• Judging A Cover By Its Cover: This month’s best record sleeves

    By | November 6, 2018

    A sideways glance at the month’s most striking vinyl visuals.

    Each month we will be hailing the joys of music packaging as we celebrate innovative and awe-inspiring sleeve design. Walking with you will be designer and author John Foster as he discusses imagery, typography, layout and finishing techniques of the finest artistic talents in the music industry. Occasional forays into classic albums and general pop culture nonsense come at no additional charge. Now, get those eyeballs at the ready as we cue up the opening number…


    Bruce Broughton
    The Monster Squad – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    (Mondo)

    Artwork: Gary Pullin

    This was my first Halloween writing this column and I think we all know I could have filled every slot here with the various classics that have been reinvigorated on vinyl by the fine folks over at Death Waltz and Mondo. Mondo has pulled no punches in celebrating the holiday. While we have to wait until January to celebrate Alan Hynes’ work on the Halloween 3 soundtrack, we do have a chance to embrace the lighter side of these films courtesy of the ’80s cult classic The Monster Squad. An early Shane Black script about a group of suburban kids tangling with a who’s who of monsters, it served as an over the top update on the old Sunday matinee, entry-level horror film.

    A parallel is the pulp comic books and monster movie magazines of the ’60s, right down to the inky advertising pages that filled out the back matter with enticing offers for kits to “build your own monster”. Who better to bring this vinyl beast to life than “ghoulish” Gary Pullin? His modern take on that campy illustration style perfectly straddles the line between scary and just plain fun. Pullin always incorporates a strong sense of design to compliment his heavy line work, and here he also has a pile of witty copy to sink his teeth into.


    Makaya McCraven
    Universal Beings
    (International Anthem Recording Company)

    Artwork: Damon Locks
    Insert Design: Craig Hansen
    Photography: Michael Handler, Sean Owens, Fabrice Bourgelle, Mark Pallman, Joe Mault

    Working from several live recordings in a fashion that only he can, Makaya McCraven has produced what is probably my favourite jazz record of the year, both musically and visually. While it was recorded in four different cities, everything about the packaging for the album is soaked in Chicago, where McCraven and International Anthem reside. Illustrator Damon Locks is also a local and his work is intensely informed by his urban surroundings.

    McCraven has shown his skills in “post-producing and re-composing” his music from improvised tapes, and Locks draws on photography, ink, pencil, Xerox, printmaking to get his message across. Also stepping behind the mic, Locks has frequently collaborated with other artists and organisations in tackling social issues, and it is the full force of all of those experiences that inform his work.

    Applying his mixed media style to the huddled masses, as apartment buildings lurk in the background and the trains run alongside them, Locks captures an intense humanity in the forms and faces. The slightly slumped shoulders as someone sits down on the edge of the group, or the arched brow looking back as the crowd pushes forward – Locks captures it beautifully. Surrounding it all with hand-rendered typography, smudges and paint drips brings everything together in an imperfect perfection.


    Gaika
    Basic Volume
    (Warp)

    Design: 12:01- Office of Hassan Rahim
    Photography: Joshua Gordon

    Gaika has emerged as a startling voice, straddling genres where claustrophobic mixes haunt his unique vocals. Covering his visuals in a little haze and noise feels like the perfect touch. Upon closer inspection, nothing seems to be what it originally presented itself to be. Inverted portraits from Joshua Gordon are paired with heavy sans serif type, anchoring blocks of razor thin serifs. They all run along an OBI strip that somehow manages to feel like a history of v23 designs for 4AD, buzzsawed by trip-hop heads and stacked vertically for your viewing pleasure. 12:01 always delivers on this front, and the evolution of both Gaika and the packaging the studio is delivering leaves me excited to see how this pairing grows.


    Matthew Dear
    Bunny
    (Ghostly International)

    Artwork, Design: Michael Cina
    Photography: Brett Carlson

    “I’m calling this one Bunny,” Matthew Dear explains. Why Bunny? “Fundamentally, I love the way the word looks and sounds.” Continuing his run of jaw-dropping work for the Detroit-based producer, designer Michael Cina takes that mode of thinking directly to heart. “The design process was very long and changed courses many times,” Cina admits. “We explored so many routes, it would be hard to list them all, but the main thing was to keep our focus.”

    That focus was ultimately on the word itself and getting the most impact out of that one simple thing. “I drew out the letters and we had no technical issues. I draw type for a living (22 years now!) so that is the least of my worries!” he laughs. “Just making sure it was true to the form and lined up as planned,” provided the effect desired. Cina makes it all sound like a breeze, but the truth is something like this is incredibly difficult to pull off. Only with such an assured and trusted hand can it be accomplished with such brilliance.


    Sonnenzimmer
    Puddles
    (Self released)

    Artwork and Design: Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi


    Few studios are as inspiring as the Chicago duo known as Sonnenzimmer. In this instance, Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi 
manage to make something brilliant and unique out of discarded music. These LPs are one of a kind, yet produced from mass manufactured old LPs.

    As Butcher and Nakanishi explain: “our Puddles series of unique, playable record objects was initially conceived for a 2018 exhibit at the Gelbes Haus in Lucerne, Switzerland. The original exhibition showcased 12 casted records of original music embedded with fragments of found LPs. (We call them puddles). Each record is housed in a mono-printed gatefold sleeve.” They are quick to add: “yes, these records play and they sound very weird.” The combination of the playable objects and the wonderfully loose, one-off gatefold sleeves leaves you with the feeling that you just acquired two distinct pieces of art, all thanks to the duo’s obsession with recorded material, ink and sound.


    Fatima
    And Yet It’s All Love
    (Eglo Records)

    Artwork: Monica Kim Garza

    I want to give a special mention to Monica Kim Garza’s painting that adorns Fatima’s And Yet It’s All Love LP. Garza’s paintings never cease to delight, and her nude studies manage to enthral on multiple levels, mixing intimacy with very public display, not unlike Fatima’s music.

