Chad Vangaalen – Shrink Dust

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Rating: ★★★½ ·

Shrink Dust is the fifth release from Chad Vangaalen, so you’re likely to know what you’re getting into when you press play.  You’ll find bits of ambling noise and samples, but most importantly you’ll find the heartfelt vocals that make Chad’s music so enticing.  In fact, this is how things start off here, which captured my attention immediately.

“Cut Off My Hands” begins with a calmly picked guitar, recorded in a manner that lets you hear Vangaalen slide his fingers up and down the fret board.  Then he enters with a stunning vocal performance; it’s the perfect pitch to fit the sound of his guitar, though I’ll admit the track gets a little bit muddy with excess touches of noise.  It’s similar in structure to what you’ll get when you press play on “Lila,” another down-trodden tune that’s dominated by its simplicity.  A slight touch of gang backing vocals and a solid guitar solo elevate this song just a touch, leaving it as one of my favorites on Shrink Dust.  But, as many listeners will note, the guitar/voice combo is not the only area where Chad Vangaalen excels in his songwriting.

Lately, he’s had a knack for incorporating multiple layers of sound into his tracks, building on top of a very simple song structure.  Your first venture into this arena comes via “Where Are You;” this song features an affected vocal that adds a bit of an echo, while there’s a wash of floating noise that goes atop it all.  His vocal delivery of the chorus of “where are you” borders slightly on the psychedelic vein, but not nearly as much as he opts for with the guitar sound on “Leaning on Bells.”  Chad adds a little bit of bounce with the trudging guitar lines, but the way the syllables are drawn out on the lyrics is definitely reminiscent of the modern psych touch.  Yet, what supersedes any of this is that Chad Vangaalen has quite a diverse sound in the grand scheme of things.

“Monster,” another of my personal favorites, has this warble to it. A wavering vocal if you will.  But there’s a swelling chorus that adds a perfect bit of pop to the fold.  And while that song operates in the ballad format, it’s followed by the more folk oriented piece titled “Evil.”  And just as that finishes, you’re off into the previously mentioned psych track, “Leaning on Bells.”  For my two cents, that’s what makes listening to Shrink Dust so ultimately rewarding: none of these songs sound exactly like the one before it, though they’re all obviously related in theme and sound. Chad Vangaalen isn’t going to give you the same song twice, so you’re likely to spend hours listening here without getting labored by too many like-minded numbers.  A little bit of time with this record, and you’ll be swearing on the Vangaalen bible.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/06-Monster.mp3]

Download: Chad VanGaalen – Monster [MP3]

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