Chad Van Gaalen – Infiniheart

Chad Van Gaalen

Musician, animator, and illustrator Chad Van Gaalen, from Calgary Canada, writes, performs, and records his eccentric brand of pastiche pop in his bedroom; apparently on lonely nights while contemplating life, death, destruction, and beyond. These 16 tracks were culled from Van Gaalen’s recordings over the three-year period of 2001 to 2003, which makes for an inconsistent, yet interestingly introspective outing on his Sub Pop debut.

If you can stomach the depressing subject matter and his subdued, Neil Young-like voice, you may find solace in the music as Van Gaalen expands upon his lo-fi, acoustic singer/songwriter formula with irregular forays into unknown territory, occasionally building textural tapestries with soft touches of electronic percussion and keyboard washes accented with bells and chimes. Unfortunately, mixed in with these fine morsels are too many of the formulaic lo-fi acoustic singer/songwriter dross that seems to be saturating the indie scene of late. Although Van Gaalen sings from the heart and spins twisted stories of blood, dying in his sleep, and deadly car crashes, he does so with a pestering voice, especially when singing falsetto. Thankfully the vocals are overshadowed by the music and are frequently obscured with reverb and echo, making it bearable.

Among the 16 cuts are standout tracks like “Clinically Dead,” “Kill Me in My Sleep,” and “J.C.’s Head on the Cross” that shimmer and satisfy as Van Gaalen adorns his naive melodies with blotches of beats and snappy electric guitar bursts before they are transformed into ambient soundscapes, complete with chirping birds and muttering children. “Echo Train” and “Red Blood” approach indie-rock status with angular tempos and brisk beats providing the perfect irony of spry, head noddin’ rhythms coupled with desolate contemplations. Sadly, too many songs are sparse, acoustic affairs that fail to unfurl into anything substantive, yet remain reflective due to Van Gaalen’s unusual point of view.

Although annoyingly inconsistent, Infiniheart contains enough interesting tunes with odd arrangements and instrumentation to convince us that Chad Van Gaalen is a talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and is capable of producing engaging, lo-fi, ambient pop.