Every so often, Chad VanGaalen emerges from his bunker in Calgary with a batch of songs, giving us a window into the the private world of this reclusive and enigmatic songwriter. With "Diaper Island", VanGaalen distills his approach, producing his most sonically cohesive album to date – and the closest thing he has done to a rock album.
While VanGaalen's three previous albums were made in a cramped basement studio, a move to a larger recording room offered space to develop and refine his sound. Fresh from producing Women’s critically lauded "Public Strain", VanGaalen decided to avoid the comfort of working on previous ground, and apply some of the recording techniques and sonic ideas that emerged from those sessions. For the first time, multi-tracked and often overdriven guitar is the instrument at the centre of the songs, which are often spartan and free of the melodic details that embellished previous albums. With this focus on guitar, combined with a beloved vintage tape machine determining the sound, VanGaalen moved towards a leaner, no-frills approach – one that more closely resembles the music that influenced him as a teenager, while continuing the arc laid out in his previous work.
The paradox of trying to assert control in a climate of helplessness winds through the album, whether in the existential pondering on life and death that often pervades VanGaalen’s songs ("Do Not Fear," “Replace Me”), or in the conflict between control and creativity ("Freedom for a Policeman," “No Panic, No Heat”). At the album's heart is "Sara," a simple and celebratory paean that gorgeously praises the ability of VanGaalen’s partner and muse to nurture his creativity in the face of this uncertainty, and captures the songwriter at his most sincere and powerful.
VanGaalen has been quietly building a catalogue of songs that invite listeners to gently explore his distinctive creativity. "Diaper Island" extends the adventure into deeper territory, tapping into VanGaalen's lifeblood and mining the richness of his mind with sharper tools.
released May 17, 2011
thanks and love for all who supported me, while I was making this record, especially the grandparents!
Monty plays bass on Wandering Spirits
Mastered by Jamey Harrow at H8 Media, Inc
all song written, performed, and recorded by Chad VanGaalen at YokoEno 2010-11.
Illustrations by Chad VanGaalen, layout by Sasha Barr