Wednesday, September 16, 2009

More free music from Chad VanGaalen

I think Chad might just be taunting us now. Only four days before the deliberations for the @PolarisPrize start and he drops a free EP of B-sides that not only show a complete different side to his work, but how quality Soft Airplane must be if some of these tracks are the ones left on the cutting room floor.

Obviously, you can’t call this collection CVG unplugged, but maybe it can be called unkept. He steps away from the pain staking process of layering and looping textures and delivers more straight ahead – again relatively – organic electro tracks. Even more shocking, if the opening few tracks indicate his mood, it appears CVG is also having a lot of fun. Clean beats and standard acoustic chords really come to life thanks to his skilled hands. The double vocals and peppy pop feel that kicks off the collection (Stuffed Animal) is one of the lightest tracks I can ever remember hearing from the Calgarian and his handles it with aplomb. The childlike sounds that form the core of Are You Sleeping? work well against the fuzzy guitar and are refreshing.

Some of the tracks make you almost wish that Chad wasn’t such a meticulous tactician. He's able to do so much with simple electronics and traditional strums that you can’t help but wonder where this style could go. Honestly, when he strips it all back and lets loose, the songs become undeniable. Microscopic World starts with a muddled electro loop and Velvet Underground-like simplicity and diction, but when he throws in the shit hot harmonica and tambourine and gives us a (albeit brief ) organic jam session he seals the deal.

Even more to the point are the tried and true sounding singer/songwriter feel of Did You Find Peace?; a song that softens all of VanGaalen’s questions about the insanity of life and fits perfectly with his thoughts on we are destroying the world or the organic orchestral feel of Soak in Visions. I'm not sure these would have fit into Soft Airplane, especially not after the number of listens I gave it, but they show that CVG has an almost unlimited range when it comes to creating music and the vibe that fits his subject matter.

Here's a couple tracks to sample - including a fantastic xylophone heavy number featuring Julie Doiron and Fred Squire - but grab this free download quickfast. It's better than 95% of the crappy bro-fi, chill-wave nonsense you are being bombarded with these days anyway.

MP3:: Chad VanGaalen ft. Julie Doiron and Fred Squire - I Wish I Was a Dog

MP3:: Chad VanGaalen - Soak in Visions


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Posted at 8:15 AM by ack :: 2 comments

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Polaris Round Up:: Chad VanGaalen Soft Airplane

I had already started writing my recap of Chad VanGaalen’s incredible ’08 release, Soft Airplane, when I happened across another blogger’s well written take on the effort. Ironically, all the reasons he said he can’t form an emotional attachment to the songs CVG put together for this release are exactly why I found the record so powerful.
It’s akin to standing in a museum looking at what you’ve been told is a great and important piece of art. You’ve paid your admission, picked up the bulky head set to listen to the audio commentary, and wandered the galleries pondering the sights before you. You know its history, you know its pedigree, and you’ve spent an hour or more staring at the brushstrokes. So has the person standing next to you. You turn to them, and casually ask, “So what do you think of it?” Their reply: “Well, I think the frame is nice.
For me, when it comes to art the brilliance of the brushstrokes and the creativity is important. I mean, I have to like what is presented - I don't get that whole, "I don't like it but can appreciate it" mindset - but seeing people scatter paint on a canvas or draw an exact replica of a turtle they saw in an ad in a comic book has little to no appeal to me and the same holds true for music. I want to see or hear something beyond the limits of my own ability. There are elements of Chad’s music that are instantly accessible – the lo-fi recording techniques, the familiar Neil Young inspired vocal delivery – but it’s the unique sounds he creates and the warped perspective that are exciting. I know about boy meets girl (I even know about Boy Meets World) and getting run over by love, but when it comes to murder ballads, Viking funeral rituals and obsessing about death I’m admittedly pretty green.

Obviously, Chad’s deepest thoughts aren’t the same as mine, nor are his social fears – I don’t think I’d ever think a noise coming from next door would be my neighbour beating her dog in the basement or ever think about documenting rage like, “I’ll find you and I’ll kill you” – but for thirty or forty minutes it’s equally exciting as it is chilling to venture into his world knowing he’s spent hours thinking about such gruesome things.

I actually took a break from this record after playing it to death in ’08, but when I threw it on again last week it was like hearing it again for the first time. I heard new layers and loops – some of which I was more finally tuned to hear thanks to the Black Mold experiment – and found the melodies stronger. The amazing layering of his sonic collages hit harder and sounded cleaner and the beauty that surrounds the dark thoughts that plagues CVG make it one of the most compelling records on this ballot.

The funniest thing about this whole process is that people are left calling a record about death, murder and loneliness filled with blips, beeps, insane instrumentation and warbled vocals the SAFE choice. I have no problem letting people know that it’s either CVG or Joel leading the race for my vote right now and if this choice is predictable, well the Polaris Prize is doing something right.

MP3:: Chad VanGaalen - City of Electric Light

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Posted at 1:07 PM by ack :: 1 comments

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reviews:: Julie Fader Outside In

In much the same way Afie Jurvanen stepped out from behind the shadows to record a fantastic record, Julie Fader and her angelic voice has moved from supporting role to center stage with her new record, Outside In. Even if you don’t know it, you know Julie. She’s part of the Great Lake Swimmers. She sings with Chad VanGaalen. She plays with Sarah Harmer. She’s helped out Attack in Black. Basically, her unique talents – a voice as pure as fresh snow, top notch flute and Wurlitzer skills and a penchant for the melodica – keep this young artist in high demand, and she’s yet to disappoint.

