Many people who saw the trailer for “Drive” and then went to see it left the theatre disappointed. They said that the film wasn’t like what they had seen in the teaser, that they had expected more car chases, a sort of “Fast & Furious” with Ryan Gosling. More or less the same thing happened with another of the big films of 2011, “The Tree Of Life”. People who had headed to the big cinemas to see Brad Pitt and Sean Penn were back out on the street after about half an hour, put off by all of that theological discourse. Music is obviously not entirely comparable, but more than one person might be disappointed by Spencer Krug’s new work as Moonface, “With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery”, if they are starting off from the idea that the album will be as immediate as the first advance, “Teary Eyes And Bloody Lips”, or if they think that like that song, the rest of the tracks will sound like pure Wolf Parade (which is where the Canadian has done most of his best work, if Sunset Rubdown will excuse me for saying so).
This might also happen to those who have never heard anything of Spencer Krug’s work under the pseudonym Moonface, since his work there is anything but accessible. It was less than a year ago that he released his debut album, “Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped”, a collection of five songs (two of them lasting over eight minutes) bathed in a sea of synthesizers. For his second work, at the end of 2011, he joined forces with the Finns Siinai (previously known as Joensuu 1685), after having heard their first album, “Olympic Games”, by chance, also full of long songs with a love for synthetic sounds and the progressive developments of Krautrock. It was love at first sight. Since the Scandinavians had no vocalist, the idea of doing a joint LP with Krug came together quickly.
So, with Krug handling vocals and the occasional flirtation with the keyboards, they started exchanging material between Helsinki and Montreal. While Siinai took care of the skeleton of the songs, Moonface was the one to fill them out. It is clear that of the ten songs that fit on this album, the advance turns out to be the best. In it, they don’t need a long development to draw us in. From the first seconds, we are trapped by the lyrics: “Teary eyes and bloody lips / Make you look like Stevie Nicks”, which are a firm candidate for the best of the year. It is essentially a pop song, melodic to the max and destined to blow out the dance floor of any indie discotheque, with those 70s keyboards that neophytes like Pegasvs seem to have made fashionable. But before you get there, you have to get through almost 40 minutes of music that never reaches the intensity achieved in the superb “Teary Eyes And Bloody Lips”, even though there are some nice epic touches.
The title track, which also opens the album with Krug’s trembling voice and a slowed-down drum, has a slow rhythm and is a long song - but it uses this to make itself larger, to create an ambiance, and to act as a wonderful letter of introduction. The cut that follows it, “Yesterday’s Fire”, is much more similar to how Siinai would sound with a vocalist - which is, one imagines, the main goal of the work. Here they present a nice display of keyboards, of a stadium (even Olympic) epic quality, alongside Krug in his affected mode; to top it off, there is a splendid outro that gives way to “Shitty City”. The first half of this song is eminently electronic and could even pass for an interlude, but towards the end, it turns into a “song” song. It’s a pity that it ends so quickly, which goes to show that they don’t always handle long developments well. The same thing happens, but in the opposite direction, on “Headed For The Door” (which lasts almost eight minutes). Although it has a sharp strength, for ears not used to 70s progressive rock it is hard to listen to. Keeping in mind that this album was released on Jagjaguwar in the middle of 2012, an edit that was two minutes shorter wouldn’t have hurt.
Guitars also have something to say here, especially on the loops that they create in the cosmic ballad “Quickfire, I Tried”, and the virulent riffs of “I’m Not The Phoenix Yet”. On “Faraway Lightning” they again use the resource of heavy percussion placed in the instrumental forefront, alongside electronic sounds similar to that of an alarm warning of the approach of a frightening lightning bolt. It offers the darkest, most terrifying moment of the album.
Some say that strength lies in union. It sounds like a cliché, but “Heartbreaking Bravery” would be a good example of this. Although both parties have some things in common (an exquisite taste for a well-understood epic quality), both sides offer the best of their virtues to make this a very pleasurable album once you hit the third or fourth listen. While the Canadian offers a pop aura - his magnetic voice, and lyrics that delve into people’s emotions (disappointed love plays an important role in the album, as one senses from the title itself) - the Finns exploit their sound influences skilfully and don’t let themselves get too carried away when it comes to using synthesizers and other electronic devices.