Monday, May 14, 2012

MOONFACE With Siinaii: Heartbreaking Bravery

Spencer Krug is a serial collaborator. Simultaneously a member of Montreal groups Wolf People and Sunset Rubdown he also formed Canuck art-rock super-group Swan Lake with Dan Bejar of Destroyer and Carey Mercer of Frog Eyes (another band that Krug used to feature in too). So it shouldn’t be a surprise that his third solo release under the Moonface moniker is not in fact a solo record but one in which he is backed by Finnish kraut-rock outfit Siinai (formed from the ashes of Joensuu 1685). So in response to the enquiry ‘what are you listening to?’ the answer “a collaborative Canadian-Finnish art-rock project” could either get you desired hipster points or a slap around the chops depending on the tolerance of your inquisitor.

Whereas earlier Moonface releases had been more playfully experimental (indulgent?) exercises built around organ or marimba, “With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery” has a more voluminous, fully-rounded sound courtesy of the Finns (and their contribution seems to be unfairly demoted to part of the album title rather than equal billing). There’s still an arty vigour and sternness to Krug’s commandeering pulpit lecture vocals but also an exuberant whoosh of chugging, propulsive rhythms and shimmering electronic textures. Songs are dense rather than difficult and many stick to a low-gear restraint but also as with TV On The Radio on "Dear Science" several are quite limber, loose and even poppy: the slinky, mid-tempo title track, the infectiously muscular pulse of ‘Shitty City’, and the sub 3 minute electro-rock firework jesting of ‘Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips’ (“make you look like Stevie Nicks”). So more toe-tapping than other Moonface outings and with greater variety of track duration but oddness and surprise still surface: ‘I'm Not The Phoenix’ with its cryptic incantations, jagged (melodica?) riffs and metronomic drumstick clatter sounds like the Silver Apples and the bubbling tension of ‘Faraway Lightning’ contains a curious whirring not unlike a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer as a backdrop to more darkly combative theme about violent relationships.

It’s a cerebral and moody record but also one where some of its prog-pop jams wouldn’t appear out of place on the dance-floor or at least on a DFA Records compilation. Its declared theme of heartbreak is often difficult to discern beneath the arty lyricism and swagger but both the forthright, charismatic intoning of Krug and the shiny, thickset, repetitive rhythms of his Finnish comrades-in-arms remain hypnotically compelling. Proving that sometimes a solo record can have too many cooks.

The Montreal-Helsinki partnership take “Heartbreaking Bravery” on tour in UK and Europe this month (including a Manchester date at the Soup Kitchen on 28 May).

Moonface With Siinai: Heatrbreaking Bravery [BUY]

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