are you swimming in her pools?

I once asked a musician friend why so many of his songs were full of references to the sea. “Because it’s big and you can put all your problems in it,” was his succinct and profound reply. If there was ever another artist to explore the vastness of the ocean (and thus of life), and the beautiful and terrible associations it calls up, it would be Spencer Krug. His work up until now is littered with references to the briny deep, but whereas for my friend, I suspect that the ocean is a cleansing, if sometimes dangerous, thing – something to wash away life’s troubles with that bracing feeling we all experience when we finally give in and put our head under the water even though its cold – for Krug the ocean is nothing short of polluting. Indeed, if we’re all throwing our problems in it, if it is the collective bathing pool of humanity from our dawn, then it’s a very dirty thing indeed:

I don’t really want to swim with you
I don’t really want to swim with you
I don’t want to swim swim swim
In the water you claim all has been through
Sunset Rubdown, ‘I’m Sorry I Sang on Your Hands That Have Been in the Grave’
(possibly apocryphal)

When you think about it, that last line is entirely true – I remember a great bit of trivia I once read somewhere that if you pour a cup of blue dye in the sea, then in a thousand years it would be spread throughout the entire ocean. Everything moves through this water, and whilst it gives life, for Krug that fact is a disgusting one. Effluent and bottled spring water are all the same thing in the end. There’s something possibly Freudian here, like this fluid were one, big mucousy discharge from a certain place, circulating the drier, safer parts of our world.

Nevertheless, Krug cannot help himself, and he goes back in for a dip, most recently and brilliantly on his solo effort, the stupendously titled Dreamland EP: marimba and shit-drums, under the Moonface moniker. For both musical and lyrical reasons this single-track, twenty-minute piece is perhaps the most gripping and interesting thing I’ll hear all year. Musically, it’s simply amazing how much pathos and excitement Krug can pull out of something that otherwise signifies Calypso beach party! – here the marimba becomes a fast-paced death knell, constantly rising only to be met with as much force by treated drums straight out of bad 80s synth-pop. If ever a piece of music reinterpreted the mood and aesthetics of an instrument – well, two instruments – this is it.

Lyrically, Dreamland is ostensibly a narration of Krug's dream journal – and it sure has that hazy, irreal atmosphere of dreaming – where we find Krug “hanging out in the tower / The tower overlooked the sea”, surveying his surreal and dark landscape of spiritualists, chameleons and glass guitars, looking for someone or something. No matter how reluctant he might be to go in there, he's only going to find it by searching the waters, so he prepares himself to dive:

(Dreamland EP cover)

At least he won’t swallow anything if he keeps that snorkel on, unless it flows over the top and down the tube like it sometimes does if you don’t push out whilst going down. He spots her!, after futilely looking where he probably knew she wouldn’t be found:

All through the sky, all over the ground, I was looking for you
You were dipping in the water like a beauty
Did you think about your man out in the whirlpool sea?

He’ll have to go after her, and there is little hesitancy to return to shore, as the marimbas quicken their pulse – if that was already possible, giving the absolutely lightening rhythmic rate they bang up:

Above the dirty harbour water
Half a mile from the shore
A cannon fell out of the sky
Now it sits upon the dirty ocean floor
Girls already in their swimsuits
They are sitting on the pier
I will swim to them like a fish
I have ridden on these waves
I will be there in no time
I have ridden on these waves
I have crashed into the shore
I have rolled along the dirty ocean floor

As the gated drums accentuate his journey back to land, we find that Krug has been through it all, he has felt, smelt and probably tasted the absolute despicable depths of humanity at the bottom of the sea, what he found there we do not really know. All we know is that the tide that brings us in will always take us back out. Whether we like it or not, we “are bound to the water / like creatures on a leash”.

0 riffs: