Like past releases, the latest from Dan Friel is an overblown, exuberant burst of colorful noise, swelled with circuit bent synthesizers, distorted drums, and major key melodies, celebrating life in a messy display of strength. The sheer caustic timbre of these songs is still the biggest barrier to entry for a lot of people, but now that Parts And Labor has broken up it is more likely than ever than Friel's solo venture will get some serious attention.
Opening with what might be Dan's grandest statement yet, “Ulysses” pretty much sums up Total Folklore in a cathartic blast of noise. Its twelve minute running time cartwheels past on a blown-out hip hop beat stretched and crushed to its limits amidst hyperactive layers of melody. From there, Total Folklore is a singular vision, all victory and hyperbole—songs like “Valedictorian,” “Landslide,” and “Velocipede” are all congratulatory sonic fireworks, taking the final stage music from a hundred 8-bit video games and putting them through fuzz pedals.
In between full songs, there are “Intermissions” which serve apparently as breathing room between the noise; this is an album intended to be listened all at once, even when its short attention span and self-contained nature suggests otherwise. At 37 minutes, the record plays faster than its impenetrable walls of sound would suggest, but being incredibly catchy makes most noise war electronica easy to swallow. Even without vocals or any real diversity in instrumentation, these songs play on base impulses of rhythm and pop construction, so most of the joy comes from just soaking it all in.
Dan Friel's work in Parts And Labor always seemed a byproduct of the essential balancing act that is having a band. Each member contributes a little bit of their own design to the overall sound, which means no one member dominates the way the songs are heard. Friel's solo work, by comparison, barely holds back at all; it's got all the discipline of a kid after trying caffeine for the first time. Total Folklore is engrossing in its unwavering bliss and cacophony, and it probably wouldn't sound half as distinctive if Dan didn't throw every ounce of energy he possessed into it.