Polaris nominee and musician extraordinaire Chad VanGaalen has released a collection of experimental electronic sounds created, recorded and brought to us from the depths of his basement. Although he’s been releasing under his own name (to great acclaim) for several years, CVG has released the album Snow Blindness Is Crystal Antz under the alias Black Mold.
Black Mold is a pretty evocative name for a basement production, in the “I’m really worried for this guy’s health if he’s not bleaching this stuff” kind of way. My mind is involuntarily swimming with fears of whatever else is living in that basement, but in the meantime I’ll focus on the music. It’s a collection of ideas that VanGaalen has put together using everything from crazy synthesizers to traditional instruments (like clarinets!) to pots and pans, and everything in between. Included with the album purchase is bonus access to a hundred or so other tracks, accessible online.
Snow Blindness isn’t exactly an album, and the tracks aren’t exactly songs. Each track seems to capture merely a thought or a whisper of a full idea. Like a scrapbook full of partial drawings or a writer’s Moleskin of random ideas, this album sounds more like VanGaalen’s version of the Charlie Chaplin tapes – snippets of brilliance. But unlike Chaplin, VanGaalen hasn’t put any of the tracks, or indeed the whole album together to create a solid piece of work with a beginning, start or end. Instead, his listeners are given the opportunity to engage in his mental regurgitation in its rawest form.
I think Chad VanGaalen is a musical genius and there are very few musicians that have done or will do what he has in their musical careers, but I find myself incredibly unsatisfied with this album. There is so much potential for these ideas, if worked on and refined, to become some of the best music he has ever done. However, as a collection of scrapbook images with massive blurs around the edges, haphazardly and carelessly mashed up, I’m thinking that VanGaalen hasn’t bothered to rise up to the challenge of living up to his art form. Music isn’t just a blend of beats and notes; it’s a collection of crafted phrases used to tell stories and convey concepts; it carries the listener and causes them to travel from one point of emotionalism or intellectualism to another. Outside of his basement Chad VanGaalen is a master of music, so we know the genius is there – just imagine the journeys Black Mold could take.
Floating around the internets are two sample tracks from Snow Blindness that are both the first ones on the album and the most complete. In keeping with the seeming haphazardness of the album, I’ve selected two tracks at random for your education.