Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

CHAD VANGAALEN

Shrink Dust

2014-04-27

Chad VanGaalen is a visual artist and musician from Calgary, Alberta. His debut album, Infiniheart, was released in 2004, featuring his eccentric artwork.  Since then, VanGaalen has released three other records, including the Polaris short-listed Soft Airplane (2008). According to his official page, over the past decade, VanGaalen has been producing "living maps in songs, drawings, modified instruments, animations and performances--shifting forms pointing to another world, infinitely more liveable, maybe hidden just under the surface of our own."  His music has evolved to become an acoustic, electronic experience into this other world. VanGaalen's fifth studio album, Shrink Dust, features an aluminum pedal steel guitar, which VanGaalen spent over a year learning. This instrument unifies the album and leads VanGaalen to call it a country record, though the album still contains heavy rock and electronic influences. Themes of death, transformation, fear, benign evil, and the eccentricity of love draw the listener into VanGaalen's strange and often disorienting lyrics. "Cut Off My Hands" opens the albums with VanGaalen's eerie vocals, disturbing lyrics, unsettling harmonies, and dissonant instrumentation. From there, the album moves into songs with clear Southern influence, like "Lila" and "Evil," yet still contain the dread of VanGaalen's vocals.
Richard Martin

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