Dan Friel

Total Folklore

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After an impressive ten-year run, the members of Parts & Labor went their separate ways, leaving keyboardist/vocalist Dan Friel to cut loose on his first solo LP, Total Folklore. For his experimental 2013 release on Thrill Jockey, he combines the hard, crunchy noise of his last group with mammoth melodies to make aggressive synth anthems. The fine line of noise and melody is difficult to ride, and successfully navigated by few -- Ratatat, Black Dice, Fuck Buttons, and Sleigh Bells to name some -- but Friel offers up a nice balance of sweet and sour. "Landslide" blasts like a Go! Team number run through a maxed-out overdrive pedal, and if you can scrape past the scrawling crunch of "Valedictorian," you'll find a tune that embodies the cute, hyperactive hip-hop spirit of kids jumping rope on the playground. Likewise, behind "Velocipede"'s speaker-rattling bass and insistent punch is a synthesizer lead that is as uplifting as the theme of the Summer Games theme on Commodore 64, and similarly lo-fi and fried out by 8-bit conversion. Friel's daisy-chained workstation of drum machines and analog keyboards appears to be on the verge of shorting out at any given moment, and while the hard-edged steel-wool scuzz of his recordings runs the risk of overwhelming listeners by the end, there is a lot of fun to be had in small doses. In a smart move, Friel allows time to recover from the dense overload with a peaceful interlude after every few songs. Sure, Total Folklore is not for everybody, and the act of playing junkyard synths through scorching feedback is gimmicky by design, but he's successfully found his own niche in noise, and his creativity and determination to reinvent music is worthy of high praise.

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