It has been four and a half years now since the Flying Lotus breakthrough album Los Angeles was released on Warp Records. Much has been written about the music, I don’t think I could possible say anything new about it, there is likely no beat left unturned. Instead, I want to speak about the record’s unfathomable cover art.
Why now? The world moved on and Flying Lotus himself released two albums since then. For once, the the cover artwork had me puzzled since I first held the record in my hand, I never stopped wondering about what I see. When I say the record, I actually mean the album and the three accompanying EPs. Secondly, I never owned a copy of that first EP until recently, so all those questions came back – what is this, what do I see there? Something insectoid, I always thought, probably a stag beetle (see Lucanidae), but then it had this metallic texture to spoke against that (and why make another Mezzanine?) It happened to me before, until this day I wonder whether that’s the suprasternal notch on the cover of 1983. Lotus, you cheeky bastard! I went so far, I opened the images in Photoshop, moved and turned them around, mirrored them, even inverted the colours, hoping that the complete image would reveal itself to me. What never came into my mind -in the age of internet- was simply googling for it!
If you want to keep a little mystery between yourself and the cover, do not continue reading, there are some spoilers starting after the images!
The creative studio responsible for the artwork is East London’s Build, who you might know from the work for Will Saul’s Aus Music (and Simple Records) or the documentary Objectified. Our actual object of interest here is the sculpture used in the artwork, it was made by Zoe Coombes and David Boira of New York-based design studio Commonwealth. They first created a model in Maya, then created a chrome prototype which would then be photographed by Timothy Saccenti. Tim has made himself a name in the world of music with his portraits of Erykah Badu, Carl Craig and Pharrell among others.
It was intended to leave a certain mystery in the photographs, the viewer wasn’t meant to guess the size, the scale or the material of the sculpture. Whether it’s a massive structure or a microscopic image would be in the eye of the beholder. There is no statement made about the red pictures on the inside of the album. My first guess was a colour-inverted image, but it seems the object is simply covered in red paint, possibly resembling blood.
Things didn’t stop with the release of Los Angeles. Timothy Saccenti took his pictures to director Mark Szumski, with whom he would be working on what he calls a “trailer for a horror movie.” The result of that is Soft Gun Lily, which you can see below. The second video gives a little insight behind the scenes of the making of the cover artwork.
PS: It had to be towards the end of this article, that I came similiar post on The Cover Up from some years back. Murphy’s Law or something.