Two decades into his solo work, Dan Friel continues to push the boundaries of pop and noise, gleefully manipulating explosive drum machines, abrasive found sounds, and a child-sized keyboard and compounding them into clamorous anthems. Friel has a preternatural ability to warp ugliness into rapturous beauty. In both his solo work and his rock trio Upper Wilds, Friel’s playfully rebellious approach to crafting pop songs is anchored by an unending love for new, strange sounds which only Friel could twist into melodies. Factoryland lives at the junction of apocalypse and revelation, reflecting the burden of industrial gentrification with an undaunted spirit that embraces fantasy as a force of resistance.
Friel composed and recorded Factoryland around the isolation of lockdowns and quarantines in New York City. Surrounded by the sounds of construction in his neighborhood throughout those years served as equal parts sonic inspiration and dread, the fascinating inhuman sounds serving as a constant reminder of the multiplication of brutal condominiums rising all around as the world was falling apart. Album opener “Morning” begins with the actual sounds of machinery that could be heard through the walls of Friel’s home. “Machine Song” is an impromptu windowsill jam between Friel and builders grinding, churning, and smashing in a near facsimile to his own percussive blasts. Over the course of the lockdowns Friel began recording unique, fan-requested covers of a diverse cast of songs from the Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers’ classic “Islands In The Stream” to a rendition of Hella’s “The D.Elkan”, which helped sharpen and refine his already masterful ear for hooks. “The Welder”, originally premiered at a series Friel participated in for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, makes commanding use of squelching electronics and counterpoint harmonies alike which meld together in an epic, fist-pumping climax.
Dan Friel’s Yamaha keyboard is emblematic of his dedication to mine new and adventurous sounds from even the most basic of instruments. “My solo project has always been defined by pushing the limits of my childhood toy keyboard, and making a point of continuing to bond with my first instrument as tech marches on, and conceptions of electronic music shift around it.” As Friel rounds his 20th year making music under his own name, Factoryland is a testament to his singular ability to craft wild, exuberant music through simplicity.