Parts & Labor with DOM and Pterodactyl
10 p.m. Tuesday
Howlin' Wolf Den, 901 S. Peters St., 529-5844; www.thehowlinwolf.com
Cliches be damned: Go ahead and judge Parts & Labor's fourth album, Constant Future (out this week on Jagjaguwar), by its cover, says singer/bassist and creator B.J. Warshaw.
"It's very similar to the way we write music," Warshaw says of his artistic process. "I'll come up with sketches or ideas or mockups, and I'll send images to (singer/keyboardist) Dan (Friel) and (drummer) Joe (Wong) and see what they think."
At first glance, the image appears straightforward: a tree, a field, an overcast sky. Look closer. Those clouds are floating dental X-rays, and the flora — the plant, the tree trunk, its leaves and branches — consists entirely of brightly colored hands. They belong to the record's makers, as well as Warshaw's girlfriend and family.
"Each individual flower was handmade," he says. "I took photos of our hands, cut them out and put them in Photoshop, printed them out and photocopied them. I use a lot of photocopying in all the artwork — that kind of collaged look. Then I hand-painted them with watercolors, assembled the collages and scanned them back in, and then assembled the bedrock of flowers."
The covers are created specifically for their contents, Warshaw explains, which draws one arc for both artist and band: the simple, impressionistic landscape of Rise, Rise, Rise (2003) and three silhouettes under a streaking sky on Jagjaguwar debut Stay Afraid (2006); the scorching sun and ashen landscape of 2007's lava-spewing Mapmaker and the amorphous beast on 2008's Receivers emitting rainbow smoke through eight spiny stacks on its back.
The last LP was built around hundreds of found-sound samples submitted by fans. For Constant Future, Parts & Labor's most tightly coiled, song-driven effort to date, the Brooklyn-based noise/rock band turned its focus inward. Tracks like "Skin and Bones" and "Echo Chamber" are hulking pop compositions, their group-shouted vocal hooks and squealing synths rippling atop crunchy electric guitars and motorik Krautrock drums.
"Over the course of recording, we had this kind of soul-searching," Warshaw says. "I feel like there are moments on this record that are representative of every other album that we've done, and every past lineup. ... There was also a concerted effort to really arrange tightly as a band. There's a lot more parts that I feel are interlocking with this band, whereas in the past — especially moments on Receivers — we were just piling on layers of noises and sounds, not only fan samples but our own electronics, our own drums. This was more about the live performance: what each member does individually and where our strengths are, and playing to those strengths during the writing process."
Shedding guitarist Sarah Lipstate meant finding a replacement or returning to their old ways of trading instruments and triggering samples nonstop onstage. The band found its answer in Joe Kremer, singer/guitarist for tourmate Pterodactyl; Friel, in turn, is contributing electronics to Pterodactyl's sets. "They're going to be doing double duty every night for the entire tour," Warshaw says. "In our original lineup, Dan was switching off between keyboards and guitar. In those days, he was making samples and basically juggling constantly. I was doing the same: I used to have an electronics table, and was playing bass. While that allowed us to be significantly louder, it also caused us to have significantly less fun playing live. I think having an extra person playing those instruments changes things and makes them more organic, as opposed to just making a drone and triggering it on and off. That can tend to get a little robotic. We really like playing as a four-piece."