Posts Tagged ‘Grateful Dead’

Design Inspiration: Arik Roper

I mentioned before that I’m thrilled to get this feature back in motion and I can assure you there are some great entries on the schedule already. One such legend of the sleeve that inspired this series is Arik Roper. His sleeves are a high water mark for doom and metal and there are few today working in the field who muster the same kind of iconic connection between sleeve and album that Arik can. Like Roger Dean or Marcus Keef before him, his sleeves feel like the music contained within. Without even hearing a note, there’s a sense of how heavy, how dense and how life changing the music he’s designed for will be. In that regard, its great to have him sit down and catalog a few of the artists that helped him find his own vision.

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Design Inspiration: Darryl Norsen

I’m excited to get back to a feature here at the site that takes a closer look at the designers behind the album art that adorns so many of my recent favorites. As much as any other part of the full album experience, good art draws a listener in and cinches the argument on owning the physical package. In the past this series has explored works from Robert Beatty, Jason Galea, and El Praraiso’s Jakob Skøtt. This week I’m shining a light on Darryl Norsen. You’ve most likely encountered Norsen’s work on excellent show posters, or in graphics for Raven contemporaries Aquarium Drunkard’s Talk House and Laginnappe series. Those of you winding down the extended path of Dead reissues would likely also have seen his work in recent Jerry Garcia & Merl Saunders reissues and 75th Birthday materials. Norsen’s crisp type work and clean lines have also found their way into excellent albums from Beyond Beyond is Beyond, Three Lobed and No Quarter Records. As usual with this series, I asked Darryl to explore his own favorite sleeves and recount how they may have shaped his own approach to design.

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Mixtape: Goin’ West

Been a while since there was a mixtape up, but these things take time and tenderness. For the latest mixtape I’m taking some inspiration from 2018’s slide towards Cosmic Americana. With albums from One Eleven Heavy, Garcia People, Howlin’ Rain, New Parents and Wet Tuna leading the charge back towards ’71-’72 I though it might be in order to round up some of those West Coast sounds that hit on resonant frequencies to the new crop of smooth players. While most, if not all, have already pledged allegiance to their own favorite boots of The Dead and there’s a communal love for Royal Trux, Little Feat, Crazy Horse and Levon Helm, I thought I’d scoop up some outer-stream suggestions to fit the bill. Ok, sure, I’m cheating a bit with the Flying Burrito inclusion, but despite a wealth of praise from any outlet that would let you listen, that one’s just a great song that fits the vibe.

Travel further down this roadmap of country-tinged, sun-soaked songs from ’69 on and feel the vibes slow down to a simmer for the end of summer. It’s not all West Coast -The Wizards from Kansas were actually from Kansas, Mountain Bus were from Chicago despite longing for the country – but each of these hits on that cosmic view of American psych that cropped up along the coast. It all winds down with one of the germs of the sound, The Charlatans’ “Alabama Bound,” a song that’s often been noted as being the proto-“Playing In The Band.” Artwork inspired by so many Grateful Dead bootlegs. Click below for tracklist and stream.

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Garcia Peoples

As I’ve mentioned previously 2018 seems to be coming into its own with an embrace of the oft scorned jam band. What was once the butt of jokes among the more pretentious contingent of music cognoscenti has been given a legitimate platform. It helps that the genre has been rescued from some of the bro-y trappings that typically kept it down. While the new class still embraces the jam proper, they lean into the free boundaries aspect of the original rumblings of The Dead, rather than, say, the Guitar Center chest puffing and puca shell shambles of bands like Moe or Government Mule. In fact, it’s the embrace of the magic years of The Grateful Dead that seem most prescient, especially in a band named Garcia Peoples.

The New Jersey unit, naturally at home in the live setting, brings their sense of immediacy and experimentation into the studio. The record flickers like a living flame – warm and inviting, but able to scorch if given the chance. They’ve nailed the liquid runs of guitar that defined the Dead’s unifying embrace, while also bringing to mind the second-tier stunners like Mountain Bus, Mighty Baby or Fat. On Cosmic Cash’s centerpiece suite, though, they barrel out of the gate with guitars set to Trux and burn down the barn with little regard for the bystanders. Of course, it all smooths out to a buttery soul by the time they get to the end, with just a bit of a lyrical turn towards cringeworthy on “Cashing Out,” but if anyone was looking to elevate the legacy of Jam to something other than college freshman phase territory, its these guys.

The record is sun-streaked with positivity, and that feeling is utterly infectious. You’d be hard pressed to find a band working in the genre that would be called dour, but Garcia Peoples feel like they’re happiest spreading love via rippling riff. Their debut stands central to the new wave of American Jam and given time they’ll likely go down as a pivotal spark in new attitudes towards Cosmic Americana. For now, though, this is just the perfect companion to ride out the tail of Summer. Drop the needle, fill your drink and let the cooldown shake of Garcia Peoples free your soul.



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