and Factory synths, it’s like being pulled under the ice by your own tormented thoughts.
‘Let’s keep taking the low road,’ says Runnings on album opener “Maze,” ‘It’s treated us well so far.’ He sings with a yearning sadness, an exhausted sigh that belies the desperation at the heart of this record. Having spent most of his life in Lincoln, Nebraska, you can hear the midwestern landscape—its endless flat, beautiful bleakness—in every note. Just check out the eerie twitching static sounds at the end of “Dim Like Dust.”
But it’s the songwriting that makes this album feel like a classic. The twisting labyrinthine chorus in “Maze,” the internal music and poetry of a line like ‘What’s it like to be locked inside of you’ from “Premium,” the arresting title of “F For Emphasis.” After endless recriminations and tortured self-examination, closer “My Cheerleader” finds Runnings ‘still searching for some kind of release,’ but the listener achieved catharsis a long time ago.
An album of exquisite beauty. The slow panning of the synths makes it sound like he’s running in sand, or trapped in a dream, or at the bottom of an ocean that doesn’t appear on any map. Jeff Runnings has made the album of his life. It’s Primitives and Smalls. And aren’t we surrounded by both, the primitive & the small, in these dwindling days.
Saint Marie records is proud to be working with someone who 30 years ago helped create a sound we’re all listening to today, and even prouder to be releasing an album we’ll all be listening to tomorrow.