Dan Friel uses a thrift store basement’s worth of pedals and odd gear to craft crumbling Nintendo anthems. When we say “anthems” we mean choreographed marching down the middle of the street with Super Mario and the fire department, fists in the air atop a float, high fiving off three story buildings, and singing the praises of life. Friel’s album Total Folklore is noisy, full of hooks, and pure celebration.
It’s not common for a pop record to be this crazy sounding, much less begin with a 13-minute barn burner. “Ulysses” plods into view like a heavy drag queen, spiraled eyes, sparklers at the ready. Friel’s electronics sound like bastardized bagpipes, squirming their way into our hearts. Just looking at the cover gives the idea that there is a good dose of play involved, and you know it the first time you hear the first hook. The drums destroy themselves trying to keep pace. Their perpetual damage invites us to frolic and head-bang.
There’s something about music this blown out and joyful that seems to speak to our innate nature. We love destruction and we love to feel happy. A Dan Friel concert would, however, likely threaten hearing loss. “Valedictorian” chugs into formation as a buzzing melody that would fit into a Fang Island song fist pumps its way to victory. “Scavengers” features a tea kettle whistle speeding through blistering cubic canyons. The mega chords that champion the big finish are damn enjoyable. The mini intermissions come at just the right moments, and briefly we hear sounds from the street. Friel, who lives in Brooklyn, wanted Total Folklore‘s tempo to match footsteps and to be a companion as one walks around the city.
“Thumper” is another anthem, but this one has the most memorable hook on the album. One could say it’s the Total Folklore theme, as it characterizes everything that the album has to offer: fun melodies and drums that go out of control and nearly explode. In truth, every track is worth mentioning, but the most balls-out, rock-out moment comes in “Landslide” where the distortion is as blissful as Apparat Organ Quartet riding a shopping cart down an alley. Combining the psychedelic buzz kraut of Zomes and the acid dance crunch of Tobacco or Black Moth Super Rainbow, Friel’s third record is a delight for zoning out. It coaxes the brain to release tons of phenylethylamine, the chemical associated with falling in love. All the buzz acts like a busy city raga. By eliminiating all surrounding noise, Total Folklore can calm the nerves and totally slay. It’s totally addictive. (Nayt Keane)