Sounds of the Season: Spring 2016

Sounds of the Season is the new series highlighting some of my favourite records of the current season – albums only, no single tracks! And while this year progressed rather fast before I really enjoyed a record, the Spotify playlist starts at eight LPs and will be updated throughout this season.

You can press play, but make sure to scroll down for some details about each record!

Clark – The Last Panthers (Warp)

The first record to conquer my heart this year, the soundtrack to British television series The Last Panthers.

Bleep | iTunes | Spotify

Dalhous – The Composite Moods Collection Vol.1: House Number 44 (Blackest Ever Black)
Bleep | iTunes | Spotify

Max D – Boost (Future Times)

Strong new solo LP from one half of Beautiful Swimmers and Future Times founder Max D aka Maxmillion Dunbar.

Bleep | iTunes | Spotify

Leon Vynehall – Rojus (Designed to Dance) (Running Back)

Not what I hoped to get after the mighty Midnight on Rainbow Road, yet a strong dance record. Designed to dance, he says.

Bleep | iTunes | Spotify

Juan Atkins & Moritz von Oswald – Borderland: Transport (Tresor)

If you ever liked these two cats, you can’t go wrong with this album. Very consistent quality and an overall nice build up.

Bleep | iTunes | Spotify

Mark Pritchard – Under the Sun (Warp)

Never underestimate this man, such a great record.

Bleep | iTunes | Spotify

Carlos Niño & Friends – Flutes, Echoes, It’s All Happening! (Leaving Records)

Leaving Records in 2016 – WOW! One of many great releases this year from Carlos Niño with friends Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Kamasi Washington, Madlib, Dexter Story, and Iasos.

Bleep | iTunes | Spotify

Jameszoo – Fool (Brainfeeder)

Ladies and gentlemen, please stand up and give another round of applause to this young man, Jameszoo. Well deserved, man!

Bleep | iTunes | Spotify

Dis|cover 2014… with Tetsuo

Remember 2014? Yes, that was last year! Nevertheless, I want to go back one more time and present my very own selection of favourite record covers of the previous year. Surprisingly, here are a bunch of record sleeves of music I never listened to, stuff that popped into my eyes while browsing shops and reading newsletters.

Antoni Maiovvi – Avrokosm (Not Not Fun)

Antoni Maiovvi - Avrokosm

A prime example of what a good record cover might do, I started listening to the music after seeing this beauty. It shares all the qualities of a poster advertising a seventies sci-fi movie, obscure imagery that makes one want to find out more. Notice the mismatching reflection on the lake. Designer unknown.

Update: Actually, this seems to be a take on Tangerine Dream’s Stratosfear sleeve.

Deejay Deer – Natur (Numbers)

Deejay Deer - Natur

Sometimes a good photo is all it takes, and someone at Numbers must have thought the same. The picture itself dates back to 1909 and I always had a sweet spot for portrays that show a person in a strong, dignified way. Photography by Underwood & Underwood.

Oberman Knocks – Dilankex EP (Aperture)

Oberman Knocks - Dilankex EP

Here’s a record I actually bought last year and I’m not ashamed to admit I bought it soleley for the design. Not that there’s anything about an Autechre remix or even Oberman Knocks himself. Bold design, high contrast and a clever die cut. What’s not to like? Designer unknown.

Clap Clap – Tayi Bebba (Black Acre)

Clap Clap - Tayi Bebba

I have to admit, I first saw this cover in high resolution while tracking down the image for this post. I always liked the colours and composition, but I was mildly disappointed about he clean, digital (?) look — the lack of texture. Still, a favourite of 2014! Designer unknown.

Caribou – Our Love (Cityslang)

Caribou - Our Love

Not exactly my favourite Caribou record, but longtime collaborator Matthew Cooper came up with this sleeve worthy to add. Reminds me of Carnovsky‘s RGB room and some of Erosie‘s work.

Rustie – Green Language (Warp)

Rustie - Green Language

Alright, I complained about the clean detail of the Clap! Clap! sleeve, but that’s exactly what makes the Rustie cover so great. And the unreal look of those flamingos, I still find it hard to believe it’s an actual photo. Artwork by LuckyMe’s Dominic Flannigan with photography by the amazing Simen Johan.

