Chad VanGaalen was of course the man who recorded those brilliant Women albums and also made the spectacular Diaper Island as well as a bunch of other excellent solo albums. Here he is with his first since 2014's Shrink Dust and has been inspired by bringing up his kids who even sing on one of the songs. Nice.
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Grotesquely gentle, Chad VanGaalen’s handcrafted records have always dealt with tensions of the self, arguing over aggressions and kindnesses in different musical hues. Slime guitars marked ‘Diaper Island’, electronics metamorphosed the grit of ‘Soft Airplane’ and country music prettied up the sonic burps of ‘Shrink Dust’. He’s Canada’s most inventive home recorder and he has the most beautiful voice -- a trembling and tightroped coo centers all of his songs, making them sound beautiful even at their most self-sabotaged.
On ‘Light Information’, VanGaalen returns to the inelegant, tonally meshing guitars of ‘Diaper Island’, weaving them around a plethora of effects and noise ideas -- with its obscured harmonies and fuller sound, it sounds a little more crowded than that record, but carries the same sorta songs: straight-up, emotive and often a little boisterous, the record moves as seamlessly as he possibly can. “Prep Piano + 770”, a piece of mallet-struck ambience, sees VanGaalen set up an environment before rebuilding it as a rawk song proper on “Host Body”, whose intricate, dovetailing guitars are scarred by a claustrophobic production. Same old Chad: breathe some space into the record only to make it uncomfortable as hell.
Despite his songs often sounding detached, like bodies just flailing in the same general area, ‘Light Information’ feels of a place and time, with the switch-up of tinkering soundscaping at the start of “Mystery Elementals” matching up with the carpet-burn riffs of “Faces Lit” and the weird, dark spaces envisioned through the chiming guitar work of “Pine and Clover”. It sounds, for once, like one record towards one purpose, bringing together both the prettiness of his work with the twisted nether zones. “Old Heads”, the record’s centerpiece, feels like the best example of both happening at once -- a gnarly, rushed rock song, it teeters on collapse, the beauty being VanGaalen knows it, his voice losing all balance. ‘Light Information’ is as fragile as it is frantic.
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