Browsing Category Bits & Pieces

Design Inspiration: Rob Carmichael [SEEN Studios]

I’ve got another great entry to the Design Inspiration series this week (if I do say so myself). If you’ve been even a tangential fan of indie rock over the past ten years, there’s a good chance that you’ve run into covers from Rob Carmichael aka SEEN Studios. From the iconic cover of Animal Collective’s Merrieweather Post Pavilion to career defining works for Panda Bear, Dirty Projectors, Dan Deacon, Born Ruffians, Beirut, The War on Drugs, Cloud Nothings, and Real Estate – Rob’s been shaping the look of indie as much as any designer in the field. As usual with this series, I asked him to name five of his favorite record covers of all time and to delve into how those covers have influenced his own works. Check his picks below and catch up with Rob’s work over at SEEN.

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Hoover III – “Fathom”

Following up their excellent album of space-sliced psych from last year, L.A.’s Hoover III return with a new single on French enclave Six Tonnes De Chair. Starting with a riff that scratches the ol’ runes of Sabbath in the sand, the band proceeds to drive the track in a lighter direction, welding the heavy guitar chug to echo-dripped harmonies. The track doesn’t just troll for grooves, though. As they arc into the second half the band stompboxes the warp drive and takes “Fathom” through a few layers of cosmos. Hoover III have been working a particularly potent strain of Space Rock in their first couple of releases, and if this new single is an indicator of where they’re headed, then the next LP threatens to be one to watch out for. In the meantime, this is a good reminder to shake the earthly tether once in a while.



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Red Mass – “Saturn”

Montreal’s Red Mass, the loose collective centered around Roy Vucino and Hannah Lewis, are preparing their new album for No Coast/Label Étiquette in March and have sent over a new peek under the hood. “Saturn” tumbles a driving post-punk pace into grizzled garage territory. The song is dingy and driven- streaked by night and looking for lust. The drums pound high, loud, and lethal, but like New Order or The Church before them, they don’t succumb to the tropes of paint-by-post-punk, giving the song a twist with an acoustic overlay and a weave of synths. The record picked up production credits from Mingo L’indien of Les Georges Leningrad and producer/engineer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop) and they’re definitely pushing the band into crisper territory than Red Mass has explored before. Check the new cut below and keep an eye out for the LP on March 22nd.



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Vital Idles – “Break A”

Last year Upset The Rhythm had a banner run, issuing great LPs from Terry, Primo!, Sauna Youth, and the affecting debut from Vital Idles. The latter was steeped in the best hallmarks of post-punk, churning slow-burn tension into the kind of album that winds up collector fodder for those with the right kind of ears. The band now doubles down on their sterling n’ sparse debut with a follow-up EP that’s got more of the rubber band snap of bass and bent metal beam guitars that make the best post-punk. Doing one better, though, the vocals of Jessica Higgens are tinged with just the right mix of aloof, angst, and accusations. Lead-off track “Break A” slithers through the speakers with a nighttime slink – icy, reserved, and brittle as crushed glass. The track proves that their debut was no fluke – its as good as anything that appeared there – and maybe even a head above. If this is only sharpened point of the EP, I can’t wait until the rest cuts deep and draws blood.



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Martin Frawley on Maurice Frawley and Working Class Ringos – Triple Skin Marquee

For anyone even remotely familiar with the site, they’d likley know that I have the softest of spots for Aussie indie. Naturally over the years Twerps found their way among the loves here at RSTB. The band’s early releases had a shaggy earnestness that shone through their fidelity limitations. It seems that Merge thought much the same and in 2015 they took a jump to the top tier indies before the band called it quits shortly after due to personal differences. In the wake Martin has struck out solo, spinning the band’s bare, honest jangle-pop into something more toughened and weathered, yet still with a cocked eyebrow and an ever-present smirk. Sounding like Harry Nilsson taking apart Townes Van Zandt songs, its a definite shift in tone, but a welcome progression for those that have had Frawley on the turntable these past few years. Seems there’s another influence on his solo LP, that of his late father Maurice, who’s own career tumbled through a few groups in the ’80s (Olympic Sideburns, Japanese Comix) and wound up in solo territory in ’90s and ’00s. Martin talks through his dad’s legacy and the imprint this record left on him and his new direction below.

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The Oilies – “Psychic Dog”

A while back I posted a homespun digital single from Carly Putnam, aka The Oilies, and now the artist is stepping out with her physical debut for the always charming Fruits & Flowers. Having spent time in The Art Museums, The Mantles, Horrid Red, and The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Carly’s well versed in the pastel-hued jangles that tend to drizzle down the window panes of the sould and “Psychic Dog” doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The first cut from the EP lopes through a set of competing strums set against the click-stop backdrop of drum machine snap. The track is wistful and wanting, combining the simple charms of Marine Girls with the pulse n’ pine of Jazzateers. For those who readily wander down the lesser traveled paths of the ‘80s this is just what the grey-skied winters ordered.