    Similarly, the artwork is at once both a throwback to paintings like the classic studies of women by Matisse, and something that is absolutely hyper modern, much in the same way that Fatima references old soul and R&B, but does so with a cutting edge.


    John Foster is the author of Album Art: New Music Graphics (Thames & Hudson), New Masters of Poster Design (Rockport) and numerous other books. As principal of his design firm Bad People Good Things he has designed hundreds of record sleeves for everyone from Teenbeat to Warner Bros.

  • Judging A Cover By Its Cover: September’s best record sleeves

    By | September 27, 2018

    A sideways glance at the month’s most striking vinyl visuals.

    Each month we will be hailing the joys of music packaging as we celebrate innovative and awe-inspiring sleeve design. Walking with you will be designer and author John Foster as he discusses imagery, typography, layout and finishing techniques of the finest artistic talents in the music industry. Occasional forays into classic albums and general pop culture nonsense come at no additional charge. Now, get those eyeballs at the ready as we cue up the opening number…


    Wayne Shorter
    Emanon
    (Blue Note)

    Art Direction, Producer: Don Was
    Art Direction and Design: Todd Gallopo
    Design Producer: Tory Davis
    Illustrations: Randy DuBurke
    Photography: Dorsay Alavi
    Cover Portrait: Tomo Muscionico

    When designer Todd Gallopo from Meat and Potatoes says, “this is just one of my all-time favorite projects,” I could not agree with him more. Wayne Shorter had been working on the idea of bringing together a graphic novel with this release for years, and through his work on Blue Note Review, Gallopo had already met and art directed a photo session for Shorter. Label head Don Was could see that they would be the perfect pairing to bring this difficult project to fruition.

    During the brainstorming process, Gallopo remembers that, “Don said to me that he didn’t see this as just some ordinary set of CDs or LPs, and he took me on a trip to get some inspiration by walking through Hennessey + Ingalls bookstore in Los Angeles for several hours. We are both inspired by the deconstruction of an art book, or a zine, and we both love the idea of showing some of that process. It doesn’t always have to be the brightest and shiniest of bells and whistles,” he adds.

    Showing that process is what makes the Emanon packaging so next level. The printing on the board, the weight of the paper, the mix of textures with soft and rough, the way that the spine is bound “or unbound”. All of it is pushing the limits of what can normally be done in music design. This is an incredibly tactile package, mixed with nine die-cuts, and housing an 84-page graphic novel. The hand work alone required to match the foil stamping on the cloth spine tape with the foil stamping on the paper below, and the perfect nesting of the tip-on sheet so that everything fits, while also having the type show through the giant centre die-cut, makes my head spin.

    “There is literally nothing easy about any of this,” Gallopo laughs. “One of my favourite multi-dimensional parts, that Wayne had going on in the story, and I wanted to play upon, was set out in the production credit inside where we listed – ‘The packaging is intentionally designed to reveal its dormant possibilities as it travels between alternative realities of the multi-verse’ – which essentially means that this thing is going to ding up and it’s going to wear and it’s going to tear, and it is going to get more and more beautiful and show you things that are beautiful and become beautiful with every interaction.”


    Factory Floor
    Soundtrack For A Film
    (H/O/D Records)

    Art: Haroon Mirza
    Design: Nik Void
    Illustration: Sam Moore

    One of my very favorite things to do is to see Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis performed with a live score. When I heard that Science Museum curator Chris Bell had commissioned Factory Floor to write a new score for the film to celebrate its 90th anniversary, I was intrigued. The duo tackled the 150-minute score live at the IMAX theatre at the museum, as part of the Robots exhibition, and the results were incredible. Recorded in a studio afterwards and repurposed as a 4xLP set, Gabriel Gurnsey and Nik Void deliver the soundtrack as individual pieces packaged together as the easily titled Soundtrack For A Film. For the cover image, they draw not from Lang’s dystopian future, but artist Haroon Mirza, who has collaborated with Factory Floor before (notably released by VF), as well as other musicians. His fascination with the interplay of sound is pared down to basic graphic elements thanks to illustrator Sam Moore, under Void’s guidance. It’s simple, yet incredibly effective, especially as it plays out over several changes in colour throughout the set.


    Aphex Twin
    Collapse
    (Warp)

    Artwork (Art & Craft Process): Richard D. James, The Designers Republic, Weirdcore

    Richard D. James has a long history of bizarre visuals to go alongside his manic musical explorations. When Windowlicker was released, visual artist Weirdcore was only 9 years old. By 2009 the two had found one another and James knew he had the right man to take his live vision into hyperdrive. Their collaborations have constantly evolved and soon leaked into all visual areas of Aphex Twin. The two also share a love of being mischievous and secretive, as Weirdcore goes as far as to pixelate any video of himself speaking and they share a fascination with face-swapping technology. Bringing all of that together with the always brilliant vision and steady hands of longtime Warp and Aphex Twin designers The Designers Republic, the expectation is for some form of controlled madness.

    So, it is with a bit of a shock that this crack crew have perhaps made their most incredible work together by being fairly literal with regard to the visual concept for this new EP. With every Aphex Twin release I find myself marvelling at the packaging produced by Ian Anderson and the studio, but here everyone is simply working around a visual collapse of information, married directly to the title, which provides a crazy window into an altered reality, as if being sucked into another dimension. The final visuals are complex and sophisticated but also simple in the thinking behind them, reminding all of us how strong a good idea can truly be.


    Low
    Double Negative
    (Sub Pop)

    Artwork/Photography: Peter Liversidge
    Design: David Kramer

    Someone help me please as I can’t put my finger on exactly why it is that I love this record. I have long been a fan of the band Low, having seen them at one of their earliest shows where they basically performed a concert using the empty space between notes to pummel and captivate the audience. It was intense and engaging and like nothing else I had experienced as a teenage punk rock kid at the time.

