Dan Friel creates intense, colorful and intricate instrumentals that, for all their complexity, are melodic pop songs. Equally at home in the DIY scene and the contemporary art world, Friel has been at the forefront of a movement of musicians who create dance music with a clear affinity for the extremes of noise and metal, eschewing the traditional dance clubs and adhering to the ethics of the underground. On his sophomore Thrill Jockey album Life, Friel uses his surprisingly small arsenal of gear to distort and maneuver his beloved Yamaha Portasound into an expansive sound that is incredibly varied in tone and texture. This toy keyboard, his first instrument, is manipulated beyond recognition to create songs that are frenzied and epic. Life also has moments that are incredibly sweet, idyllic, and fragile – sentiments that make perfect sense coming from a new father whose instrument of choice is his childhood keyboard.
Life was written and recorded by Friel at his home studios in Brooklyn and was mixed by Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Liturgy). “Lullaby (for Wolf)” revolves around a dreamy melody Friel sang to his newborn son, and the inspiration for “Sleep Deprivation” should be well known to any new parent. “Lungs” and “Bender” share crushing bass lines that far exceed the range of most computer speakers, their punishing heaviness akin to a demolition scene from Godzilla or a bad turn in a video game. The deliciously addictive melody shared by “Life (Pt. 1)” and “Life (Pt. 2),” is carried by a noisy and churning beat that eventually swallows it entirely early in Life “(Pt. 2).” With his cover of Joanna Gruesome’s “Jamie (Luvver),” Friel betrays his punk roots in the beloved band Parts & Labor. All throughout Life, Friel exploits his intentionally simple set-up to ever surprising effect, using simple electronics to mirror the sounds of guitars, drums, and harmonicas. It is an irresistible and genre-bending collection of underground anthems.