Spencer Krug has enough music in his bones to record under a handful of monikers. His bold rock songs were folded into Wolf Parade, the grand, theatric stuff went toward Sunset Rubdown, and the silvery webs of indie rock went to supergroup Swan Lake. But he’s saved the most experimental material for Moonface, the dreamy meditative stuff as narrowly focused as his other eccentric work was wide, the work heavily indebted to drone.While his past two Moonface releases focused on a single instrument (his 2010 EP Marimba and Shit-Drums and 2011 LP Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped reveal their intentions at first glance), new album With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery blends elements of that droney meditation with dark-hued indie rock, thanks to a collaboration with Finnish post-rock group listed in that title. The result is a blend of startling lyrical depth and slow, whirlpools of murky music.
The supposed story behind this project fits in with popular conceptions of Krug: the members of Siinai opened (then as members of Joensuu 1685) for Wolf Parade on their 2009 European tour, and they mentioned a need for a vocalist. Just two years later, Krug had dropped into Finland, stepped behind the mic and keys, and the international ensemble recorded this new album. Together, they make up a dark, contemplative team, the Finns building atmospheric, shadowy structures for the Canadian’s uniquely mythic, weary lyrics.
The album progresses lyrically, Krug delving deeper into heartbreak and loss, grasping at strings that could keep everything tied together in a semblance of hope. From the beginning, the tone is set, the setting established, and the ball started at a heavy roll. The opening title track builds on showers of shimmery piano, watery bass, and pulsar guitar effects, the world beginning to drift and sway in uncertainty. Krug’s delivery is equally marshy, bogged down in pain and animalism. When describing the distance from a lost love, he warbles: “I am not the fox with blood stained lips standing over the kill.” The primal nature of relationships is another theme, violence recurring frequently. His love isn’t good enough because he’s “got blood but not the bloodlust you need.”
Some tracks take these epic, challenging topics and ground them in more traditional indie soundscapes, as on “Yesterday’s Fire”, a sludgy take on the psych-rock of Secret Machines. The sparking guitar noise loop that ends that track, though, bleeds through for two more minutes, a noisy, droning interlude between more traditional songs. Later, the evocatively titled “10,000 Scorpions” builds an instrumental patch of bass rumbles and twirling synth into the clip-clop shivers of “Faraway Lightning”. This slow-building composition is one that suits the melancholic, self-inspecting lyrical content to a tee.
Krug’s lyrics, as is usually the case with his material, weave together like a tapestry, themes blending between tracks with a deft hand. After the fox imagery mentioned earlier, he returns to the animal realm, insisting on his still broken heart: “I’m not the phoenix yet,” he moans over hammering percussion and wonky keyboard squiggles.
But the delve into the depths on “Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips” proves to be the strongest. The headfirst leap into nostalgia is breathtaking: “when we float in the water, its not the absence of the other, but the absence of anyone else that will drown us in the end,” Krug avows, holding onto his heartbreak with the bravery that the title promised. There is darkness in the world, and this is an album that stares it in the eyes and waits for an echo.
Essential Tracks: “Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips”, “Heartbreaking Bravery”