    25 years later, they are completely reinventing themselves via deconstruction and manipulation. These are soundscapes and collages as much as traditional songs, yet they engage in the same way Low always has, and the sounds that are not there remain as important as the ones that you hear. Having worked with celebrated artist Peter Liversidge previously, it makes sense then that they would be drawn to a photo of one of his simple mask sculptures. Liversidge is an artist I tend to enjoy in ways that I may not always be able to explain (“I know it when I see it”) and often his executions leave me wanting a little. Not so with these masks, which boil things down in such a manner that I find them irresistible. Just two eye holes in this case to let you know what you are dealing with. In the end, it’s the perfect pairing, as Low does exactly the same thing with their music.


    Steve Hauschildt
    Dissolvi
    (Ghostly International)

    Artwork and Design: Robert Beatty

    This one is a funny record to discuss. As far as the packaging is concerned, it really took its time to grow on me. Seemingly a no-brainer, with the lovely pulsating wash of Hauschildt’s tunes, and Robert Beatty on board to handle the design, it was checking all of my boxes right out of the gate. But the individual illustrations didn’t grab me right away, at least not until I got to see them up close, revealing so many wonderful details in the old school stat camera ready execution. It was the organization of elements that really started to bring me in.

    The opening grid, like a table of musical elements, gives way to a more direct interplay on the back of the sleeve, and especially on the cassette case, tour poster and videos. The album’s title is a reference to cupio dissolvi, the Latin phrase meaning “I wish to be dissolved”, which can be traced to the various illustrations and the way that they manually fade, as if forced to do so by the technique more so than reality. In the end, it’s all a manufactured illusion. These have to be in black and white to work as well as they do, and it’s interesting to see Beatty pull back at a time when the bulk of his work is saturated in colour. Much like Hauschildt forcing himself to record this album in a proper studio, it’s the self-imposed limitations and restrictions around the project that ultimately end up paying huge dividends.


    John Foster is the author of Album Art: New Music Graphics (Thames & Hudson), New Masters of Poster Design (Rockport) and numerous other books. As principal of his design firm Bad People Good Things he has designed hundreds of record sleeves for everyone from Teenbeat to Warner Bros.

  • Yves Tumor releases new album Safe In The Hands Of Love on Warp

    By | September 6, 2018

    Listen to Yves Tumor’s new album now.

    The surprise drop follows the previously released singles ‘Noid’ and ‘Licking An Orchid’, both of which showcased a surprising indie pop direction from the artist, whose 2016 album Serpent Music – one of our favourite albums of 2016 – arrived on PAN.

    As well as a collaboration with James K on ‘Licking An Orchid’, the album features guest spots from Puce Mary, Croation Amor and Oxhy.

    The album is available digitally from 5th September with 2xLP available on 12th October. Listen to the album via Apple Music below:

  • 10 new albums to look out for in September

    By | August 31, 2018

    Next month’s wantlist.

    We’ve combed through the pre-orders, promos and release listings so that you don’t have to, showcasing a diverse selection of music from our favourite artists and labels, alongside newcomers we think you need to hear.

    It’s an electronic affair in September, as we look forward to new albums from Sarah Davachi, Tim Hecker and little known Cornish resident Richard D. James. There are also new visions from South Africa and Peru in the music of Thabang Tabane and Dengue Dengue Dengue, while Lonnie Holley and Fatima provide the soul in records that deal with the political and the personal in turn.


    Aphex Twin

    Collapse EP

    (Warp)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 14th Sept

    Described by Warp as “a juicy bag of delights!” Aphex Twin’s Collapse EP finally arrives this month, after being teased out via a series of artwork around the world in August. Collapse follows his ‘3 Gerald Remix’ / ’24 TSIM 2’12” via Michigan record shop Technical Equipment Supply. The EP, falls between Avril 14th’s “sumptuous celestial patchwork of sadness and euphoria” and Come To Daddy – “the most petrifying song in the universe.” Sounds like a real hoot.


    Thabang Tabane

    Matjale

    (Mushroom Hour Half Hour)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 14th Sept

    Continuing the rhythmic and spiritual tradition of his father Philip Tabane, considered the architect of the malombo style, Thabang Tabane’s new album Matjale picks up the legacy of the music, which originally developed as an implicit retort to Euro-centric influences on South African music and flew against the grain of apartheid censorship. Released via new South African label Mushroom Hour Half Hour, Matjale continues to build on a contemporary malombo sound, which reached a vast new audience last year through Sibusile Xaba’s brilliant Open Letter to Adoniah.


    Sarah Davachi

    Gave In Rest

    (Ba Da Bing)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 14th September

    An elegy to quiet spaces that capture the essences of different times of day, experimental composer and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Davachi’s Gave In Rest is born out of an exploration of solitude. Tapping into the sonic and atmospheric rituals of religious and spiritual spaces, the has crafted an album of secular hymns, continually pitting harmony with dissonance, and over dubbed vocals with vast expanses of sound. Look no further than the glacial Baroque movements of ‘Evensong’, treated through an EMT 140 plate reverb, to get a sense of the material substance of these ephemeral pieces.


    Tentenko

    Tentenko

    (Toothpaste Records)

    Pre-order

    Due: 20th September

    Japanese producer/singer Tentenko first came to fame as a member of Japanese alternative “idol group” BiS, before going solo. A co-founder of experimental duo Mika Ten, though she has released dozens of records in Japan, Tentenko’s eponymous debut LP marks her first international release. Its 10 tracks include a Shintaro Sakamoto-written number ‘Nantonaku Abenai’ and a cover of Ikue Sakakibara’s techno-kayo 1980s track ‘Robot’. Think mutant synth and j-pop electronics that are weird and totally wonderful, with a dash of industrial freak-outs thrown in for good measure. Just the way we like it.


    Lonnie Holley

    MITH

    (Jagjaguwar)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 21st September

    The artist behind our album of the year in 2013, Lonnie Holley returns on Jagjaguwar with MITH, a typically idiosyncratic response to the rapid disintegration of politics and social cohesion in the United States. A self-taught musician with a harrowing story, Holley’s work draws on ancient ritual themes, articulated through free-form synth improvisations and stream of consciousness vocals, to weave a very unique form of Afrofuturism. First track ‘I Woke Up In A Fucked Up America’ sets the tone – an impressionistic punk poem delivered with visceral intent.


