Dan Friel: Total Folklore – album review

Dan Friel - Total Folklore

Dan Friel – Total Folklore (Thrill Jockey)
CD / DL / LP
Released 18 February 2013

Chaotic electro and sublime pop – our man Paul Scott-Bates is blown away by Dan Friel’s album.

In 1987, Equinox recorded their one and only cassette, Hitting The B(l)ack Wall. Considered to be ahead of their time, they distorted sounds and paired them with ‘pop’ tendencies in something that had the potential to be really groundbreaking. Chances are that you never heard of them outside of Lancashire.

More than twenty five years later, Dan Friel has done something very similar, but, to be fair much much better. The coincidences don’t end there, with both artists making their recordings on crude and bastardised equipment fed through and disemboweled by simple technology. The results were similar, though Friel has really mastered it.

Hailing from Brooklyn, Dan has taken a truckload of various sounds and forced them through a 12-year-old home computer on a three-legged desk. A Yamaha keyboard from 1984 was his first instrument and is also crammed in here. So, what’s all the fuss about? Why am I in a fit of euphoria over this album? I’ll tell you why. Because, it oozes originality, it oozes power and it oozes aggression.

Starting the epic near-thirteen-minute Ulysses, is a harmless enough single high pitched tone. Give it a couple of seconds before a crashing distorted drum sound enters with feedback and a truly thumping bassline, then, unexpectedly comes a sublime pop hook played over this mish-mash of ragged cacophony. Thumping along like the giant pursuing Jack down the beanstalk with Jack screaming for his life. It’s a superb fusion of chaos meets sublime pop and it really works. Hints of ’80s arcadia and arpeggios. Imagine Portion Control’s Filthy White Guy entangled with Jesus Jones’ Liquidizer, reincarnated for the disturbed and you won’t be far wrong.

Apparently, Friel likes the odd stroll through his hometown and the pace of the tracks allegedly matches the pace of the walk. Along his walks he records sounds, anything it would seem – kids basketball, a strike at Manhattan utilities company Consolidated Edison, Japanese pinball machines, and adds them to his projects.

There are several shorter tracks ranging from 30 seconds to a minute and a half and these serve to weave the album together, three of them are titled Intermission (1, 2 and 3) and they give a break from the colossus wall of war that ensues throughout the collection, giving the listener a minute respite before powering on again.

The distorted, but somehow controlled bassline is an ever constant but Dan should be congratulated on his ability to intermingle with a more accessible overtone. There’s something mildly recognisable about Valedictorian and if you listen to Red River Rock by Johnny & The Hurricanes, you’ll probably catch my drift.

After the mammoth opening track, the remainder are limited to the three minute mark and it’s a masterstroke in track listing. It’s exactly what is required after the exhausting entrance. Velocipede is an almost Prog-Psychedelic trip along the lines of Ozric Tentacles’ Kick Muck and you can almost imagine playing Centipede in the amusement arcades of the late ’80s whilst you listen to it (if you’re not old enough to remember this, I send my condolences!)

Scavengers screeches along like a train preparing for its inevitable derail and crashes at the end. This is music that could make your ears bleed and must be an incredible experience live. The second intermission calms proceedings before Thumper comes and thumps along. It’s the distorted, ragged, electro-punk backgrounds that keep this album uniquely unique. The frenetic pulse screwing up in your head. Glorious.

The simple little pop melodies continue into Landslide. Capturing the rawness of punk and mish-mashing with simplicity and a relentless drumbeat to compliment. Blurring sounds and images in your head.

This album is like no other and could very well have been called Louder Than War! It is, in my opinion, one of the finest things I have heard in many a year. Very early contender for Album Of The Year.

Forget Bruce Springsteen. This, boy and girls, is the future of rock ‘n’ roll.

Dan Friel – Total Folklore – is out in February and is available now for pre-order HERE.

If you do pre-order Total Folklore you’ll be entered to win a “Thumper” music box, hand-made by Dan Friel – see below:

Dan Friel – Thumper music box from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

All words by Paul Scott-Bates. You can read more from Paul on LTW here.

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