Design Inspiration: Jason Galea

This is the second installment of RSTB’s look at the influences that drive the designers behind some of my favorite album covers. Stepping up to the spotlight, Jason Galea opens up about some favorite album covers that have influenced his style. Jason is the designer behind pretty much anything visual that’s connected to Aussie psych warriors King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, plus The Murlocs and the Tame Impala side-project Gum. Galea has also done all of the band’s insane video work and kicked in on a few great Aussie garage comps including the Nuggets comp compiled by Lenny Kaye. The first thing that drew me into King Gizz back when 12 Bar Bruise came out was the artwork, and the triple gatefold on Oddments ranks among my own favorite covers. Its truly using the LP format to its full potential. Below are Jason’s picks that span some recent garage gems and and plenty of psych oddities.

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Premiere: The Features – “City Scenes”

A wealth of New Zealand pop is making its way back to vinyl and rightfully so, this time the venerable Flying Nun themselves are issuing the works of The Features, a long since simmering influence in the kiwi punk and post-punk circuit. The band formed with members of other New Zealand punk touchstones The Superettes, Primmers and Terrorways (all bands featured on the influential AK79 compilation). The band acted as an angular and jagged counterpoint to the majority of Kiwipop’s more jangled stable of players and in some ways ushered in a focus on post-punk in the NZ scene. There’s a fair amount of Wire in their veins and an admitted love for Public Image Ltd, and they parallel the rise of Toy Love as a source of agitated, yet extraordinarily melodic punk that ran through the country. The sound of “City Scenes” is vital, ravaged and raw in a way that most post-punk could only aspire to and this collection gives the band the kind of retrospective that’s sorely overdue. The single was originally released on the Propeller label in and charted on its release in 1980. Culling together singles along with a later 12″ release, X-Features is out Nov. 11th on Flying Nun.



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Library Reissues Series from Spettro

Italian imprint Spettro has worked with soundtrack reissues in the past but now they’ve dipped into Italy’s legendary Flipper archive of Library Music for some incredible reissues of ’60s and ’70s themes all packaged with a deft hand in sleeves that pop in color washed collage that feels ripped out of time. Can’t for the life of me find the actual designer anywhere but it mirrors a Julian House style that feels apt as a visual counterpoint for Library titles.

The collection rounds up the dreamy work of Guido Baggiani a.k.a. Ruscigan, Roberto Conrado, Antonio Scuderi & Piero Montanari’s breaks-influencing work Bass Modulations, Lino Castiglione and Paola Casa’s Morricone leaning Clouds, Massimo Catalano, Remigio Ducros & Daniela Casa’s psychedelic Idee 1 and composer Alessandro Alessandroni’s collection of religious themes. The collection can be bought as a set or individually and they’re in both colored and black editions. Its rare that pieces like this surface (each are in 500 runs, 200 color) but its even rarer that they’re put together as nicely as these editions are, packaged with numbered covers and Obi strip.



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The Garbage & The Flowers – The Deep Niche

Prior to the current wave of scrambling, digging and tape dusting to find unreleased material, the ’90s embraced a wave of accessibility with the CD boom, allowing plenty of unheard gems to grasp some light at last. In ’97 Bo’Weavil Records released Eyes Rind as if Beggars, a compilation of mostly lost to time recordings by New Zealand group The Garbage & The Flowers. For many, it was a release that sparked a deeper interest in the island’s fertile scene and gave influence to many who would embrace a folk sound that found equal footing in gentle strokes and noisy outbursts. The original compilation culled together home recordings, 7″s and live tracks that summed up their time after Torben Tilly’s addition. The Deep Niche captures a time even earlier than Eyes Rind, and surprisingly still finds plenty of quality moments that the “definitive” comp missed.

The core trio here is Helen Johnstone, Yuri Frusin, and Paul Yates with Tilly adding some drums and eventually keys on some tracks. It captures as raw and as vital a sound as its predecessor, swinging from the John Cale touches of Johnstone’s viola scratch, to a tender twee that would feel right at home with some Sarah Records releases, and the breakdown clatter of centerpiece “29 years.” The album finds the band in their infancy, but still lets Frusin’s songwriting shine through. There’s a nerve that’s touched throughout these tracks, and even with their meager means and scratchy quality, they’re full of enough power to uphold the legend that the band has built over the last couple of decades. Grapefruit gratefully presents this album for those looking to delve even deeper into the band’s history.