    Dengue Dengue Dengue

    Semillero

    (On The Corner)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 21st September

    Peruvian duo Dengue Dengue Dengue join On the Corner and label mates Penya for a 6-track excursion to the root, or perhaps more specifically the seed, of Amazonian psychedelia. Title track ‘Semillero’ finds kindred spirit in the Andean flutes and contemporary producers from Angola, weaving a contemporary vision of afro-Peru that pays its dues to the ancestors in the process. Another fine outing for On The Corner, with artwork to match. A strictly limited vinyl run so be quick.


    Tim Hecker

    Konoyo

    (Kranky)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 22nd Sept

    Who wouldn’t be excited about a Tim Hecker album recorded in a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo? Taking cues from gagaku, a form of Japanese classical music performed at the Imperial Court, the project is the product of several visits to Japan where Hecker collaborated with members of the gagaku ensemble Tokyo Gakuso. It also signals Hecker’s return to Kranky following the 2016 release of Love Streams on 4AD. “Both in texture and intent, Konoyo conjures a somber, ceremonial mood, suffused with ritual and regret,” reads the press release. Sounds about right.


    Inland / Julian Charrieré

    An Invitation To Disappear

    (A-TON)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 28th September

    An Invitation To Disappear first took shape as Inland’s soundtrack to Julian Charrière’s film set in an Indonesian palm plantation. The project was created as a response to the 200th anniversary of the eruption of the Tambora volcano in 1815, which plunged the world into darkness and caused a series of extreme weather conditions. For his debut LP, and first release on Ostgut Ton sub-label A-TON, Inland, aka British producer Ed Davenport, reworks the material and field recordings into 8-tracks, spanning from stripped back, ambient hues of techno to (slightly) more euphoric shades.


    Fatima

    And Yet It’s All Love

    (Eglo)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 28th September

    Eglo Queen Fatima returns with her eagerly awaited second album, And Yet It’s All Love. “An emotional, yet entertaining trip through the full cycle of the relationship,” the album takes listeners “from first meet, the blinding honeymoon period and struggle, right through to the break-up and eventual fallout.” With killer first singles ‘Caught In A Lie’ and ‘Somebody Else’ alongside 12 new tracks, consider the album a sonic ode to heartbreak that’s as at home in your bedroom as it is on the dance floor.


    Jlin

    Autobiography

    (Planet Mu)

    Listen / Pre-order

    Due: 28th September

    Last year US producer Jlin crafted the score for a dance project in collaboration with choreographer Wayne McGregor. An exploration of memory, Autobiography combined algorithmically-assembled choreography with live musical accompaniment by Jlin – performed by 10 dancers in unique sequences at every show. The Autobiography LP collects 13-tracks from its debut performance, and follows the release of Jlin’s Black Origami LP – one of our favourite albums of 2017.

  • Aphex Twin to release new Collapse EP on limited vinyl and cassette

    By | August 7, 2018

    Hear new track ‘T69 Collapse’ now.

    After a week of artwork sightings, cryptic press releases and a shelved Adult Swim premiere, Cornwall’s finest has revealed details of new EP Collapse, set to be released by Warp Records in September.

    Read next: Unpacking the obscure ’80s technology behind Aphex Twin’s Cheetah EP artwork

    The EP will receive two vinyl pressings – a limited edition housed in a “Procédé Heliophore silver foil sleeve”, and a standard vinyl edition – both of which will contain a download card with access to bonus track ‘pthex’. It will also be released on a chrome cassette, following in the footsteps of 2016’s Cheetah EP.

    Watch Weirdcore’s mind-bending video (which failed the Harding test last night) for new track ‘T69 Collapse’ above.

    Collapse will be released on 14th September via Warp records. Pre-order you copy here and check out the artwork below.

    Packshots courtesy of Bleep.

  • Judging A Cover By Its Cover: June’s best record sleeves

    By | June 22, 2018

    A sideways glance at the month’s most striking vinyl visuals.

    Each month we will be hailing the joys of music packaging as we celebrate innovative and awe-inspiring sleeve design. Walking with you will be designer and author John Foster as he discusses imagery, typography, layout and finishing techniques of the finest artistic talents in the music industry. Occasional forays into classic albums and general pop culture nonsense come at no additional charge. Now, get those eyeballs at the ready as we cue up the opening number…


    Oneohtrix Point Never
    Age Of
    (Warp Records)

    Art Direction and Design: David Rudnick, Oneohtrix Point Never

    The longer you read this column the more you will appreciate that the kind of graphic design that inevitably excites me the most is the kind of graphic design that could never ever have come from my own hands. David Rudnick has left me absolutely fascinated with both his wild typography, and his application of those letterforms, which feels equal parts hopeless adoration and delicious subversion.

    My favourite part of Rudnick’s work is the restless nature that spurs on his desire to experiment, and also allows him to push a concept straight through the wall. All of those qualities are more than evident on his work for Oneohtrix Point Never, with the winking imagery in Jim Shaw’s painting (when have I ever been able to say that a Jim Shaw image was the least interesting part of a piece?) and the heavy application of an eclectic mix of typefaces. It is undeniably bold and points to a brand of retro-futurism that can only exist in the mindmeld of Rudnick and OPN’s Daniel Lopatin.

    When it is all said and done it could be argued that the CD packaging is the ultimate application of all of this madness. The final product was something Lopatin glowingly referred to as “the most OPN thing ever, and something I’ll never be able to top.” That may seem like crazy praise from an artist with a deep catalogue of wonderful packaging. But you know what? He might be right.


    DRINKS
    Hippo Lite
    (Drag City)

    Design: Tim Presley

    The pairing of Tim Presley and Cate Le Bon creates an enjoyably odd mix of his California psych roots and her lovely Welsh dada folk, with Presley often coming up with fairly traditional tunes that Le Bon then perverts and deconstructs. Presley can’t help but smile when he says Le Bon “comes out of Mars with ideas.” Making their second album as DRINKS, the overall effect is as if you have discovered an underground private press record, something personal and intimate and pop damaged and weird and sweet and totally removed from modern technology. It is telling that Presley explains that they lacked phone or internet while holed up in a reception challenged commune in a corner of the South of France for a month while making the recordings. Hippo Lite album that ultimately sounds like it was made for the enjoyment (and amusement) of each other, and that quality extends to the presentation.

