Dreamland EP: marimba and shit-drums

(Jagjaguwar; 2010)

By Dom Sinacola | 4 January 2010

Not so much a giant leap in prolificacy as it is one small step for a man always up to something like this, Dreamland EP: marimba and shit-drums is Spencer Krug’s almost-stupid joke for those he knows have been paying attention. Granted, he goes by Moonface, which in pretty much any sense touches on some derogatory connotations, on some outdated, offensive sensibilities, and especially on that expression he makes for the cover of the EP, like he doesn’t understand what he’s found in the ocean or it smells badly and he’s about to issue some sort of low, gurgling “ugh” in some sort of jejune defense, even though he knew that’s what would happen when he decided to go snorkeling in the first place. But frankly, this slight on paper only EP seems, every time I make it through its brisk twenty-minute-sixteen-seconds, more and more the logical epilogue to Sunset Rubdown’s Dragonslayer (2009). Here we finally have Krug, alone, so comfortable with the idea of concision that he all but sets artificial exercises for himself, props up then knocks down shallow gimmicks to make his conciseness obvious, yet still able in a restricted space and relatively short time to reveal a menagerie of characters—even if they’re pronouns with no subject, archetypes with no graspable original.

That Dreamland is also arranged superbly, is spacious and lush because of, not despite, its proficiency, is an example, not quite yet a testament, to how epic Krug’s songwriting has become. Not explicitly; Random Spirit Lover (2007), maybe Dragonslayer’s prologue, was for that kind of indulgence. Here he leaves the vastness of scope up to us, his lyrics stuffed with ominous and disjointed mini-scenarios, amounting to something out of Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World or an ectopic mutilation care of Cronenberg or a page-long sentence of a feverish hallucination sequence from Infinite Jest or that one time I watched the trailer to Lovely Bones right after seeing The Happening, so: familiar but offputting, kinda cheesy. Also at one point dipped in the slowly receding unease that ends J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, both tonally and in the vignette he describes, or what I remember of that book; this is, I mean, exactly what it calls itself—when Krug repeats “I venture into a dreamland” he seems to be patting you on the shoulder, all “It’s OK,” he assures you, “you can stop trying so hard.” Count on what you know, your allusory instincts, your cumulative everything; this is only made of marimba, after all, of drums that he thinks sound like shit, and dreams you probably won’t understand anyway—because you shouldn’t. Because they’re dreams.

So just like anything Spencer Krug releases, Dreamland is beset with a thin, fulvous pall that eventually, inevitably saturates (touched on first within five minutes of this twenty-minute suite, but soon abandoned and forgotten; again, the pat on the back) when an instrument not previously mentioned in the EP’s title, in the song’s final minutes, accents the marimba’s trot to eventually cant it headfirst into some beefy, not-so-shit-anymore beat. The so-called instrument is more lightsaber pointed at and through an inestimably enormous steel drum than some simple electric guitar or just a deftly applied effect on the marimbas, as is, I’d imagine, reality, but this is less important than what the pall, just like in anything Spencer Krug releases, represents: the anticipation of something awkward, the knowledge that Krug’s going to give you more than you want to know about him. And given how many aliases and lineups he’s been storing in his cheeks, that’s something that makes his music consistently surprising—rewarding—even as a fan gets what a fan expects.

Though you can, by all means, get the digital version for free here, chances are you’re a fan if you do, a fan being a human being that has already followed a path through Spencer Krug’s music, in total, and so can see the line “I hear a voice say that it hates my heart” coming from miles off, at the crest of the horizon, a silhouette of something common and humdrum but twisting in ways alien and really fucking creepy. This is how the EP ends: with simmering menace—gone from a sprightly, even hopeful beginning to seething conclusion, Krug finally repeating to the Sword of Damocles siren wailing at him, from over him, “I am making hissing sounds with my mouth,” and then the peril plain stops cold, no resolution. He’s not defending himself from anything; he’s saying that he’s doing something that symbolizes him defending himself from anything. And if this is his way of letting go, right at the end, releasing control because he’s got so many more huge trumpet lines in him and has not the strength or patience for more pats on the shoulder, then we should’ve probably seen that one coming anyway.