Release Date: Sep 8, 2017
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Ladies, gents, and parasitic germs: I return today to headquarters after a long, strange journey. Far away, high up north in a distant land where every face stares at blank lights and every creature could burst into a kaleidoscopic sketch, I charted the fantastical lands conceived by Chad VanGaalen. Yet, no matter how peculiar the contours would seem, no matter what morbid demons the routes would plow through, I felt eerily at ease within Light Information.
In an interview back in 2013, Molly Rankin of Alvvays shared some insight into what the experience of having Chad VanGaalen record her band’s debut album in his home studio, Yoko Eno, was like. Surrounded by colors and vibraphones, and a guitar “with a collection of various concert-goers’ dreadlocks fused together”, whatever that means, the band found themselves with a producer bent on adding percussion played with dining utensils. Not surprising for an multi-disciplinary artist who strongly believes that people should be able to live in houses shaped like giant hands..
I wonder what it’s like to spend time in Chad VanGaalen’s garage. The space has been described as “equal parts garage studio and wacky inventor’s laboratory,” which sounds about right. VanGaalen’s creative lair is cluttered with vintage gear (including his beloved Korg 770 monosynth) as well as homemade instruments, like a self-styled double-kalimba and an analog drum machine partly constructed from Legos. VanGaalen could, I suppose, do the conventional thing and decamp to a studio with some moderately recognizable producer name.
Chad VanGaalen has been consistent about his favorite track on Light Information, the sixth proper album from the prolific Calgary-based multimedia auteur and one of his finer efforts yet. Invariably, his pick is .
I wouldn’t guess that Chad VanGaalen knows much about evolution. In the video for ‘Pine and Clover’, he animates coral-like beings that shapeshift into one another over the course of several geological epochs. I’d assumed VanGaalen’s subject was a woman when I first heard the song at Massey Hall a couple of years ago, but now all bets are off.
Chad VanGaalen makes an eerie kind of almost-pop, a music that seems on its surface to clank and roar and jangle like ordinary garage rock, but is perceptibly half a twist off the normal. That's maybe partly due to the curious tremble in his wavery voice or the note-shifting impermanence of the synthesizers and keyboards he uses. You're always hearing these sounds as if from under water, a bubble and bent-light distortion morphing their shapes subtly out of true.