September 20, 2004

Dan Friel "Sunburn"

Dan Friel is one-third of Parts and Labor, a New York outfit that adds a heaping helping of power electronics and synthesizer abuse to the bass-driven spazz-core of Lightning Bolt. It would make sense, then, that without P&L’s rhythm section to back him up, Friel’s new CD of solo recordings would bring the electronics and synthesizers right to the forefront. Sunburn is probably the first noise record I’ve ever heard that could be described as “happy.” Whereas most artists of his ilk use distortion as a means of irritating the listener, Friel employs it as a means of recreating the sensory overload that often accompanies a wicked sugar rush. Friel’s solo compositions are less riff-driven than his work with P&L, but they’re also more abrasive. Nonetheless, almost every song on this EP has a catchy and hummable major-key melody, whether it’s being played by a whirring synthesizer or an abusively strummed electric guitar.

The riffs that form the backbone of songs like “Dead Batteries” and “Quitting” sound like they’re being played through blown speakers, with the sonic dropouts arranging themselves in near-rhythmic patterns. The pitch-modulated keyboards at the end of “Seven Sisters” sound like an orchestra of kazoos having a collective seizure. “B2bs” sounds like the music on a Playstation racing game run through a distortion pedal. The waves of guitar fuzz that overtake “Death” and “Seven Sisters” recall vintage Flying Saucer Attack so well that I almost wait for Dave Pearce’s whisper to hover above the mix at any moment. The brief ditty “Tractor Calls” showcases Friel’s extremely fast picking style, which gives his guitar almost sitar-like qualities at certain points.

Sunburn also gets bonus points for its running time. The 20-minute EP is just long enough for Friel to pummel the listener with his ferocious tones, but just short enough to keep them coming back for more after each knockout. This EP definitely whets my appetite for more Friel material, be it solo or with his main band.

--Sean Padilla

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