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Moon Duo – “Cold Fear”

It’s a good day when there’s news of a Moon Duo album on the horizon. The pair have relocated from San Francisco to Portland and they’re turning seasonally affected mood swings into cold-hearted psych with a motorik heart and plenty of icy atmospheres. The track comes as the first taste of a projected two part album that spins Yin and Yang into counterpart albums of light and dark. “Cold Fear” is, naturally, from the darker half, Occult Architecture, Vol. 1. It’s an itching vein of synth fuzz heavily medicated with the Absinthe cocktail of Ripley’s guitar lines. Hushed and secretive, the vocals add a layer of mystery to this cold-wave killer while the lock-step pulse pushes the blood to a tight boil. The band has always lent itself well to this darker current and they’re at the top of their form with this one. Curious though to see how they temper the lighter side in Vol. 2. Lots to come from Moon Duo in 2017!




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Steve Hauschildt

Former Emeralds member Steve Hauschildt hasn’t been as prolific as his counterpart in Mark McGuire, but taking his time has given Strands a conceptual hopefulness that’s immersive and gorgeous. The record is built around the concept of strands of rope, none as taught or as slack as the other, and the way they braid into a whole piece as the eye backs away. The pieces on Strands bubble and swim through a Kosmiche palette of watercolored tones, underlit with a touch of hope and a good dose of wonder. While synth has enjoyed a rather healthy spike in interest this year, most seem entirely beholden to the horror soundtrack, white-knuckle tension model that’s been brimming to a full cup for at least six or seven years now.

What separates Hauschildt from those who would seek to stretch their Italo-horror muscles is the sense of wonder over fear. There are certainly parts of Strands that hit tense notes, as would be expected from a project that ebbs and flows into a living organism, but he never hammers the fear home. Others just tighten the grip on the throat continually but there’s more power in a quick, tense knot than in a stranglehold. Those moments of tension are more gripping because they emerge from moments of beauty. Hauschildt’s added another layer as well to his tone painting, degrading the normally clean tones with a bit of dirt mixed in with the colors. The effect gives texture and cracks at the oftentimes pristine world of synth quite nicely. In this respect Hauschildt has found common ground with another of synth’s craftsmen not afraid to muddy the channels, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma.

A long time coming but completely worth the wait, Hauschildt’s vision pulls into focus with each repeated dive into his aquatic wonderland. We may be hitting peak synth this year, but its great to see someone pushing harder to elevate the sound.


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Dag – “Staying Up At Night”

From the always reliable Bedroom Suck roster, Dag is a new Brisbane band that employs a fair share of jangle, mottled with a bit of wistful indie pop, that brings in swooning violins and the kind of shuffled and shaggy delivery that wouldn’t be out of place sandwiched between Hamish Kilgour and Silver Jews on a mixtape found cleaning up your teenage bedroom. There’s something grander about singer Dusty Anastassiou’s voice though. It’s flecked with a deeper sigh and the right kind of lilt that makes this song hit home just a bit more than the average jangler. The video, by Helena Papageorgiou pairs Anastassiou’s drawings with the band hanging in a drab practices space, showing a world of wonder flying by outside. The album’s out in February and with this first taste, I’m definitely listening.

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Skyjelly

The disjointed psych of Skyjelly has been percolating in my system for a few weeks now and I’m just getting a chance to sort it all out. Doomtrip Records pulled together a double album drop that culls some of the band’s previously self-released recordings along with a cadre of new tracks in tow. With regards to nailing an aesthetic, Skyjelly won’t let themselves sit still for too long; weaving a sound that pulls at strings of psychedelic pop, clattering blues and the shantytown shakedown that gives Goat a sense of displaced appeal. They have the heart of the old guard beating somewhere at their core (there’s a distinct, but faded “Sympathy For The Devil” simmer on the balk half of “Acosta”) but they digest most of them completely and work things into a sort of hybrid hairball of psych explosion that has the modern sense of being inundated with as many inputs and influences as a day spent on YouTube could offer.

