Published Apr 25, 2014Chad VanGaalen has long been a bastion of weirdo, Canadian art rock. But on his fifth LP, Shrink Dust, the multi-talented avant-pop songwriter can be found exploring a more refined sonic palette.
Concurrently inspired by his long-awaited spaghetti western, sci-fi odyssey Tarboz, as well as his recent interest in the work of country-fried recording artists like Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Shrink Dust is an album with maximalist thematic potential but minimalist instrumentation.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the album is VanGaalen's use of pedal steel guitar, an instrument he coerces into wavering chords and lovelorn melodies on tracks like "Hangman's Son" and "Weighed Sin" in place of the similarly modular synthesizer experimentations of his early career. Elsewhere, astute acoustic guitar playing (album opener "Cut Off My Hands") and AM pop ditties ("Monster," tremolo-heavy number "All Will Combine") showcase VanGaalen's increased sense of confidence in the studio, making Shrink Dust one of his best recorded efforts to date.
Similar to the psychedelic, sun-soaked song structures of Beck's 2002 release, Sea Change, or his most recent LP, hardcore VanGaalen fans may take issue with the album's overall sense of sameness and mellow vibe (outside of the Thee Oh Sees-aping garage rock of "Leaning on Bells"). Still, for those who like their space-age folk rock with a strong sense of humility, it doesn't get much chiller than this.
Read our Questionnaire with Chad VanGaalen here.
(Flemish Eye/Sub Pop)