Rarely has an album’s beginning been so unrepresentative of what was to follow.
Canadian artist Chad VanGaalen’s fifth studio set ‘Shrink Dust’ begins with acoustic guitar picking and a cracked vocal. But five minutes later it’s all reverb-drenched drums, distorted wobbling voices and no-holds-barred space rock.
From Silver Jews to ‘Silver Machine’, you might say. There’s much to enjoy in VanGaalen’s expeditions through psychedelia, stoner rock and, towards the end of the set, more reflective fare.
But the album’s lacking that one standout moment to make it a truly transformative experience. Still, the scope and ambition are to be applauded, and it’s a treat to take a voyage around his mind and beyond.
Words: Joe Rivers
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Chad VanGaalen on the artwork of ‘Shrink Dust’, and his new animated film…
How long does it take you to draw something this detailed?
It was black and white for a long time, and then I scanned it in the computer because I was too afraid to colour it in real life. But then I realised what a pussy I was being and then I actually just started colouring it for real, and then I started having a mental breakdown at how soft I had become in my old age.
I think the darkness comes down when you are colouring in for too long.
Yeah well, I mean, it depends. I’ve got two kids and they colour all day long and I’ve definitely had to learn from them.
They’re professionals! You’re just doing it as some sort of part-timer. So, with the ladies on the front, is this a prototype of the Russian Doll?
It was an idea I had for an animation. I just wanted to show this sort of representation of time, you know, in a different way. Sort of going forwards and backwards, I could use it as a loop. But yeah, just that sort of quantum idea of leaving this weird centipede of death structure behind yourself as you’re moving through time.
Grandma looks a little bit horrified, whereas her daughter looks like she’s almost having fun…
Yeah, that’s funny that you’re seeing that as generational, because I was honestly seeing it as the same person.
I believe she may be a character from your science-fiction film, Translated Log Of Inhabitants?
She’s not in the film. But the album cover specifically relates in the sense that it’s drawn in the exact same style that everything was drawn in the film. I just let it look like kind of a heavy sort of cartoon modelling. There are a few songs on the album that really relate to the film.
What’s the film about?
The film is loosely based on inhabiting a certain space in your mind, really thinking outside the box, [with] outside forces manipulating you that you’re not entirely aware of, and then being aware of that for good or for bad. It’s sort of about benign evil as well, kind of exposing the sorts of necessary evils in the universe as something that’s not necessarily something that is good or bad, even though it is kind of evil. There are a couple of songs that are loosely based on characters in the movie, for sure.
What would you say was the most surprising part of scoring your own film?
I guess the surprise was it turned into a lot of work based on a stupid idea.
How are you feeling about it all now? How close is it all to being finished?
Oh, I’m feeling pretty bad. I kind of hate myself at this point, because yeah, it’s definitely not ready – hopefully it’ll be out in the autumn – and yeah, I just realised how much work it is! But I’ve definitely learnt a lot from it, and I feel like the next thing that I make is going to even better. So I feel like I had to do it just to understand what is going on in movies in general.
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