    Designed by Presley, the layout is filled with rough, blown out snap shots of their time recording, and swimming (lots of river swimming!) and has the lyrics, logo and credits scattered about the cover. The band name is endearingly on there twice, as if was being decided where best to have it but then fell in love with the version they mocked up to figure it out.

    It is the kind of design that could have easily fallen apart, but it is done with such joy, weirdness and lack of inhibition (yet, what is clearly killer aesthetic taste) that it is undeniably winning, just like the record it wraps around.


    Father John Misty
    God’s Favorite Customer
    (Sub Pop / Bella Union)

    Art Direction: Josh Tillman and Sasha Barr
    Photography: Pari Dukovic

    Few labels have done as much as Sub Pop has in making fans feel they simply MUST own the physical version of their favourite artist’s records. The full catalogue of Father John Misty releases cry out to be held in your hands. Past albums featured pop-ups, die-cuts and detailed illustrations, but for God’s Favorite Customer, Josh Tillman and his trusted in-house design maven Sasha Barr brought along a dejected headshot to carry the day.

    Pari Dukovic, of New Yorker fame, turns his colour-saturated style of portraiture on Tillman, capturing Mister Misty in a contrived, yet believable pose. It delights on many levels, right down to the effort to style his hair, with the lighting only serving to outline the fact that it has a mind of its own. So much of the joy in Father John Misty is figuring out which parts are authentic and which are exaggerated, with a swirling ego front and centre.

    The production element that takes it all to another level is exclusive to the “Loser Edition” of the album, with a string of blue foil teardrops running down the front and back cover. Paired with a gold foil and splatter vinyl (of course, with the tears) the inner sleeve features doodles (very Barr-styled), photos and ramblings that assemble in four variants, making each interior as personal as is possible on this scale.


    Secret 7”
    (Various Artists)

    The Secret 7” series is pretty simple in concept – they take 7 songs from well-known musical acts and press 100 of each song for the first time ever on 7” singles. The rub is in how they package them, and how you purchase them. Each contributor creates a single, unique sleeve, so the final result is 700 sleeves, which are then exhibited before going on sale. For £50 each, you can buy the release, and only then do you find out who created the sleeve and what song it is for. You receive a unique piece and collectable disc with the proceeds going to charity. The series has given creative opportunities to some of the best designers and illustrators in the world with stunning results.

    As rewarding as it can be, it is also an exhausting process to assemble, so it warms my heart to see the series return this year after taking 2017 off. The exhibition runs until June 23rd at The Jetty on Greenwich Peninsula in London, with all sleeves going on sale starting at 10am on June 24th. Tracks this year come from The Clash, Primal Scream, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Buckley, Manic Street Preachers, The Eurythmics, and London Grammar. I have displayed a few of my favourites here and I can’t wait to discover who designed them.


    Air Miami
    Various releases
    (Teenbeat / 4AD)

    Design: Teenbeat Graphica (Mark Robinson)

    I don’t know about you, but I HAVE WORLD CUP FEVER! I absolutely love the opening round with three games blasting away over my shoulder in my studio all day every day. Every four years it also gives me a good reason to shout out my love for Air Miami’s skittering anthem ‘World Cup Fever’ and sit back and appreciate the graphic genius of front man (and Teenbeat label head) Mark Robinson.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to watch Mark grow as a designer, as I circled the same music scene and often found myself standing behind him in line at the video store. Much in the same way that he embraces music, he threw himself into design, tossing aside traditional rules in favour of just endlessly tweaking elements that he liked. Everything, from the barcode to the registration marks, were fair game to be used as part of the creative process.

    His active brain was truly on display when he had multiple formats to work with, as you can see with the design of Me, Me, Me where he changes the back of the sleeve for each format and territory, slowly manipulates elements with every opportunity. Robinson accelerated his progress by constantly working on new designs at every turn – whether it was extra promo posters, or simply the coffee mugs and ball point pens around the office (famously adopting the Factory Records style of giving catalogue numbers to everything involved with the label) – growing into the accomplished book and LP sleeve designer he is today.


    John Foster is the author of Album Art: New Music Graphics (Thames & Hudson), New Masters of Poster Design (Rockport) and numerous other books. As principal of his design firm Bad People Good Things he has designed hundreds of record sleeves for everyone from Teenbeat to Warner Bros.

  • Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works ’85-’92 repressed on 2xLP

    By | June 6, 2018

    “Both the birthplace and the benchmark of modern electronic music.”

    Aphex Twin’s seminal debut album is being repressed on double vinyl, this June by R&S and Apollo Records.

    Read more: Aphex Twin talks vintage synths with former Korg engineer Tatsuya Takahashi

    Selected Ambient Works ’85-’92 features original artwork, and the 2013 remastered audio made from its original DAT tapes and cut by Matt Colton.

    Last summer, Aphex Twin released a limited 12″ available in-store only at Todd Osborne’s Technical Equipment Supply in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and opened a new digital archive with an online record shop, spanning the breadth of his releases from alias including AFX, Polygon Window, GAK and The Tuss.

    Pre-order a copy of Selected Ambient Works ’85-’92 here ahead of its 29th June release, listen to ‘Ptolemy’ and check out the track list below.

    Tracklist:

    Side A

    A1. Xtal
    A2. Tha
    A3. Pulsewidth

    Side B

    B1. Ageispolis
    B2. i
    B3. Green Calx
    B4. Heliosphan

    Side C

    C1. We Are The Music Makers
    C2. Schottkey 7th Path
    C3. Ptolemy

    Side D

    D1. Hedphelym
    D2. Delphium
    D3. Actium

  • 25 vinyl releases actually worth getting on Record Store Day 2018

    By | April 18, 2018

    The best of this year’s exclusives.

