NEWS: Chad Vangaalen

23 05 2011

New Album + Free Download

Every so often, Chad VanGaalen emerges from his bunker in Calgary with a batch of songs, giving us a window into his private world. With new album Diaper Island, released on June 13th through Sub Pop, VanGaalen distils his approach, producing the closet thing he has done to a rock album.

Just as famed for his illustrations, including J Mascis’ most recent video and previous videos for Holy Fuck and Guster, Vangaalen is namechecked as a musical influence by musicians from Dananananaykroyd, through to Florence & the Machine and many more besides. The first track from the album, ‘Sara’ is now up for free download.

Whilst VanGaalen’s three previous records were made in a cramped basement studio, a move to a larger recording room offered space to develop and refine his sound. Fresh from producing Women’s Public Strain, VanGaalen decided to avoid the comfort of working on previous ground, and apply some of the recording techniques and sonic ideas that emerged from those sessions. For the first time, multi-tracked and often overdriven guitar is the instrument at the centre of the songs, which are often sparce and free of the melodic details in previous albums. With this focus on guitar, combined with a beloved vintage tape machine determining the sound, VanGaalen moved towards a leaner, no-frills approach—one that more closely resembles the music that influenced him as a teenager.

The paradox of trying to assert control in a climate of helplessness winds through the album, whether in the existential pondering on life and death that often pervades VanGaalen’s songs (‘Do Not Fear’, ‘Replace Me’), or in the conflict between control and creativity (‘Freedom For A Policeman’, ‘No Panic, No Heat’). At the album’s heart is ‘Sara’, a simple and celebratory paean that praises the ability of VanGaalen’s partner and muses to nurture his creativity in the face of this uncertainty, and captures the songwriter at his most sincere and powerful.

Edited by Joe Crouch

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