Conjuring up a gloriously melodic din is kind of Dan Friel‘s thing. He spends the bulk of his time twisting the sound of guitars into distorted electronic mis-shapes as a member of Parts & Labor. And as a solo artist, he does essentially the same thing, only without the full-band approach to back him up. And yet, that doesn’t keep his chiptune-on-steroids electro jams any less ebullient or deafening. Friel is just as capable of splitting eardrums and churning viscera with hyperactive laptop jams as he is with a rock band, which is worthy of applause in itself.
Friel’s battery-acid beats continue to sear and corrode on his new Valedictorian/Exoskeleton EP for Thrill Jockey, exploding with the kind of absurdist glee more famously displayed by Baltimore weirdo king Dan Deacon. In fact, squint and “Valedictorian,” an all-cylinders-firing Gameboy deathray of a song, could even be mistaken for Deacon. “Exoskeleton” is a little less manic; electronic pulses and shards of feedback make for an even more compelling electro piece, noisy without being confrontational, and atmospheric without being passive.
Remixed, Friel’s haywire electro-monsters are given a nuance and depth that generally doesn’t reveal itself as readily among his orgies of overdrive. The Moss of Aura remix of “Exoskeleton” has a chill, Balearic vibe about it, danceably stoned and heady. Peaking Lights’ 12-minute reworking of “Ulysses” is far weirder and more exciting, however, popping and flexing within the context of Friel’s shrill keyboard sounds rather than fighting against them. It’s a reminder of how versatile Friel’s approach is, even if it seems initially off-putting or a bit too much for the senses. Noise, particularly that as tightly controlled as Friel’s, is beautiful.
Stream: Dan Friel – “Valedictorian”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.