    In recent years, response here at the office to the Record Store Day list has followed a familiar pattern: mild dread, followed by irritation, followed by a sense of emptiness.

    Piercing the black wax clouds of needless reissues and major label sewage clogging your favourite indie shop for the next few weeks are a few rays of gleaming vinyl sunshine. 25 rays to be precise.

    To help you make the most of your time in the queue, we’ve highlighted the releases to make a bee-line for and just why they might be worth getting out of bed for – focussing on new and archival releases where possible.


    António Sanches
    Buli Povo!

    (Analog Africa)

    Analog Africa deliver a long awaited reissue of Antonio Sanches’ Buli Povo, a 1983 LP which fuses the far out Funaná funk with synth, African rhythms and Portuguese instrumentals. His eerie sci-fi funk track ‘Pinta Manta’ opened the label’s fantastic Space Echo compilation back in 2016.


    Antony Gormley

    Sounds of the Studio

    (Gearbox Records)

    The kind of niche release Record Store Day was made for, London jazz label Gearbox Records gain access to UK sculptor supreme Antony Gormley’s “cathedral-like” studio to capture the sounds that emanate from the hammers, grinders, fans and welders involved in making the magic happen.


    Brian Eno with Kevin Shields

    ‘The Weight Of History’ / ‘Only Once Away My Son’Opal

    (Opal)

    Brian Eno teams up with My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields for this double a-side affair, which includes new track ‘The Weight of History’ alongside their 2017 collaboration ‘Only Once Away My Son’.


    Bibio

    ‘Zen Drums’/’Dada Drums’

    (Warp)

    Bibio takes a left turn for a 12” of new material released by Warp on RSD this year, crafted from live drums and synthesizers. Produced in collaboration with calligrapher Timothy Dickinson, each of the 1,000 copies is hand-painted and utterly unique. Talk about zen.


    Cheikh Lô

    Né La Thiass

    (World Circuit)

    An essential reissue of Cheikh Lô’s 1995 cassette, produced in Senegal by Youssou N’Dour. Not a record we were previously familiar with, this one hasn’t left the turntable since, fusing Mande, Wolof and Congolese music with Lô’s passion for Cuban rhythms. Gentle, persuasive, melancholy, and deeply spiritual, this is a must for fans of Awesome Tapes, Mr Bongo and beyond.


    Cymande

    Promised Heights

    (Mr Bongo)

    Speaking of which… Mr Bongo delivers two remastered Cymande album reissues, for a double hit of of sunshine-filled soul funk. Though Second Time Around is worth a peep, the more elusive and anthemic Promised Heights is our favourite.


    David Axelrod

    Song Of Innocence

    (Now-Again)

    The first in a series of reissues of legendary producer David Axelrod’s Capital Trilogy, Song of Innocence is one of his most continually referenced works, regularly sampled and “celebrated as psychedelic, the birth of jazz-fusion, the harbinger of hip-hop.”


    David Bowie

    ‘Let’s Dance’ demo

    (PLG UK Catalog)

    As per usual, there are a bevy of Bowie releases this RSD. The highlight is a ‘Let’s Dance’ full length demo version, mixed by Nile Rogers, who also co-produced the original track with Bowie, released on vinyl for the first time. Its B-side includes a live version from a 1983 concert in Canada.


    Ed Motta presents…

    Too Slow To Disco Brazil

    (How Are You?)

    The man, nay, the legend Ed Motta takes the Too Slow To Disco series down to Rio for a journey through the country’s chugging AOR underbelly. Hell, the man has 7 copies of Steely Dan’s Aja, so who else would you trust? In his words, before listening, please acquire: “A Hawaiian shirt à la Magnum PI, loafers without socks as in Miami Vice, [and] jump in your convertible and drive under the coconut trees.”


    Jean-Jacques Perrey

    Prelude au Sommeil

    (Moochin’ About)

    Great electronic innovator and madcap experimentalist Jean-Jacques Perrey release his first record, Prelude au Sommeil in 1957, and is presented here on vinyl in its entirety for the first time. “Funeral-parlour Muzak in a mausoleum on the moon”? Sounds like the perfect post-RSD soundtrack.


    Marquis Hawkes

    Aus126

    (Aus Records)

    Marquis Hawkes is no stranger to harnessing the power of almighty soul voices and turning them into exultant house anthems. For this RSD release on Will Saul’s Aus label, he takes on two titans of RnB, serving up a duo of dance floor ready reworks.


    Mary Clark

    ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ / ‘You Got Your Hold On Me’

    (Soul Brother Records)

    A seminal profession of love, delivered in a disco soul package, Mary Clark’s original 45 edit of ‘Take Me I’m Yours’ gets its first official reissue, with the equally essential slow jam ‘You Got Your Hold On Me’ on the flip.

    Miles Davis

    Rubberband

    (Rhino Warner)

    A four-track teaser EP from Rubberband, the long lost 1985 album by the one and only Miles Davis, released later this year. Should this have remained lost? Perhaps… But with Chaka Khan and Al Jarreau slated on the original, this might be the closest we’ll ever come to finding out.


    Modula

    Incontro Al Club Ventuno

    (Futurible)

    More funky, ‘70s facing electro-synth workouts from Naples’ Filippo Colonna Romano aka Modula, who channels his recent VF mix of obscure Italian soundtracks into a homage to the country’s rich and kitsch history of crime b-movies. One of those “off-RSD” releases you’ll need to be extra lucky to find.


    Molly Nilsson

    These Things take Time

    (Night School Records)

    A favourite of ours at VF, Molly Nilsson’s debut was first self-released on CD-r in 2008 in true DIY style. Pressed in an edition of 500 on clear vinyl, it’s a captivating introduction to Nilsson’s otherworldly musings.


    Oliver Coates

    John Luther Adams’ Canticles of the Sky

    (RVNG Intl.)

    Mica Levi, Radiohead and Actress collaborator Oliver Coates’ interpretation of the John Luther Adams composition, stripped back to 16 cello parts, played and overdubbed entirely by Coates.


