Chad VanGaalen - Skelliconnection
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Chad VanGaalen

According to reports, Chad VanGaalen has recorded something like 20 albums worth of material over the course of the past five years or so. Also an illustrator and animator, his official debut album Infiniheart was a great collection of his widely-varied work, which featured his multi-instrumental abilities and songwriting prowess. Skelliconnection is his second release on the Sub Pop label, and like his first disc is collection of tracks gathered from several years of output (2003-2006).

There are a couple small differences that set this newest release apart from his debut, though, and one is that it's a bit more concise. With fifteen songs clocking in at under forty minutes in running length, Skelliconnection features a much more lean makeup than his debut while still featuring a wide variety of sounds. If I had to draw comparisons, I'd say that VanGaalen actually has quite a few things in common with the earlier work of Beck in that he's not afraid to jump from fuzzy power pop to slower, drum machine driven balladry and even a couple short improvisational sounding instrumentals.

"Flower Gardens" opens the disc and the two and a half minute track is easily one of the best things that he's done to date. Super chunky guitar riffs growl over a relentless pounding of drums and stuttering vocal patterns that fit the frenetic guitar power chords. "Hot Red Drops" is another standout, and the track morphs from introspective electronic pop musings into a hand-clapping analogue singalong. The middle of the disc is a bit less focused, with an instrumental analogue keyboard workout in "Viking Rainbow" and a noodly electro-jam in "Dandruff."

There's also a quiet, folky banjo-driven track ("Wing Finger"), a harmonica-laced, synth-garbled guitar rocker ("Mini T.V's"), and a couple other more ballad-esque pieces that fill out the second half of the release. After the scattered first half of the disc, the more focused latter section feels a bit more inviting, but the slower songs don't have quite the hooks that his faster pieces do, while some of the short instrumentals don't add anything to the album at all. If you enjoyed his odd pastiche of a debut, you'll probably find more to enjoy with this one. Like his debut, it could use a bit more focus and some editing, but the basement hits feel is part of the charm with VanGaalen.

rating: 710
Aaron Coleman 2006-08-31 20:54:00