Roughlung – Untitled (Cleaning Tapes)

Roughlung - Untitled

Maybe a bit of random choice, but it represents a for a style that has become a favourite of mine in recent years. Grim, with an almost metallic quality. Designer unknown.

FaltyDL – ///I\II\\\\ (Ninja Tune)

FaltyDL - ///I\II\\\\

A bit too Instagram maybe, but let’s not pretend: this is why I use Instagram myself, and it’s probably why you either love or hate it yourself. Artwork by Thomas J. Simon, who was already responsible for several of FaltyDL‘s earlier sleeves.

Powell – 11-14 (Diagonal)

Powell - 11-14

Simple and cute. Powell had a series of covers in a similar fashion and it would nice to these go on for a bit, as Modeselektor have been doing over the years with their trademark monkey. Design by Guy Featherstone.

Future Islands – Singles (4AD)

Future Islands - Singles

Yet another band I never heard about, but the cover caught my attention. I like a collage now and then and there’s nothing more to say about this one. Artwork by Beth Hoeckel.

If you like this post, check out the rest of the Dis|cover series, including selections by Shaun Bloodworth, Optigram, GiveUpArt and others.

Dis|cover 2014… with Shaun Bloodworth

Whether you know it or not, you have likely stumbled across the work of British photographer Shaun Bloodworth before. Sometimes referred to as the photographer of dubstep, his long-lasting involvement in the music scene goes far beyond that. You might remember his L.A. Dope series we wrote about some years ago, in which he portrait then-rising producers from the city of angels. Among his work are collaborations with GiveUpArt‘s Stuart Hammersley, like The Green Series and North/South/East/West, and of course the many portraits shot for the Rinse mix series.

So today, three years after GiveUpArt took turn, we’re very happy that Shaun took the time to pick his favourite record sleeves from 2014.

Aphex Twin – Syro (Warp)

Aphex Twin - Syro

I like the idea of providing a recipe almost, that you can follow to make your own SYRO, and also the bonus track that can’t be played because its a cardboard record. The idea has equal importance to the visual, something that has always run through Ian’s work. Design & art direction the Designers Republic.

Simon Pyke – Universal Everything & You (Warp)

Simon Pyke - Universal Everything & you

This was a tie in with Universal Everything exhibition at the Science Museum with a track by Matt Pyke’s brother Simon. There are 4 different covers based around the organic animated doodles you may have seen at the Museum. The inner vinyl is illustrated with black & white organic doodles.

Hudson Mohawke – Chimes (Warp)

Hudson Mohawke - Chimes EP

LuckyMe have produced some amazing sleeves this year —Rustie, Clark, Cid Rim— but this is the best I think, although I wish the mock Photoshop version that was floating around with HudMo in the centre had been released. Design & art direction by LuckyMe, photography by Zhong Min.

Matthewdavid – In My World (Brainfeeder)

MatthewDavid - In My World

I love this sleeve so much, Matthew and his daughter Love as if they are posing for a 17th century old master. The photograph also reminds me of a Brothers Grimm etching by David Hockney — The Enchantress and the Baby Rapunzel. There was also a really amazing video that went with this on pitchfork as a teaser. Design by Seth Ferris and photography by Logan White.

Venetian Snares – My Love Is A Bulldozer (Planet Mu)

venetiVenetian Snares - My Love Is A Bulldozeran-snares-my-love-is-a-bulldozer

No idea who is responsible for this, but I wish I’d done it, great idea for a portrait. Traditional simple arresting cover, where photography is the key factor. Design by Arnold Steiner.

Nozinja & Tessela – Wa Chacha (Warp)

Nozinja & Tessela - Wa Chacha

This started out as a press shoot in a pub near Islington, but it worked so well that the photograph was used for the cover. Nozinja turned up the the torrential rain wearing a white spandex tribal two piece, didn’t really have to do much, the picture made itself. I also shot them outside in the rain holding bright dayglo umbrellas. I was asked to design this sleeve, but thankfully I bottled it, and handed it to my friend and collaborator Stuart Hammersley at GiveUpArt who used his trademark bright colours and tight typography. Wish we’d done more this year together.

Various Artists – Bleep 10 (Bleep)

Bleep 10

Bleep’s brand colours (green & blue) are used through everything including the NSEW and BLP/GRN series Stuart and I did with Raj Chaudhuri and Dan Minchom at Bleep. The custom logotype is based on a really basic 3×4 grid and carried onto some type details on the rest of the packaging, the chunky 10 is lovely.

