Music: VanGaalen does it again

By Tina Siegel

If you’re one of the few people who, like me, still buy CDs, then the artwork on Chad VanGaleen’s latest release might give you pause.

It features a rose-coloured, dread-locked alien giving birth to (what appear to be) increasingly small human females, like some sort of nightmarish Russian nesting doll.

It’s beautiful. It’s baffling. I don’t know if I hate it or love it.

Similarly, the tracks on Shrink Dust are both hypnotic and hypnotizing.

VanGaleen uses a lot of hand-crafted instruments (a two-person thumb piano and a portable harp, for instance) to create an earthy, cosmic sound that feels oddly comfortable.

You can sink into it and stay awhile.

VanGaalen revels in this soundscape, and who can blame him?

It’s a rich, varied place.

His DIY instincts allow him to layer ambient sound over instruments over vocals, providing a soft, trippy frame for the simple clarity of his voice.

Now, I listen to lyrics. In fact, I generally need them to enjoy music. But, in Shrink Dust, VanGaleen’s vocals work with the music instead of over it.

And once I stopped straining to make out individual words, I appreciated the seamlessness of it all.

Beneath that smooth, flowing vibe beats a bizarre heart.

I can’t quite put my finger on it – perhaps it’s the CD artwork that sets the tone for the entire album, or maybe it’s the cryptic snatches of lyric we’re allowed to overhear sometimes.

Maybe it’s as simple as the loose, spacey vibe that permeates every track.

But Shrink Dust is not your typical, straight-forward indie rock.

It’s not your typical anything.

And it’s good.

Chris Vangaleen. Photo by Marc Rimmer.
Chris Vangaleen. Photo by Marc Rimmer.
Chris Vangaleen. Photo by Marc Rimmer.
Chris Vangaleen. Photo by Marc Rimmer.