From the opening notes of Outside In, you can see that Julie is more than ready to step forward and start standing on her own. Yes, she enlists some of the friends she’s made over the years to help her sketches come to life, but by no means does she rely on their talent. Maps benefits from a gentle crescendo, clacking percussion and a surprisingly muscular riff that explodes into your ears halfway through the track, but the star is Julie’s piercing voice. Flight - duet with Chad VanGaalen – on the other hand is rich in subtleties. It’s also one of the most beautiful compositions I’ve heard all year. The swirling notes mesh with Pete Hall’s lap steel in the moody tale of airline terror, and the notes float despite Julie’s constant fear they, like the plane she travels in, might crash.

Really, the dreamy notes she and her friends use soften the impact of a hugely personal record and helps you keep listening. If you took Julie at face value (of her songs at least), you’d have to think she feels scared and alone but that she keeps it inside. Even when the record hits its deepest and darkest point, the reflective Eavesdropping, the atmospheric strings that float in the distance really lessen the weight of the incredibly personal admissions. Lullabye could show Fader competing with big voiced stars like Imogean Heap for a spot on a soundtrack, until you realize the chorus ends with the biting line, "you were so coked out."

For a debut record, the diversity and consistency she offers is surprising. You can't help but think some of producer/boyfriend Graham Walsh (Of Holy Fuck fame) influence helped shape the dynamic and powerful Skin and Bones, but even if you strip the songs down to her picked guitar and voice, the record never suffers from a lag or even a misstep. That's because Fader is so honest in her approach that even the saddest thoughts are given the gentlest, warmest touch to help them feel human, instead of cold, sterile and solitary.

On one of the standout tracks, Goodbye Before Hello, the electronic back beat, strings and steel form a comforting wall of sound, and let Julie explore loneliness and being alone. Handled by a less inviting voice and less talented musicians (where else can you find talent like Harmer, Dekker, CVG and Justin Rutledge appearing on the same record), the message would be too much to digest countless times. But Fader and her friends keep you coming back for listen after listen. If none of that convinces you, hearing Tony Dekker and Julie sing together over Erik Arnesen's banjo on 723 should do the trick.

The timing of this release couldn't be better, considering Fader is coming to Halifax as part of the Hand Drawn Dracula showcase (that includes Brian Borcherdt and By Divine Right) on October 22nd @ The Seahorse.

MP3:: Julie Fader - Flights

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Posted at 7:36 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reviews:: Black Mold Snow Blindness Is Crystal Antz

It’s quite obvious that if the 19-tracks that make up Snow Blindness Is Crystal Antz weren’t composed by one of Canada’s most talented song writers, the casual fan probably wouldn’t embrace Black Mold. Instead of listening to every track, hoping to find unique ways to compare and contrast the collection of late night synth sounds, warming organics and fragmented computer glitches to the critically acclaimed catalog Chad has created, most casual fans would listen to a few tracks and probably look for something else.

But that’s the thing. Chad’s past helps keep us listening, knowing patience will reward us with treasures and surprises. Without question, his work as Black Mold does just that. On the opening track, Metal Spider Webs, he builds a cushion of stand up bass, reeds, delicate strings and percussion before unleashing the warbled synths to introduce chaos and atmosphere that blends seamlessly into the fragmented sounds of Dr. Snouth, which sounds more like a conversation with an 80’s computer in a bad movie than a song. You start to wonder how you can digest 17 more, but then he changes pace again with the infectious, tropical feel of the cleverly named IDM inspired, Uke Puke.

In just 6-minutes, you see why Snowblind is Crystal Antz is so important. Black Mold finally gives Chad an outlet for all of his deepest thoughts and noise experiments. Using homemade and vintage instruments, sampling from influences – honestly, the lead single Tetra Pack Heads could have made it’s way into any IDM/jungle DJs list of preferred jams - that he’s unable to add to his more standard work, Black Mold is really a glimpse into the side of Chad that stays up when the sun is coming up, trying to record every single sound he creates.

Some are beautiful (Wet Ferns, Metal Spider Webs). Some make you shake your ass (Uke Puke, Gummed Desk). Some are more apt as video game or movie scores (No Dream Nation, Barn Swallow Vs. SK-1). Some feel like the portal into the mind of a twisted man (Dr. Snouth, Smoking Rat Shit). Most however are a crazy assimilation of all of those feelings, textures and sounds. He can create a melody that on its own would entertain you, but floods it with pitfalls, speed bumps and unsteady terrain that challenges you to keep listening and him to keep it all together.

Black Mold isn’t another CVG record, and really, thank god. I think these late night experiments are as important to Chad as they are to his fans. When you really listen you can hear that these tracks are like the Rosetta Stone, helping us follow the path of creation for some of his most spirited solo creations, but more importantly, they let Chad completely escape without having to stay in the confines of a record and keep his creative energy coursing through his veins.

If you head over to Flemish Eye before August 11th, you can pre-order the record and receive a bonus drop-card with 100 extra minutes of music and a poster.

MP3:: Black Mold - Metal Spider Webs

MP3:: Black Mold - Tetra Pack Heads
Pre-Order:: Buy from Flemish Eye

Labels: Black Mold, , , ,

Posted at 7:45 AM by ack :: 1 comments

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stingray of the Day:: Black Mold - Tetra Pack Heads

MP3:: Black Mold - Tetra Pack Heads

Labels: Black Mold, , Electronic,

Posted at 10:47 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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