    Oumou Sangaré

    Mogoya Remixed

    (Nø Førmat)

    Six reworks from Malian legend Oumou Sangaré’s Mogoya Remixed get released on white 12″ for the first time, including edits by Sampha, St Germain, and Natureboy Flako.


    Ryuichi Sakamoto

    ff2

    (Milan)

    A two-track 12″ of ethereal and delicate new material from maestro Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose album async was one of our favourite records of 2017.


    Shiho Yabuki

    The Body Is A Message Of The Universe

    (Subliminal Sounds)

    Receiving only one small-scale release on a tiny Japanese label, and sounding like an underwater animé set on Jupiter, Shiho Yabuki’s meditative and serene Japanese ambient album from the 1980s gets its first ever reissue, on breezy translucent pink vinyl for maximum zen.


    Serge Gainsbourg

    Le Pacha

    (WEWANTSOUNDS)

    The first full release for the cult Serge Gainsbourg soundtrack from 1967, which features a short cameo from the man himself in typically louche form. Low slung, smoked-out jazz modes abound in what is a crucial addition to the Gainsbourg canon. Look out for WEWANTSOUNDS’ The Friends Of Eddie Coyle soundtrack release on the day too.


    Sigur Rós

    Route One

    (XL Recordings)

    Iceland’s post-rock immortals are overseeing four releases on Record Store Day, with Route One probably our pick of the bunch – capturing the best of the band’s 1332km drive around the island’s epic coastal path, created using generative music software and the stems of the Sigur Rós song ‘ovedur’. The other three include Liminal Remixes, featuring Paul Corley and Alex Somers remixing classic tracks, a new album from the latter, drawn from his experience scoring Captain Fantastic, Black Mirror and more, and a deleted EP from frontman Jónsi & Alex.


    Various Artists

    Studio One Dub Plate Special

    (Soul Jazz Records)

    Soul Jazz Records collects 10 rare and unreleased dub plates from legendary Jamaican label Studio One, for this special 7″ box set, featuring tracks by Alton Ellis, Cedric Brooks, Brentford All Stars and more. Look out for a brace of other box sets from the label also out on the day.


    Various Artists

    The American Dreamer OST

    (Light In The Attic)

    The soundtrack for a documentary about Dennis Hopper’s surreal film The Last Movie, reissued for the first time on red vinyl with an 18×24 film poster.


    Various Artists

    1+1=X

    (Erased Tapes)

    Taking the first decade in its stride, Erased Tapes releases a new compilation that’s crafted in the communal spirit of the label. Recording twenty exclusive songs in Berlin, expect input from big hitters like Nils Frahm, Rival Consoles, and Kiasmos. The 3LP set is housed in a bespoke white box with a photo book that documents the recording process.


    WVR BVBY

    WVR BVBY

    (Plug Seven)

    Straight out of Melbourne’s cracking contemporary jazz scene (Familiar to fans of Hiatus Kaiyote and Rhythm Section’s recent 30/70 LP), WVR BVBY’s self-titled debut blends more spiritual elements of the modern sound with hip-hop referencing in-the-pocket grooves.

  • Autechre to release 12xLP NTS Sessions box set

    By | April 9, 2018

    Featuring 8 hours of new music.

    Autechre’s complete month-long residency at NTS Radio in London will be released as an extensive vinyl box set via Warp Records.

    Read next: Listen to an exclusive Autechre mixtape by Swedish techno producer Hans Berg

    Helming a 4-part series of two-hour shows on the Dalston-based station, Autechre will be releasing each show individually as a single LP or collectively in the complete 12xLP box.

    Featuring artwork by Designer’s Republic, the one-time pressing will be housed in a rigid slip-case and feature foiled-blocked monochrome design.

    The first in Rob Brown and Sean Booth’s four-part series was aired last Thursday, with the next instalments set for 12th, 19th and 26th April.

    You can listen back to the first show on the NTS website, where you’ll also be able to purchase each album individually. Head to the Autechre online shop for the box set.

    Photo: Bafic

  • Oneohtrix Point Never announces new album Age Of

    By | April 4, 2018

    The producer returns to Warp with a new LP in June.

    Oneohtrix Point Never will release his new album Age Of on Warp Records on 1st June.

    Read next: VF Mix 88: Oneohtrix Point Never by Apollo Noir

    The follow-up to 2017’s Good Time soundtrack – our favourite OST of the yearAge Of is described as Daniel Lopatin’s “most cohesive and richly composed work to date, weaving a tapestry of disparate musical histories,” which touches tantalisingly on “early music, country and folk balladry, melodic pop, computer music and more.”

    The announcement comes ahead of OPN’s new installation, myRiad, at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory, the trailer for which you can watch now and which features the Age Of title track.

    Oneohtrix Point Never also appeared on David Byrne’s new album American Utopia earlier this year.

    Available on digital, CD and vinyl and with t-shirt bundles direct from the OPN website, you can check out the artwork and tracklist below and pre-order Age Of here ahead of its release on 1st June.

    Tracklist:

    01. Age Of
    02. Babylon
    03. Manifold
    04. The Station
    05. Toys 2
    06. Black Snow
    07. myriad.industries
    08. Warning
    09. We’ll Take It
    10. Same
    11. RayCats
    12. Still Stuff That Doesn’t Happen
    13. Last Known Image of a Song

    Photo by Atiba Jefferson

  • Our 10 favourite releases from March

    By | March 27, 2018

    The records we loved this month.

    The clocks have turned and there is light at the end of the tunnel. To soundtrack the coming of spring, we’ve rounded up the records that have kept us moving in the last four weeks, compiling the best of the best from our weekly rundowns, alongside a few that slipped through the net first time round.

    What have you been listening to in March? Let us know in the comments below.


    Anaïs

    Before Zero

    (Virgin)

    Listen / Buy

    If you haven’t come across Anaïs yet make this the time to do so, as she’s destined for big things. On ‘Before Zero’, she cuts that future soul sound stone dead with her killer voice and incredible production work that’s been touched by the spirit of Prince.


