Artist: Chad VanGaalen
Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: 08.23.05
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I’m a sucker for a real low-fi discovery story. You know what I’m talking about. Some musical genius is discovered after being locked in his bedroom for ten years with a 4 track and ends up creating something phenomenal. Many times I’m let down by such claims as it usually turns out to sound like, well…. some kid who has been locked in his bedroom for ten years with a 4 track. This is not the case for Canadian Chad VanGaalen, whose Sup Pop debut is intriguing low-fi candy at its very best.
Essentially, Chad VanGaalen was indeed locked in his bedroom for ten years experimenting with songwriting and recording technique. He claims to have recorded 200 albums worth of material over the last decade, which he keeps on CD-Rs that are packed in toolboxes. Kind of like Jandek on speed, except that VanGaalen has talent. “Infiniheart” is essentially a “Best Of” compilation culled from this huge collection of self-produced recordings. Hopefully it won’t take 10 more years to get a sophomore release this good.
Besides drums, horns and guitars many of the other instruments you’ll hear on “Infiniheart” were hand built and played by VanGaalen. It could be a homemade piano, a coffee can, the dried remains of a dead rat, who knows. It’ll drive you nuts if you try to figure out what instruments you are actually listening to on many of these tracks. This game of “name that instrument” is worth the price of admission alone, but the man actually makes it all sound great. Sure, sometimes something is too loud in the mix, or you may hear people talking in the background, but doesn’t that make it real? The first time I sat through the whole album I was distracted by some of these low-fi elements and odd sounds, but on the second spin it became luminous. Like when your mask fills with water on your first dive at the coral reef. It’s a bit disconcerting at first, but only takes a few moments to get your mask cleared. When you do, a foreign world suddenly becomes crystal clear, intense and beautiful.