ALSO – EP01 (R&S Records)


ALSO is Laurie Osborne (Appleblim) & Alec Storey (Second Storey). The glitchy type represents the choppy rhythms found in the tracks. The sleeve is printed simply in a metallic purple and pale minty blue, I think this is 1 of 3 with an album to follow in the same style. Very simple and beautiful. We’d planned to do something similar with the press photography but it didn’t come off unfortunately. Design and art direction GiveUpArt.

Bonobo – Northern Borders (Ninja Tune)

Bonobo - The North Borders

Saw this at the Novation/Walls gallery in all its glory at their ADE exhibition, really beautiful and unlike most covers I’ve seen over the past few years. Has a lovely hand made quality to it. The box set had lots of tie dye/Rorschach type ink illustrations by Leif Podhajsky.

Illum Sphere – Ghosts Of Then & Now (Ninja Tune)

Illum Sphere - Ghosts Of Then And Now

I know Ryan (Illum Sphere) paid a lot attention to getting the correct photographer for this cover, I thought the whole set worked really well. I did some press shots which were in black & white too, it was nicely directed by Ninja Tune. Photography by Silvia Grav.

Shaun Bloodworth’s work can be found on his website and Vimeo. He shares good music and other wisdom on Twitter.

If you enjoyed this feature, please check out previous installments put together by Optigram, GiveUpArt, Colectivo Futuro, Sven Swift, Nitzan Edit and myself.

Dis|cover 2013… with Sven Swift

Okay, with all the hyped best-of lists being out of sight, we’d like to continue one of our favourite (also: most popular) series on this blog: Dis|cover. Previously, designers such as Optigram, GiveUpArt, and Nitzan Hermon contributed their favourite record covers of the previous year, but also the music lovers at Colectivo Futuro or Belgian producer Dynooo. This time, it’s Error Broadcast co-founder and occasional blogger Sven Swift sharing his tastes in his own words.

Deafheaven – Sunbather (Deathwish Inc.)

Deafheaven - Sunbather

I presume Deafheaven are the first band in black metal history with a pink frontcover. It is supposed to mimic the bright summer sun as filtered through closed eye lids. In combination with the bold, overexposed fonts this works exceptionally well. Artwork by Nick Steinhardt.

Forest Swords – Engravings (Tri-Angle)

Forest Swords - Engravings

Forest Sword’s music always has a mysterious element to it. The combination of mainly vintage elements sums up to something more far modern than you would expect mathematically. This rhizomatic causality is illustrated in the artwork for ‘Engravings’ rather brilliant. Artwork by Forest Swords.

Sagat – Satellite EP (Vlek)

Sagat - Satellite EP

The Vlek record label cares a lot about packaging. All sleeves are crafted in a friendly screen printing workshop and rely heavily on cardboard textures and the erratic interference of patterns. Sagat’s ‘Satellite’ 12″ is a good example. Artwork by DimRun.

Holden – The Inheritors (Border Community)

Holden - The Inheritors

The new Holden album has an rural quality to it that mirrors the pseudo primordial carving in the strone chunk as photographed for the artwork of ‘The Inheritors’. Aesthetically this one is a sure shot of course. Artwork by Jack Featherstone and Jasmine Garrett.

Jonwayne – Rap Album One (Stones Throw)

Jonwayne - Rap Album One

I don’t need to comment the obvious brilliance of Jonwayne‘s artwork for ‘RAP Album One’, do I? Imagine this one on 32 x 32 cm. PS: The shot of Wayne on the inner sleeve needs to be mentioned, too. Artwork by Jeff Jank, photography by Theo Jemison.

Vincent Parker – Hypo (not on label)

Vincent Parker - Hypo

To be honest: I can’t really say why I dig the art on ‘Hypo’ that much. Maybe it remembers me of corpse paint? Idk. Vincent Parker is definitely unsuspicious of black metal.

Kitty – Barbie Jeep (Adult Swim)

Kitty - Barbie Jeep

Here it is, the perfect condensation of all that is Kitty. Super sweet strawberry blonde and ultimately disturbing eventually. Did I mention the single is entitled ‘Barbie Jeep’?

