The story begins in a galaxy far, far away…
"Intergalactic slavery going on within this closed system," says Chad VanGaalen
, describing a fictional world of his creation. "I basically started making the planet... Then I was like, ‘Oh, it's going to be this mining community." Surprise, surprise,
like that's never been used before..."
And that right there is about as close to "conventional" as Chad VanGaalen comes.
2014's Shrink Dust
is VanGaalen's first album in almost exactly three years. Described by its creator as a "sci-fi folk record", it takes the sound of its predecessor from 2011, Diaper Island
, and, through the introduction of a pedal steel guitar, amplifies a certain country element that's been rumbling around in the background for a while. That influence appears as early as the first track, "Cut Off My Hands", which drifts in on a sweet calm that's reminiscent of the quieter moments of, say, Joel R.L. Phelps and the Downer Trio. VanGaalen album-openers can be deceptively mellow, though, and "Cut Off My Hands" is chased by the propulsive, television snow Madchester-ness of "Where Are You". Spiraling through it all are his trademark traits and nuances: the spectral vocal quiver, melodic pivots and bursts, the stretching of a single word like "evil" to the length of a sentence...