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Sparrow Steeple – “Roll Baby”

Philadelphia’s Sparrow Steeple tap into an imagined lineage in which the grimoire obsessions of 70’s occult psychedelia never shook its hold on the world. Like Wolf People and Black Mountain before them they’ve sliced through the acid blotter and come out the other side dodging wizards and wolfmen with only the aid of blistering psych and folk rock to protect them. The band, which is comprised of ex-members of Strapping Fieldhands, continues the traditions of their former front, picking up a penchant for drinking songs and sea shanties wrangled into psychedelic alchemy. Album opener “Roll Baby” sees the band at their most raucous – cohering the electric shakedown with a dose of barroom harmonica (courtesy of Philly’s own “Harmonica” Dan Balcer) and some biting background vocals that give the song a dizzying off-the-rails quality. While it threatens to burn down the stage at any moment, the song holds on until the smoke dies down to smolder and ash. The band’s sophomore album is out on Trouble in Mind April 5th.



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Modern Nature – “Supernature”

As I may have mentioned before, I was saddened when Ultimate Painting not only folded last year, but also pulled their final album from release. It was a masterful pop album that deserved light, even if its creators were sent splitting in two different, irreconcilable directions. All is not lost, however. While UP has been consigned to the land of wind and ghosts, the two creative forces behind the band are, in fact, inexhaustible hubs of musical fare. It would seem that Jack Cooper is already onto his newest venture, releasing three new tracks as Modern Nature.

With a mutable lineup, that here includes keyboardist Will Young, drummer Aaron Neveu (Woods), cellist Ruper Gillett, and saxophonist Jeff Tobias (Sunwatchers), Cooper sets out to conquer a considerably more expansive end of the musical spectrum than he has dabbed in in the past. With a heavy investment in modal psych, the new EP embraces Cooper’s previous touches on psychedelic pop but drops through about six layers of mind fuzz further into the frosted ether for a sound that’s build on circular drones, sweat lodge sax hallucinations and a quasar-nudging foray into psychedelic chakra expansion. Its a surprising heel turn, but a welcome one nonetheless . Check the first track, which tops out around twelve minutes of cosmic float. The EP is out on Bella Union, March 22nd.

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Garcia Peoples – “High Noon Violence”

If you’re just now finding your way to Garcia Peoples, well, then I feel sorry for you. Their last album was a true gem of Cosmic Americana and you’ve been missing out. However, I also feel excited for you, go dive through the debut and get ready for the follow-up, which is shaping up to be another heady journey through high-minded, body-buzz jam workouts. The band lets loose today with the torrent “High Noon Violence,” a knotted gem besieged with overcast harmonies and flooded with their usual unspoken imprint of The Dead – though flashes of New Riders and Mountain Bus wash over the rinds of their guitar salad as well as this track kicks into high gear. Its a definite highlight from the upcoming Natural Facts which lands at the end of March on their old stomping grounds, Beyond Beyond is Beyond.



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Prana Crafter Reissues MindStreamBlessing with Two Bonus Cuts

Last year Washington State psych-folk aficionado Will Sol entered best of lists here both at the halfway and year-end mark with two different albums under his Prana Crafter handle. Sol’s lush, earthen psych picked at traditions from Popul Vuh, Träd, Gräs & Stenar, Amon Düül II, blending nimble picking with the meditative thrum of drone. Bodhi Cheetah’s Choice was a welcome surprise full of burrowed forest psych, that was just edged out in the final run by the cinematic swirl of Enter The Stream. The latter album also marked the artist’s first foray out of the tape and CD-r formats for a vinyl run that served as a fitting canvas for Sol’s humid, haunted fare. However, Sol had quite a few gems in his catalog prior to his breakout year. 2017’s MindStreamBlessing was just such a gem, issued in a short run on the always entrancing Eiderdown Records. Now the label, in a joint release with Cardinal Fuzz, is issuing the album on LP with reformatted artwork and two bonus cuts.

The new material sits expertly alongside the originals, with “FingersFlowThroughOlkSkokRiver” lapping at the banks of the Psylocibin pond once more. Sol admits that he was immersed heavily in Sandy Bull at the time of its recording and as such he asserts that it “left its energetic imprint on that piece.” The song shares Bull’s penchant for rippling, circular playing, pushing against the circadian buzz of drone below. The new issue will be available in March from both labels in both black and limited green/pink colorways. Check out both of the bonus track below.

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