    Lucy Railton

    Paradise 94

    (Modern Love)

    Listen / Buy

    With an already impressive footprint across electro-acoustic composition, be it as a curator, performer, or collaborator, Paradise 94 comes as Lucy Railton’s debut solo LP, and it’s a stunner. A cellist with a distinct ability to explode the instrument’s vocabulary, here such excavations into technique and texture are in full force, with the sound source collaged or manipulated into an imaginative triumph of non-linear narrative. Anyone interested in experimental music needs to check this one out.


    Peter Zummo

    Frame Loop

    (Foom)

    Listen / Buy

    The unique and experimental influence of New York trombonist Peter Zummo cannot be overstated. Ahead of a new album, Zummo has unearthed this lost 1984 session featuring fellow downtown NYC legend, and frequent collaborator Arthur Russell. Performed and recorded live in single takes, and described by Zummo as “a​n ​exercise in spontaneous arrangement”, the album’s five tracks throw inspiring variations on boss horn riffing.


    Hatis Noit

    Illogical Dance

    (Erased Tapes)

    Listen / Buy

    Japanese vocal performer and composer Hatis Noit deconstructs folk music, natural ambience and avant-garde composition on her Erased Tapes debut, drawing on Bulgarian and Gregorian chants and Gagaku or Japanese classical music. If that sounds like a mouthful, fear not – Illogical Lullaby has a Björk-like idiosyncrasy that feels at once complex and primordial. Flagged in our ‘records to look out for in March’ preview, we returned to Hatis Noit enough in the last few weeks to give her a second run, and is deservedly one of our favourites in March.


    Sons Of Kemet

    Your Queen Is A Reptile

    (Impulse!)

    Listen / Buy

    Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings follows his work at the helm of all-star Brownswood compilation We Out Here, and A.R.E. Project – one of our favourite 12”s of 2017 – with a new full-length from Sons of Kemet. Lest you forget what they came to do in the two years since the band’s last album, Your Queen Is A Reptile will swiftly remind – bringing jazz influences to hypnotic Afro-Caribbean rhythms through a politically minded lens. Featuring Hutchings alongside a double dose of drums from Tom Skinner and Eddie Hicks and Theon Cross on tuba, the album is fittingly being released on iconic label Impulse! – best known for records by fellow forward-thinking, sonic genre-spanners Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders amongst others.


    Electric Indigo

    511593

    (Imbalance Computer Music)

    Listen / Buy

    Though DJ and producer Electric Indigo aka Susanne Kirchmayr has been releasing music for the better part of 25 years, and founded female:pressure, which champions women and non binary musicians, 511953 marks her full length debut. In 511953 Kirchmayr explores the outer echelons of rhythms and samples, revealing what happens when you get freaky with the speed of a repeating bass hit or pull out a single note until it turns into its own kind of warped song. That’s not to say there aren’t peak time tracks here, because there very much are especially seen in ‘Trois’ which uses over 20 vocal samples to mesmerising effect, and the slithering electrocuted snare freakouts of ‘Sept’. But rather that the album becomes far more than the sum of its parts when listened to in its entirety.


    Kink Gong

    Dian Long

    (Discrepant)

    Listen / Buy

    Kink Gong aka producer Laurent Jeanneau mixes field recordings collected during trips to China in 2001 with instrumental and vocal samples from Shanghai and Yunan, in the otherworldly Dian Long. LP 1 features two extended mixes of these recordings, appropriately called ‘Soundscape China, Pt. 1’ and ‘Soundscape China, Pt.2’, while LP 2 takes snippets of skipping Chinese pop songs to satisfyingly glitched-out, electronic realms. Consider it a far out yin and yang of traditional and modern sounds.


    DJ Nigga Fox

    Crânio

    (Warp)

    Listen / Buy

    The Príncipe affiliate made his debut on Warp this month with a killer 6-tracker of syncopated afro-futurism. Doing what Equiknoxx have done for dancehall to the Kuduro sound, Fox drags each track through a mangle face-first, reassembling deconstructed rhythms, rattling bass lines and razor sharp stabs into dance floor weapons on tracks like ‘Maria Costa’. That said, there’s also a playful weirdness to Crânio, best heard on the rootsy ‘KRK’ and the b-movie sci-fi scapes and eerie piano loops of ‘Karama’.


    BCUC

    Emakhosini

    (Buda Musqiue)

    Listen / Buy

    Soweto seven-piece BCUC follow up their 2017 album Our Truth with another sprawling South African psych-out, weaving vast tapestries of sound across three tracks – two of which clock in at 19 and 16 minutes respectively. “We bring fun and emo-indigenous Afro psychedelic fire from the hood,” says vocalist Kgomotso Mokone, and she’s not wrong, as BCUC channel political and social issues into a sound that’s as indebted to NYC post-punk of Sonic Youth or ESG as it is the anti-establishment ferocity of Fela Kuti.

  • Lorenzo Senni soundtracks The Challenge for artbook 10″ vinyl release

    By | February 6, 2018

    Swapping acid for orchestras.

    The Italian producer and trance enthusiast behind our favourite 12″ of 2016, Lorenzo Senni has put the synths aside to score the original soundtrack for short film The Challenge.

    Made in collaboration with Francesco Fantini, the soundtrack was recorded with a full orchestra and blends into the fabric of the film, in which director by Yuri Ancarani exposes the curious and excessive hobbies of the rich in the desert.

    Released on Warp Records, The Challenge arrives with similar opulence as a limited edition 32-page hardback art book, with a debossed gold cover and Fedrigoni gold end papers and inner sleeve, protecting the 4-track 10” record within.

    Pressed in an edition of 500, The Challenge will be released on 2nd March, with Lorenzo Senni and Yuri Ancarani set to discuss the film and soundtrack at Rough Trade Brooklyn on release day, and Rough Trade East in London on March 19th.

    Pre-order a copy here and check out a teaser video for the soundtrack below.

    Tracklist:

    A1: The Challenge
    B1: Hawk’s Legacy
    B2: Waves
    B3: Le Désert La Nuit

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