In the 1990s, hip-hop producers began speeding up vocal samples, usually from old soul records, and embedding them as a repetitive beat and hook. It was usually a means of taking something familiar and rendering it slightly askew, an element of disorientation.
Codependents, a Missoula-based hip-hop group of 20-somethings, sometimes did this using a live voice from Riley Roberts, who can sing in that narrow, high range. Outside of that group, Roberts wrote and recorded his own psychedelic folk songs under the name Lige Newton. He began putting those songs to use in a different context with Tiny Plastic Stars, a psych-garage-pop group.
Tiny Plastic Stars is technically two bands. In another incarnation, Charcoal Squids, Roberts hands the lead vocals and guitar over to Josh Bacha. Dan Miller plays drums in both groups.
While many psych groups are led by guitarists, and therefore prone to extended freakouts and jams, the Stars are more of a song-oriented affair. Like those 1990s hip-hop albums, they thrive on setting an upper-level vocal against a groove.
One of the best songs on the group's new album, "Sleep Eyes 2" that's called "Tamarack," eventually enters into an excellent, rolling Can-like drum rhythm that contrasts nicely with the suddenly sparse guitar and vocal line.
"Sonder" and "Mirror Talk," two tunes that were recorded live, bear more of Roberts' roots, sounding like folk songs (with a touch of screamo), played with rock guitar and drumming.
Elsewhere on the studio tracks, cut at Levitation Recordings in Missoula, there are blusier variations of garage-psych ("Pipe Dream") and more wound-up grooves ("Randy's Desert').
"Pretty Well and Waisted," another standout, uses a minimalist, mechanical drum rhythm surrounded by the swirling guitar-effects and some of Roberts' best melody writing: it's a vaguely trippy folk number about wasting time in a small town, wrapped in fresh production and arrangements.
Like "Tamarack," it's a fresh variation on psych-garage, showing the further they push it, the better they sound.