ON AN ON sprouted from the spores of Scattered Trees, and the band’s debut album, Give In, speaks of a new-found sense of mobility and a free spirit. For the Chicago trio, comprising Nate Eiesland, Alissa Ricci and Ryne Estwing, its haunting yet beautifully bare album is a textural journey over new terrain, armed with a jolt of creative energy from producer Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Super Fury Animals, We Are Augustines). Give In ascends from lands familiar to the band’s members, but this time they’re seen through a more epic vision.
The first offering, “Ghosts,” is a luscious fantasy anthem based on the idea of a deeper death than the physical and the sadness of being forgotten. With dampened guitar lines in the vein of Beach House or Yeasayer, “Ghosts” is subdued resignation. “I don’t want to be your stupid fling or your magazine,” Eiesland cries, over a scuttling drum pattern and smooth synths that lend the track a hazy, ethereal atmosphere.
There’s an emotional push-and-pull on the album, a need to escape and a desire to stay. On “Every Song,” Eiesland begs, “Take me out of here,” while on and “The Hunter,” he’s switched roles, singing, “They’ll pray for you to come back.” Is he singing in response to himself? It’s unclear, but that mystery creates a tension sustained on both spacious tracks by contrasting soaring synth lines and breathy, fuzzy vocals with heavy bass and percussion.
ON AN ON appears to harbor no hard feelings toward Scattered Trees, with the band crediting the breakup of Scattered Trees to physical distance. But there’s a lot of talk about loss and death on the album, which suggests that lead songwriter Eiesland had heavy feelings on his mind in the aftermath. “What could I have done to make this better?” he asks on “Panic.” A tambourine shake and an impulsive drumbeat sound off like audible evidence of goofy joy and driving strength. It encapsulates the simultaneous feelings of hesitation and celebration that come with a relationship ending—be it a band or otherwise. There’s love and loss here, but Eiesland doesn’t show any signs of regret: “Maybe something good could save us all.”