Black Mold is the moniker under which Polaris Prize nominee Chad VanGaalen has released his new album. I greatly enjoyed Soft Airplane, and so when I first heard about the new release I was very excited. I heard that for the album he was moving away from the alternative folk-esque style of Soft Airplane and going a bit electronica and “glitchy”, I interpreted this as meaning he was doing a Kid A and was rather excited to hear the results.
Alas, this album is not quite what I expected. It’s nearly 50 minutes of experimental, electronic instrumentals involving lots of synths and drums and even the occasional ukulele.
There are some genuinely delightful tracks on an album that is, on the whole, not my cup of tea. The track ‘Uke Puke’ is one of the more straight forward songs, utilising arpeggioed ukulele over synths to create a composition that would serve as lovely background noise. Similarly ‘Wet Ferns’ would sit nicely behind a conversation, creating an ambience for those inevitable awkward silence moments. This is my personal issue with the genre however. I think it would be fine to be in the background, or as individual tracks, however I couldn’t listen to the album as a whole entity. I don’t find enough sustenance in the Nintendo-esque blips and drum loops to keep me interested.
The album is not overly long and it is split into 19 tracks averaging about three minutes each, but I get the feeling from listening to it that half a dozen of the pieces could have been removed without ruining the integrity of the album. There are tracks such as ‘Smoking Rat Shit’ and ‘Dr. Snouth’ whose inclusion on the album strike me as being gratuitous and self serving, unnecessary surplus on an album that showed an interesting experimental diversion from a respected musician.
The album works well in places, but in my attempts to listen to the whole thing I was distracted by the filler material which hindered the genuinely interesting tracks from reaching the full potential they were capable of. I would refer to the old Latin maxim of Caveat Emptor when considering the album. Certainly do not buy it purely on the basis that it is by Chad VanGaalen, but rather if you like your “glitchy” electronica style music then I’m sure there are a lot worse albums you could spend your money on. Personally, I wouldn’t hasten to revisit the entire album again, but I’m sure the standout tracks will continue to receive ample playtime. I guess for my dose of this genre, I’d rather just listen to Burial.