Shlohmo – Bo Peep (U Do Right) (Yours Truly)

Shlohmo – Bo Peep (U Do Right)

My favorite song in 2013. And a great single cover that joins naïve painting with surrealism and the art of drunken decoration. Shlohmo and Jeremih broke the internet with ‘Bo Peep’. Artwork by Saiman Chow.

LE1F – Tree House (Greedhead Entertainment)

LE1F – Tree House
LE1F is an alien rapper and ‘Tree House’ deserves no other artwork than this. Technically the front bows to the accidental photography of Jürgen Teller, however the motive and pose of LE1F suggest a far more theatrical tone. I enjoy this mismatch a lot.

WANDA GROUP – Piss Fell Out Like Sunlight (Opal Tapes)

WANDA GROUP – Piss Fell Out Like Sunlight

The brilliance of WANDA GROUP‘s hilariously entitled ‘Piss Fell Out Like Sunligh’ offers itself with the 12″ sleeve. The artwork is printed in a raw grating that masks the detailed motive fall apart at closer examination easily. Stunning effect, and another on in the pattern/ noise row.

Bat For Lashes – Haunted Man (Parlophone)

Bat For Lashes – Haunted Man

Honorable mention for the best artwork that arrived a tiny bit too early for 2013: Bat For Lashes with ‘The Haunted Man’. Fix position in my top 5 of all times… Photograph by Ryan McGinley.

Thanks a lot, Sven!

BRC.02 – Two Hungry Ghosts

The BlogRollCall is a new series in which we close ranks with other blogs we like. When we started this site, it was common practice to feature like-minded blogs in what is known as a blogroll or to link back to content found there. This sense of community is disappearing more and more these days, as blogs become trademarks of their own, competing with one another for their readership. We don’t like that development, we think it’s bullshit to cannibalize one another when the main goal should be promoting good music – not ego!

Part two in this series comes from anonymous UK duo Two Hungry Ghosts, notorious for their online bootlegs, cassette mixtapes and their love for the visual underground cultures.

Press play and read on below for the interview!

Subscribe (iTunes)01. X Minus 4 Minutes (Intro)
02. Men at Amps – Blaq Cougar
03. Erick Sermon featuring Redman – Freak Out
04. Jeru The Damaja – Physical Stamina
05. The Crooklyn Dodgers – Return Of The Crooklyn Dodgers (Vocal)
06. The Crooklyn Dodgers – Return Of The Crooklyn Dodgers (Instrumental)
07. The Names JJ (Skit)
08. Canibus featuring Rakim – I’ll Buss ‘Em U Punish ‘Em (Remix)
09. Marco Polo featuring Lil Fame Of M.O.P – Fame For President
10. Dennis Farnon – South Bound
11. Ambush (Skit)
12. Ramsey Lewis – Ode
13. Ennio Morricone – Requiem Per Un Operaio
14. I Tell You I Saw Them (Skit)
15. Goblin – Blind Concert (Edit)
16. Babylon (Skit)
17. Ayala – Lull
18. Lee Scratch Perry – Upsetting Dub
19. Boska – Pictures (Edit)
20. Zomby – Florence
21. Tek9 – Pushing Back (Remix)
22. Nas & Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley – As We Enter (Edit)

Who’s behind Two Hungry Ghosts and what was the motivation to start a blog?

The motivation behind the blog is to support a diverse range of artists and DJs in gaining more exposure and helping them attract a new audience. The site is for all those people that have contributed tracks, mixes or artwork since we began in 2011. When we moved over to Blogspot earlier this year we decided to delete a lot of the old posts and focus purely on exclusive downloads and streams. We could of quite easily changed the name at that time to “The Army of Ghosts” as there are so many people contributing content to the site now. Different heads but with the same goal.

The way the posts are designed is with a huge emphasis on the track/mix alongside original artwork. Minimal words with the musical content delivering the impact afterall its about the artists and their creations, not us.

What do you usually write about and can you highlight some of your features?

Posts are normally quite short with the actual song/mix being the main emphasis. We are lucky enough to be able to post free downloads and exclusive streams from artists around the world in a variety of different styles. We have put this little set together for you and your readers to have a better understanding of what the site is about.

The site changed alot with the switch to Blogspot. We may post less now but the quality control is much higher so its centered around quality rather than quantity. We have also been busy recently working on a range of different projects for the site and are aiming to put out our first Beat Tape entitled “Holy Ghost Power”. Its based around a series of one minute loops and skits inspired by the work of Mattic and Frayker. We put a lot of work into everything we do for the blog and hopefully that shows in the posts.

