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CHAD VANGAALEN

Chad VanGaalen

World's Most Stressed Out Gardener

    2020 was a terrible year for gardening. It was terrible for peppers, it was terrible for tomatoes, it was terrible for the condition of the soul. But Chad VanGaalen somehow raised a garden all the same: carrots and sprouts and broccoli and a revivifying new album, all of them grown at home. He likes to eat directly off the plant, he says—"I get down on my knees and graze. It's nice to feel the vegetables in your face"—and the 13 songs on World's Most Stressed Out Gardener were harvested with just such a spirit: in their raw state, young and vegetal, at the very moment, they were made. What that means is that the Calgary songwriter's new album is a psychedelic bumper crop. A collection of tunes that does away with obsessiveness, the anxiety of perfectionism, in favor of freshness and immediacy — capturing the world as it was met while recording alone at home over a period of years. "Don't overthink it," VanGaalen told himself again and again, despite the push/pull love/hate of his relationship with songwriting. "I'm always trying to get outside of the song—but then I realize I love the song."


    This is a record that gleams with VanGaalen's musical signatures: found sound, reverb, polychromatic folk music that is by turns cartoonish and hyperphysical—like ultra magnified footage of a virus or a leaf. Apparently, the LP began life as a "pretty minimal" flute record. (There's only a vestige now, on "Flute Peace"—one of three instrumentals.) Later it became an electronic record "for a while" and finally, "right at the last second," it "turned into a pile of garbage." The good kind of garbage: glinting, useful, free. Music as compost—leaves, and branches ready to be re-ingested by the earth, turned into a flower. Throughout these 40 minutes, VanGaalen floats from mania to solace to oblivion, searching for zen in all the wrong places. "Turn up the radio / I think we’re dead," he sings on "Nothing Is Strange"; or, on the inside-out rocker "Nightmare Scenario": "You’re stressed out when you should be feeling very well." The singer's mental landscape is rotting and redemptive, beautiful in spite of itself—and his soundscapes reflect this fertile decay. He has been influenced by his instrumental work on TV scores (Dream Corp's third season began this fall), but still "nothing can really replace the human voice,” he admits. Like Arthur Russell or Syd Barrett, it’s VanGaalen’s vocals that shine a path through the swampland—from the cello-lashed “Water Brother” to “Starlight”’s krautrock pipe-dream. These days, VanGaalen cherishes the privacy of the studio, the capacity to wander around, get distracted, and "move at the speed of life."


    Whereas once he would obsess over mic techniques, now he puts the microphone in the same place every time—trying to capture a song quickly, the idea at its heart. He'll act on his infatuations—for the flute, a squeaky clarinet, his basement's copper plumbing (remade into xylophones for "Samurai Sword")—and then he'll try to get out, "veering away from responsibility," before he overdoes his stay. In the end, it's like gardening. You have to live with your horrible decision-making; the weather's going to fuck you if it wants to; and if you plant a hundred heads of broccoli, "now you gotta eat a hundred heads of broccoli—or watch them go to seed." But mostly VanGaalen just tries to be a deer: "I remember seeing some deer come out in the Okanagan Valley once," he says, "watching them wait for a sunbeam to hit a perfect bunch of grapes—and then eating them right out of the sunbeam. I'd recommend that."

    TRACK LISTING

    Spider Milk
    Flute Peace
    Starlight
    Where Is It All Going?
    Earth From A Distance
    Nightwaves
    Plant Music
    Nothing Is Strange
    Inner Fire
    Golden Pear
    Nightmare Scenario
    Samurai Sword
    Water Brother

    Chad VanGaalen

    Light Information

      Nobody cared about their old heads, because the new ones work just fine now, don't they?.... they have the same size mouth and eyes.

      The song “Old Heads” is a sci-fi space anthem to technology that constantly replaces itself, proving both necessary and unnecessary at the same time. It’s also a jangly pop gem, a trip through the fantastical that is ultimately warm and relatable. 

      For an album that’s about “not feeling comfortable with really anything,” as VanGaalen says, Light Information is nonetheless a vivid, welcoming journey through future worlds and relentless memories. The rich soundscapes and sometimes jarring imagery could only come from the mind of a creative polymath--an accomplished visual artist, animator, director, and producer, VanGaalen has scored television shows, designed puppet characters for Adult Swim, directed videos for Shabazz Palaces, Strand of Oaks, METZ, Dan Deacon, and The Head and the Heart, and produced records for Women, Alvvays, and others.

      While alienation has always been a theme of VanGaalen’s music, Light Information draws on a new kind of wisdom--and anxiety--gained as he watches his kids growing up. “Being a parent has given me a sort of alternate perspective, worrying about exposure to a new type of consciousness that's happening through the internet,” he says. Throughout the dark-wave reverb of Light Information are stories of paranoia, disembodiment, and isolation--but there’s also playfulness, empathy, and intimacy.

      The product of six years’ work, going back even before 2014’s Shrink Dust, Light Information emerged from the experimental instruments that fill VanGaalen’s Calgary garage studio. As always, VanGaalen wrote, played, and produced all of the music on Light Information (save Ryan Bourne’s bass part on “Mystery Elementals” and vocals on “Static Shape” from his young daughters Ezzy and Pip), and designed the cover art.

      TRACK LISTING

      Mind Hijacker’s Curse
      Locked In The Phase
      Prep Piano And 770
      Host Body
      Mystery Elementals
      Old Heads
      Golden Oceans
      Faces Lit
      Pine And Clover
      You Fool
      Broken Bell
      Static Shape


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