Moonface’s final album is a fitting–and excellently fragmented–parting gift from Spencer Krug’s alter-ego.
The mythical Minotaur is one of civilization’s earliest examples of a hybrid, the byproduct of two species spliced together. The Minotaur lived in the centre of the Labyrinth, a structure constructed with the sole purpose of containing the half-breed creature among its dead-ends, repeating paths, and impenetrable walls. If you take all that into consideration, This One’s For the Dancer & This One’s For the Dancer’s Bouquet makes perfect sense. The conceit of Spencer Krug’s final record as Moonface — two separate recording sessions of differing musical styles and sounds presented as a single, interwoven, four-sided record — is a massive, musical hybrid enclosed in a tangle of twists and tangents. It presents as a daunting listen, until you find your way into its centre and discover the inherent attraction of its polarity.
To appreciate the collective power of Moonface’s phases on This One’s For the Dancer & This One’s For the Dancer’s Bouquet, it’s best to temporarily consider the two separate recording sessions independently. The Minotaur’s songs (as we’ll refer to them), are lowly sung from the mythical creature’s point of view, offering up forgiveness to those who locked him in his prison. Adorned by marimba and steel drums, the Minotaur’s meek vocoder-processed voice lends the narrative songs a mystic quality. The marimba and drums echo back to Moonface’s first release, Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums; the synth-fueled, fantastical atmosphere of these songs feel about as far to the experimental extreme as Moonface has ever gotten.
Left on their own, the Minotaur narrative songs would feel incomplete. Interspersed with the songs from the second session, the Minotaur’s songs feel like a necessary component. The second session resulted in keyboard-driven “rock” sung from Krug’s perspective. They are peppered with jazz elements courtesy of saxophonist Matana Roberts and drummer Ches Smith, sung from Krug’s perspective–the Minotaur’s songs feel like a necessary component. Bridging the Minotaur’s mythical world and one that more resembles our own, many of Krug’s songs (as we’ll refer to them) ring out like emotional pleas for mercy. Here, too, Krug calls back to Moonface’s past, re-imagining the title track of Heartbreaking Bravery (his first collaboration with Swedish rockers Sinaii) as a soulful, modern jazz hymn. “Hater” is a mini-marvel, matching the emotional wallop of anything on Moonface’s emotionally charged masterpiece, Julia With Blue Jeans On, note-for-note.
Individually or as a composite whole, the two halves of This One’s For the Dancer & This One’s For the Dancer’s Bouquet don’t make for easy, background listening. Even their creator admits that listening to all eighty-four minutes of the record in one sitting is a) impossible and b) unnecessary. It helps to adhere to the album’s vinyl sequencing and engage with each of its four sides in single settings, but even that suggests you start at track one and proceed through the next fifteen in sequential order. No harm is done to the overall effect of the album by letting your digital player randomly select the order and sequence (whether Krug endorses the practice or not); you might find it makes for a surprising and stunning playback experience. That’s because, like the Minotaur’s many-tendriled Labyrinth, This One’s For the Dancer & This One’s For the Dancer’s Bouquet has multiple paths and passages to get lost in. Directions change mid-song, moving from densely packed arpeggios through to repeating melodic motifs. This mythic beast of a record dances between fantasy and reality using sax, marimbas, and something akin to rock ‘n’ roll as imagined in an alternate universe.
Just as there is no proper way to do justice to This One’s For the Dancer & This One’s For the Dancer’s Bouquet’s weird and wild experience with words, there is ultimately no right or wrong way to listen to Moonface’s final opus. Like its enigmatic and eccentric creator, it’s a record beyond description or comparison. Stoked by both its high concept and straight-ahead rock spirit, This One’s For the Dancer & This One’s For the Dancer’s Bouquet is a fitting — and excellently fragmented — parting gift from Spencer Krug’s fearless alter-ego.