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I’ve got a lot of love for Chad Vangaalen. His last album ‘Diaper Island’ was spinning on my turntable for the longer than most. The video for 'Peace On The Rise’ is an inspired masterpiece greatly indebted to the work of Rene Laloux’s, particularly his fantasy epic Gandahar. One of the bands I play in had the pleasure of supporting Vangaalen and his Canadian friends at the Brudenell Social Club and while back and, when I asked him about the influence of Laloux, he rather excitedly pulled out his mobile phone so we could mutually appreciate scenes from the film. He had it stored for reference. Good lad.
‘Shrink Dust’ is Chad Vangaalen’s fifth studio album and, though I’m excited about this primarily country tinged outing, I was more excited to discover that some of the music contained within would soundtrack Chad’s ongoing animated movie project entitled ‘Translated Log Of Inhabitants’. I’ve no idea when it’ll be ready but I’m extremely excited by the prospect of him completing it. He even references Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius’s classic graphic novel ‘Incal’ in the press release! Excitement Jackson.
‘Shrink Dust’ isn’t as immediate as its predecessor but give it a couple of listens and the rewards are great. There’s some beautiful lap-steel and harmonica work, great production and the usual high quality of songwriting I’ve come to expect. His voice is getting real inventive too with some strange tremolo-esque techniques sneaking in and no shortage of excellent harmonies are on offer. Oh, and there’s some party numbers there too so don’t fret.
I’m still amazed he can be so creatively prolific whilst practically minded enough to commit it all the tape unassisted by outsiders. I appreciate it’s not an impossible undertaking but it’s certainly not easy and his should most definitely be applauded. Nothing better than seeing an artist with a single minded vision come good time and time again. Keep ‘em coming buddy.
9/10 Mark 22nd July 2014
Prior to this album I have never heard of Chad VanGaalen.
I have since found out that as well as being a musician, who creates his own instruments, he is also an artist who draws and creates animations. The cover of his latest album - Shrink Dust - is in fact one of his very own and I think gives you a very good idea on the type of work he churns out.
Opening track "Cut Off My Hands" hooked me straight away. An off kilter ballad that opens with the lyrics:
"I cut off both my hands
Threw them in the sand
Watched them swim away from me
Like a pair of bloodied crabs"
...a weird Cronenberg-esque body horror scene with a quirky smile and and a blank sadness. What a picture that paints, and the music complements it perfectly giving it a sad, surreal and funny context. Chad's voice has a lost and confused sadness to it as he creates this imagery which I find totally spell binding. It's a miracle I ever made it past this track.. in fact why aren't I listening to it now instead of writing this?
The album is full of this imagery. "Monster "describes the metamorphosis of someone into an other worldly beast in eerie detail:
"And my fingers have shriveled and dropped to the dirt
And two giant talons have grown where they were"
If all this sounds a little scary, fear not. The real triumph of this album is how Chad manages to weave all this body horror chicanery into wonderful songs that take elements of Country and Psychedelic space rock which he blends perfectly.
You should also check out the video to lead single "Where are You?" which is quite frankly bonkers (in an ace way).
I find this album totally mind bending and have become a massive fan of Chad VanGaalen. I am looking forward to discovering more of his work.
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