ALBUM REVIEW: Journey through space and loss on ‘Shrink Dust’

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First Posted: 5/6/2014

“It’s like Bob and Doug McKenzie in space,” proclaims Chad VanGaalen in reference to the sci-fi film he recently wrote and to which his 5th full-length LP serves as its unorthodox score.

Sonically inspired by the recent acquisition of an aluminum pedal steel guitar, the quirky multimedia maven from Calgary, Alberta takes a stab at country rock on the 12 tracks comprising “Shrink Dust.” However, by channeling his new affinity for such cosmic cowboys as Gene Clark, “If I Could Only Remember My Name”-era David Crosby, and Gram Parsons through his obsessions with processing instruments through an ether of psychedelic exploration, songs like “Frozen Paradise,” “Weighed Sin,” and “Hangman’s Son” unspool a mosaic of fuzzy vibes as kaleidoscopic as the menagerie of characters illustrated in his flick’s accompanying guidebook.

But at the same time, the Calgary-born songwriter also utilizes the album to expound upon some of the heartbreaking personal losses he had experienced in recent times, including his beloved pet hound dog Lila and his good friend Chris Reimer of the terribly underrated Alberta art-punk group Women. The album is dedicated to both of them, and the feeling of loss is indeed palpable when you hear the two songs that bookend this record, “Cut Off My Hands” and the swirling closing number “Cosmic Destroyer.”

Not in Sub Pop’s quarter century in business has there been anyone quite like Chad VanGaalen on its active roster. And for all of its beauty, sorrow, and headphone trippiness, there isn’t a more apt compendium to the quintessence of his artistry than “Shrink Dust.”

Chad VanGaalen ‘Shrink Dust’ Rating: W W W W V