Skyjelly Jones and his crew of strange travelers don’t spend the whole of the record(s?) kicking up dust though, there are plenty of moments when the sound comes down to a hushed, yet pulsing, thrum. On the simmering “Subway Rider” the band evokes the rootsy loose ends of Gomez’ softer side. Elsewhere, “Catherine’s Rabbi” also takes on a ’90s sense of rhythmic yet tender pop. Each of the pieces acts as an interesting bit of the puzzle that’s forming over the course of Blank Panthers / Priest, Expert, or Wizard, and even without the caveat that its two distinct albums, there’s a lot of spice hitting the stew here. But, on the whole, the band makes it work. They juxtapose and jam their plate full of what works and offer it up under the umbrella banner of psych. This may not be their definitive statement, but its making some nice promises.

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The Terminals – Uncoffined

Flying Nun’s recent resurgence and subsequent repressings have required a keen eye to follow where they pop up, HoZac enters the ring as the latest to offer up one of the catalog’s sorely overlooked artists. The Terminals featured members of The more acerbic Pin Group alongside members of the lesser known Victor Dimisich Band and The McGoohans. They too would eventually go down the same noisy, post-punk route as The Pin Group, but on their first two albums they maintained a sound that fell down the same jangle-pop hallways as fellow NZ stalwarts The Clean, The Chills, Able Tasmans or The Verlaines. The shift in sound seemed to stem from the departure of guitarist Ross Humphries, also of Bailter Space and The Great Unwashed, but his inclusion here marks some of the band’s more buoyant offerings.

No mention of The Terminals would be complete, though, without placing a fair amount of credit for the band’s allure to vocalist Stephen Cogle, whose rich tenor/baritone fluctuation and tender quaver adds a welcoming extension of kinship and understanding to the band’s jangle-pop offerings. Despite all the band had going for them, they remain one of the more overlooked bits of the Flying Nun and Xpressway catalogs despite best attempts of a few worthwhile CD reissues and comps compiled through the aughts. Beginning with this debut finding its way back to the vinyl format, though, its starting to look up for the band’s legacy. The record’s been remastered from its original tapes and the sound gets a proper scrub-up in quality, bringing out the subtle brilliance of this antipodean classic. Twenty-five years later, maybe this is the time for The Terminals.

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Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation

Upping the motorik attack from their first record with Rocket Recorings, Josefin Ohrn + The Liberation plummet into a vortex of swirling drums and swarms of buzzing keys on Mirage. From the opening strains of “The State (I’m In),” the record breathes heavy and damp like a vaporizer filling the mind with gauzy strains of psychedelic fog. Everything is dark and creeping in The Liberation’s world, a thundering bass reverberation pounds through the mind, darting between guitar lines like so many trees in a spectral forest. Those guitars burn, when they emerge, with an intense and alarming temperature that makes their presence felt. Ohrn pushes her psych journey almost to the edge of the dance floor though, finding that fine line between trance and drone, especially on lead single “In Madrid.” Here, she works repeated phrases and circular playing into a kind of semi-conscious drug haze that folds colors over on themselves in prismatic, shimmering sheets.

The band comes on like a psychic split between the heady dance impulses of ’90s-era Primal Scream and Broadcast’s haunted pop hallucinations. Throw in an agitated My Bloody Valentine vein that pulses throughout and its hard to shift your attention from the band’s entrancing chug. It works well, much better than I could ever hope to capture through comparison, and Mirage is a focused leap over their previous record, 2015’s Horse Dance. There’s a tidal flow to the album, rising into a euphoric pitch and sustaining it well for the bulk of the album before easing into the comedown. The group pulls back the feverish intensity as the album wanes, sliding into the (mostly) cool waters of “Rushing Through My Mind,” the abstract notions of “Circular Motion,” and the crisp-collared pop of “Where I’m Going.” There aren’t any real low points on Mirage, its a crafted tapestry of pop, psych, and swirl that feels as hypnotic on repeated listens as it does the first go-round. Josefin and her Liberation aren’t breaking the bounds of pop-sike’s hold but they are making a captivating argument for its continued existence.



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