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Dan Friel's solo work has followed a trajectory similar to that of his former band, the melodic noise rock band Parts & Labor, in that it started out experimental and rough around the edges, but gradually gained a greater sense of melody and structure as time passed, all without sacrificing what has made it so interesting from the beginning. In Friel's case, he traded in their comparatively conventional "rock" sound in favor of shrill electronic music layered in fried and blown-out electronics, squealing guitars, and dense thundering beats wired together by an almost child-like sense of melody, arguably reaching his peak on 2013's excellent tuneful and equally noisy Folklore.

In the two years since that release, Friel has since become a new father, an event that influences much of his new album Life from its title and songs like 'Lullaby (For Wolf)', Rattler', and 'Sleep Deprivation', to the music itself, whose child-like wonderment comes bubbling to the surface more gleefully than ever. On Life, he tones down some of the shrillness just enough to make room for brighter melodies, but thankfully not at the expense of its frenzied energy: 'Rattler' could pass for 8-bit video game music hopped up on a sugar rush while the pulsing and deliriously upbeat 'Cirrus' best captures the joy of welcoming a new life into the world.

Friel may be embracing a greater sense of focus and accessibility here, but he still leaves plenty of room for his abrasive side as well. The breezy warped keyboards on 'Lungs' are book-ended by clusters of mangled guitar samples and driven by a hammering industrial beat that reaches bone-rattling heights on 'Sleep Deprivation,' where it threatens to swallow the squelching and manipulated keyboards that almost give the impression his PC is sputtering out mid-song.

Friel recently told Stereogum that, "I think of it as completing a trilogy of related LPs along with Total Folklore (2013) and Ghost Town (2008), using the same rig of punk electronics, and going for the same kind of feral optimism." What's impressive about that is how he has been able to create some otherwise layered, complex, and diverse music on a set up that consists of little more than a toy Yamaha Portasound keyboard, an old PC, some effects pedals and found objects. It's tempting as you go along to give into investing in more expensive and elaborate equipment, but it's to his credit that Friel has stuck to what has worked best for him so far, proving that innovation doesn't always depend on what you are using but, rather, how you are using it. Life isn't exactly a concept album about becoming a parent, but it's clear just how much the experience has changed Friel, as it captures all of the excitement of first time discoveries and all of the possibilities that lie ahead, which in turn makes the music feel like his most innovative and playful yet.

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