"[VanGaalen creates] an immaculate soundscape that feels like you’re being dropped eloquently into a Japanese garden, infused with plants and natural-aged structures to provide a sense of tranquility away from humanity."
Featured Image Credit: Chad VanGaalen World's Most Stressed Out Gardener Cover
Chad VanGaalen - World's Most Stressed Out Gardener|Album Review
Mountain-dwelling, doodle-drawer and gardening enthusiast Chad VanGaalen makes way for his next studio album, World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener, set for release this Friday (March 19th 2021), with soft psychedelic, folked-up beats that is sure to immerse you into a world of prolific greenery. Tranquilising in it’s poised guitar riffs and gentle instrumental interludes, this album encapsulates a life of searching - finding beauty in nature and nurturing for promising crops of the future.
The album undeniably resonates to all things VanGaalen, from cherry-picking the very best of his prior works as inspiration and nurturing, evolving his ideas and style into this unique psychedelic crop. His style has grown and matured in the form of this album, developing on his signature musical techniques; such as sampled sounds, reverbed soundscapes and polychromatic folk harmonies that - such as his own doodles - is by turn cartoonish and hyperphysical, like ultra magnified images of a leaf or petal.
After the year that was 2020, with its unhinged turmoil and breaking of the regular structured way of life, World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener does away with obsessiveness and the anxiety of perfectionism, in favour of freshness and immediacy that offers listeners a more honest, intimate and raw outlook into the world of VanGaalen’s nature-bound mind. Where he would once obsess over mic techniques et cetera, et cetera, VanGaalen now places the microphone in the same place every time in an attempt to capture the song quickly, the idea at its heart. He'll also act on his infatuations - for the flute, a squeaky clarinet, his basement's copper plumbing (remade into xylophones for Samurai Sword) - and 'get out', before overcomplicating the simplicity of the captured idea.
The album initially took root in the form of a “pretty minimal” flute record, in which its propagation can now be heard in the blooming instrumental track, Flute Peace. This subtle and unassuming 46 second instrumental piece serves a purpose of setting the scene at the beginning of the album. The trichordal interval between the two opening notes provides for an unusual and off-setting presence that strays away from traditional western music. Paired along with the ambient sounds and humble cymbal crashes, the music takes you to a place much more eastern, sounding reminiscent of traditional East-Asian Gamelan music. This reference seems to bloom throughout the rest of the album too, such as in the fluid harmonies - a staple feature of folk music. VanGaalen has utilized this to create an immaculate soundscape that feels like you’re being dropped eloquently into a Japanese garden, infused with plants and natural-aged structures to provide a sense of tranquility away from humanity. The philosophical purpose of these gardens is to express the fragility of existence as well as the power of nature and time’s unstoppable advance. World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener holds similarities to this as the album takes you on a journey from mania to solace to oblivion, in search of zen at last.
The rest of the songs on the album are refreshingly unique and original to each other, leaving no room for dull repetition or ‘song-twins’. Where Spider Milk features a charming, yet military snare drum followed by aggressive distorted electric guitar riffs, you’ll find much more abstract soundscapes within the likes of Starlight, with glistening metallic beats and rumbling ambience. Yet, there is still a sense of continuity that ties the entire album together to tell its story. Whether it’s in the classic vocals, unique instrumentation or within the harmonic fabrics itself, each piece is able to stand alone whilst still adding to the bigger, collective picture of the album. The album itself takes the listener on a journey. Straying away from the tranquility of the first part of the album, mania begins to encompass the songs, with the likes of Inner Fire with wasp-like buzzing building up in the introduction and chant-like vocals complementing a repetitive guitar riff. The natural sounding classical instruments seem to go dormant in this section of the album, leaving room for the more abstract and electronic sounds to overgrow the sonic environment. Then, everything is subdued with Samurai Sword and Water Brother. The calmness washing over and the return of the missed string and wind instruments brings the album full circle as we reach the end. Have we reached zen at last? I guess that depends on how you interpret the slashing strikes of the string’s bow at the very end...
VanGaalen breaks boundaries and infuses different musical genres in his new album to create a vegetated soundscape that is unique, powerful and intimate. The fun instrumental interludes weave into the musical fabric to enhance the album’s story of searching, longing and of course: all things plants - transporting the listener onto a journey of self discovery and reflection. Take yourself on a peaceful and inspiring walk with World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener, released this Friday (March 19th 2021)...
Get a teaser of the upcoming album by listening to Chad VanGaalen's latest single, Nightwaves, and follow Chad VanGaalen on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to keep a colourful eye out on all future updates.