Spencer Krug’s involvement to varying degrees in numerous side projects reveals his belief in the power of collaboration to bring about the creation of music that wouldn’t have been brought about otherwise. It also suggests the desirability of accessing and recording creative sides of oneself that may not have gotten to the surface when left in the same, relatively stable configuration for too long. Now with Wolf Parade on indefinite hiatus, these projects may be met with a different sort of attention, not as forays outside of a central preoccupation, but as autonomous expressions of different interests and combinations of talent and personality. The thing is, though, from where I stand, Sunset Rubdown, Frog Eyes, and Swan Lake inhabit the same musical neighborhood as Wolf Parade and thus explore the same bordering territories.
Moonface, on the other hand, is Krug on his own and there is more of a sense here that he is pushing beyond his comfort zone through the sounds he limits himself to and the unexpected occurrences that flow from these limitations. The push outward that comes with collaboration seems to come in a stronger dose with the, instead, exploration of new materials, instruments and machines, to make music from. He heads further out, to the delight of some and, no doubt, the puzzlement of others.
The Moonface moniker was first appended to 2010’s Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit Drums, an EP composed of a single track that is indeed made of marimba and shit-drums. The long piece is fluid and full of lyrics, meandering benevolently and introspectively in a manner not unlike Dan Bejar’s fantastic “Bay of Pigs,” collecting images similar to those collected on earlier work but lodging them in less familiar settings. In Krug’s case, this is a world of stitched together percussion, intersecting, repeating, changing.
Things are different with Organ Music, a five-song album for which he wrote an outsized press-release notating the record’s genealogy, the gist being that it didn’t end up as he had conceived it: firstly, because he wanted to make a record more like Dreamland EP, using percussion to similar ends, but stalled and while stalled happened upon the idea of making the double-manual organ central instead. It was then supposed to be mostly drones, more abstract, but his pop instincts sunk in and songs appeared, though like Bejar’s foray into the worlds of ambient, new-age, and soft-rock, the strength and singularity of the resulting material is in the collision of strong personality and instincts with new spaces, materials, colors, moods, visions.
Some may find Organ Music monotonous – both because of its repetitions and its limited palette – but those monotonies are exactly what raise it above any pernicious monotony. By limiting his options he discovers new possibilities. In that spirit, my favorite track here may just be “Shit-Hawk in the Snow” because it is the most bonkers, wild circus arpeggios of organ flaring out, a Suicide-like sense for rhythmic repetition, droning and clattering, dark and most attractive when Krug howls, “Hyp-Hyp-Hyp-Hypnotize you.” A bit of mayhem in mascara dressed up in organ tones.
“Loose-Heart = Loose Plans” operates in a zone approaching cosmic disco, codeine-slow beats and trippy atmospherics creep around under the cover of night. “Fast Peter” is the pleasingly sabotaged hit, fast and pulsingly motorik, propelled forward by the bravura emotionality of the opening lines: “Peter loves a girl, the way that only Peter could / He told me all about it on the balcony, when we were high on drugs,” until the beat disappears and its romantic core cracks and oozes lava-lamp blobs of organ color slide in and out of one another. It is, however, difficult to decide whether or not one should hope for Krug to stick to the organ for a while, or head someplace altogether different again. Whichever he chooses, I will be listening.
Suicide – Suicide
Destroyer – Kaputt
Stereolab – Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements