Why Chad VanGaalen Rules by Scott Merritt (2016)

 In Why This Rules
Photo by Marc Rimmer

Chad VanGaalen

The more I listen to his music, see his animations and illustrations, the more I am convinced that Chad VanGaalen is his own ecosystem. Everything plays into everything else. Sound and picture, and with an amazing consistency from album to album, video to video. It all begins to look like an extension of rare DNA. One of the characteristic strands I love is that nothing tries too hard – on the surface anyway. There’s a casual fundamental-ness to things that lets me just drift into a song without thinking, only to suddenly wake up inside of some distant universe. A body washes ashore, alive and super charged after floating along a molten river. Two cut off hands run through sand like bloody crabs. How does someone else’s hallucination become so believable? How does that kind of hallucinogenic writing coexist so effortlessly with the more direct/earthly CVG writing?

When I first heard “Sara”, I really didn’t want the track to end. It was so beautifully direct, yet somehow still ethereal (how is that possible?) Though I didn’t want the song to end, after spinning it a few more times, I felt, right, okay, no, the song is exactly what it’s supposed to be. The whistling introduction, the verse chorus, verse chorus – over and out. Anything more than that and I could imagine how the song might begin to eat its own tail. Way better to just play it again whole and be left with a little wishing after the last chord … a feeling not that far off, I guess, to the elevated longing feel of that chorus.

I’ve only had a chance to see Chad VanGaalen’s trio play live once, but their version of his song “Evil” inspired quite a shiver – for a few seconds there, I was 12 years old and they were suddenly the first band I’d ever seen. The first room that I felt lift off somehow in a fury of alien sound – when it became so clear that there could only be one possible way forward.

Scott Merritt is an acclaimed Guelph musician and producer who graced Kazoo! Fest with a legendary performance in 2015.


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