His first solo record since 2011’s Diaper Island, Calgary-native Chad VanGaalen’s Shrink Dust marks a definitive change in his sound.
While VanGaalen often relies on homemade instruments to craft his zany soundscapes, Shrink Dust features the addition of an aluminum pedal steel guitar. This makes the album — in VanGaalen’s view — a country record. But with lyrics like “Cut off both my hands / And threw them in the sand / Watch them swim away from me like a pair of bloody crabs,” from the opening track, “Cut Off My Hands,” it is a decidedly un-country country record. As fans of VanGaalen know, it’s not easy to slot his music into any one genre.
Shrink Dust is also a soundtrack to Translated Log of Inhabitants, Van- Gaalen’s feature-length animated sci-fi film slated for release this year. He describes it as a “fully illustrated D&Desque compendium of 150 associated characters.” With VanGaalen’s animation style as varied as his music, the film will undoubtedly be a deliciously surreal visual feast.
Shrink Dust marks a maturity in Van- Gaalen’s talents as a musician. Between his other-worldly vocals on “Evil” and earnest harmonica on “Weighed Sin,” each song feels thoughtful and deliberately crafted. VanGaalen’s versatility allows the album to flow seamlessly from beginning to end, where listeners are rewarded with the haunting “Hangman’s Son” and layered beauty of space sounds and steel guitar on “Cosmic Destroyer.”
Catch VanGaalen at the Calgary Folk Fest on July 24. You’d be a fool not to.