If you know Dan Friel from his decade leading Brooklyn indie-experimental stalwarts Parts & Labor, you know the knob-twiddling keyboardist likes to deliver his hooks and his crushing hammer blows all wrapped up together and tied with a bow, and on his great solo debut album for Thrill Jockey, Friel cooks those impulses all the way down to a sweet and deadly syrup that can't help but knock you on your ass. On stage, Friel's solo shows are pure catharsis, as the lanky wild-haired musician sits hunched over a sheet of plywood festooned with a mad scientist's array of keys, pedals and whirligigs, drawing the crowd in with his earworm melodies and then pummeling them with blasts of static and noise. That pretty much sums up this album as well, a heady concoction of almost nursery rhyme melodic sweetness couched in wall-shaking bass drops and squalls of feedback and noise.
Recorded on a crappy computer, with a mid-'80s Yamaha keyboard and a batch of thrift store pedals, Friel channels the 8-bit wail of decaying video games, the urban throb of a trunk full of bass, and the general chaos, beauty and horror of an afternoon on the streets of Brooklyn, using his dexterous keyboard moves as a starting point, but layering on blunt rhythms, found sounds and explosive stacks of music and noise. Opening Total Folklore
with the thundering bass and wailing siren call of "Ulysses," the record gets off to an uncharacteristically epic start -- it's a 13-minute track on an album where most every other song clocks in closer to three -- but it's a head-banging statement of purpose with a titanic rhythm breakdown halfway through that serves to separate the wheat from the chaff, and in light of some of the joyful bite-sized nuggets to come, like the pogo-worthy "Valedictorian," it's a great palate cleanser. This impulse to guide the listener through a fully immersive experience might be Total Folklore
's best trick; it's a 40 minute record that comes with three "intermissions," and while we may in fact need a breather now and then, I for one am always glad when it's time to dive back into the soup.
ENTER TO WIN A LIMITED DAN FRIEL MUSIC BOX WITH PURCHASE
Customers who purchase Dan Friel's new album will be entered for a chance to win a very limited, custom, hand-crank music box
designed by Friel, that plays "Thumper" off the record. Contest runs through Tuesday, February 26, and winner must be able to come into the shop for in-store pick-up of the music box.
-Josh Madell (February 20, 2013)