Spencer Krug’s new album is a hard sell, and he knows it. Some might call it self-indulgent, some might call it a joke, but he’s way ahead of you and used the punchline as an album title. The first full-length from his latest project Moonface (hopefully named for his endearingly round visage), features nothing but Krug’s voice and the strange sounds of what he describes as “the kind of old double-manual organ from the 80s that you find in your grandmother’s basement,” from programmed drums to tacky automatic arpeggios. Hence the title: Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped. Anyone familiar with the project’s last release – the similarly self-explanatory Dreamland EP: Marimba and shit-drums - should know what to expect. Anyone looking for more instant anthems or quirky glam rock had probably best sit down.
Post-Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown, it seems like Krug is entering his nomadic Damo Suzuki phase, following his muse wherever it takes him. With a bit of tweaking, Organ Music‘s five long songs on (nothing below six minutes) could well have fallen more in line with his back catalogue - especially one-note wonder ‘Shit-hawk in the Snow”s stoned Joe Meek strut. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be where Spencer’s solitary head is at right now; this is a record that’s intentionally intricate, but in no way impenetrable.
The path he beats isn’t so much lo-fi as lo-tech, but with his intentionally-limited resources, Krug somehow manages to create mini-epics that are never short of moments of transcendence: take the way the intriguingly ponderous opener ‘Return to the Violence of the Ocean Floor’ gives way to a stabbing new riff and some blissfully Grandaddyish keyboard flutters in its final minute, or the bass drum of doom that takes over ‘Whale Song (Song Instead of a Kiss)”s entire low-end. It’s these little details that make Organ Music such an engaging listen, employing the kind of infectiously hypnotic tics last heard on Arthur Russell’s thrillingly minimalist World of Echo.
In the current climate for retrofetishism – cassette-only labels or purposefully-poor recordings – it’s hard to get past the idea that the medium is the message. With Organ Music, Moonface has managed to resurrect obsolete equipment in a fascinating new way, without sounding like mere novelty. And with a number of further one-off collaborations in the pipeline, it looks like the already-prolific Spencer Krug is worth keeping even more of an eye on than before.