It’s always great when a band gives you some indication of where their musical influences lie, of where they draw their inspiration but like most background musings accompanying a Mr Dog The Bear release, how helpful that might be is questionable and you find that the information to hand raises more questions than it answers. The enticingly named A Tribute to Victims lists “rejected film scores, losers, Lost, 90’s church organ driven indie ballads, lobotomies and the sounds in a Japanese forest” as part of its DNA, though I’m not really sure if such an insight gets me much closer to understanding the music.
But that is the point really, music isn’t made to be understood, to be taken apart and examined, to be scrutinised and poked at like a sonic lab rat; it is merely there to be experienced and maybe the conditions and reasons for its birth are best left mystery. If you define it, you limit it and Mr Dog The Bear are best left floating around the musical ether without anyone telling where it can and can’t go sonically. As is usual we are presented with a suit of instrumental tracks, wide-screen and cinematic yet ambient and drifting in nature, a four part narrative that is best considered one long piece rather than trying to understand it as conventional tracks.
It seems to wander through the consciousness of the listener, sometimes beat driven, more often than not a hazy and spacious affair that takes in post-rock drama, proggy complexities, filmic electronica and dismembered pop as it twists and turns through its own landscape. It travels from sky-scrapping crescendos to half-heard meditations, from futuristic electronica to more traditional and organic forms, from the melancholic to the euphoric, as it imparts its unspoken emotions on the listener. And as always the music is open to much interpretation, it means anything that you want it to mean, it speaks in a language that you can only experience as a one-sided conversation.
But for all its ambiguity, it is heart-achingly beautiful and elegantly composed. Sometimes you have to just forget about understanding something and just bathe in the afterglow of its exquisite charms and it doesn’t get more sonically charming than this.