[As for the feature,] the Timeline LP that features an unreleased song from Manix (Marc Mac of 4hero), it’s a compilation of twenty tracks that demonstrate how drum and bass changed during the 90’s. The love and support from that created the Remix EP of which we are very proud and thankful to the artists who participated, the Gremlinz remix probably being one of the best things we have put out.

We now post in three different catergories: Timeline: retro 90’s inspired DnB. Digital Sevens: funk, hip hop and jazz – and the Subway Series: house, electronica and techno.

Further to this we do mixes for Samurai FM and have an image archive over on our Tumblr. We are also working towards a monthly stream over on our Mixlr. More details on that to follow.

Can you recommend us any blogs you’re reading?

Being honest, not many. There are some that are doing a great job of writing about their chosen genre or helping to expose new music, art or film but reading other peoples opinions or seeing what is currently considered cool isn’t really what the site is about.

Personally we would much rather stick on Rinse, Jungletrain, a Soundcloud stream or watch a Boiler Room set whilst going through images on Tumblr than actually read blogs.

It goes without saying that Colectivo Futuro, King Friday, Fraykers Revenge and [censored] all get checked but your readers probably already know about them so if you check anyone new as a result of reading this it should be Mattic, Frayker, Infest, Double O, Code, Scape, Omni Music and the rest of the growing Army Of Ghosts.

And lastly, can you tell us a bit about the mix you put together for us?

Its really a homage to the radio shows and mixtapes of the 1990’s. Having access to Kiss FM and European radio shows streaming via satellite TV in the UK there was always an open door to brand new underground music from around the world long before the internet and Podcasts. Kiss shows like the legendary Solid Steel and Paul

Thomas’ “Chill Out Zone” as well as the Jazzanova and Pressure Drop shows on Sputnik delivered an eclectic mix of new and cutting edge music each week.

Labels like Mo Wax and Ninja also focused on putting out a wide range of music at that time which still sound as good today as they did in the 90’s and the blog shares that same desire to support great timeless music from a variery of genres.

The mix covers everything from classic hip hop, funk and jazz breaks, dub to drum and bass all squeezed into a single side of a faux C90.

Apart from their website, you can find the Two Hungry Ghosts on Twitter, SoundCloud or Tumblr.

BRC.01 – Colectivo Futuro

The BlogRollCall is a new series in which we close ranks with other blogs we like. When we started this site, it was common practice to feature like-minded blogs in what is known as a blogroll or to link back to content found there. This sense of community is disappearing more and more these days, as blogs become trademarks of their own, competing with one another for their readership. We don’t like that development, we think it’s bullshit to cannibalize one another when the main goal should be promoting good music – not ego!

So today we kick off BlogRollCall with our good friends Colectivo Futuro, with whom we collaborated before when we asked them to pick their favourite record covers. Miguel was so kind to put together a mixtape and we also talked about what the collective is all about.

Who’s behind Colectivo Futuro and what was the motivation to start a blog?

The initial concept came in 2005 or so when I was in college and we were looking for a name to start some parties with. We came up with Future Collective then. We booked Stacey Pullen, Derrick May, Bryan Zentz, and Juan Atkins in a span of a year, this was back in Miami. I then left the US and came to Europe and was trying to figure out what to do with the name. By the time I decided a blog was the right thing I changed the name to spanish and started writing about music, some design, illustration, art in general. This was about 2009 when the writing got more constant. Nowadays there’s about 5 or 6 people fully involved in everything we are doing. Brunella (my wife) does anything related to the graphic design of our blog, our events, and our branding. Arash is kind of our street guy, doing a lot of the dirty work here in London, he’s also our photo editor. Oliver who’s one of our DJs and our music editor. Vittorio who just came on to write about art and other topics. And finally Harold who’s still back in Miami and who gives a lot of insight on fashion, specifically menswear and that sort of stuff. So the team has been growing in the past year or so and we’ve done a lot of stuff both online and out in the streets since we moved to London.

What do you usually write about…

We want a platform where we can share things that inspire us. Whether it’s music, photography, design, architecture, fashion. It’s basically a collection of things or people we appreciate for what they represent.

…and can you highlight some of your features?

Definitely our Kristina Records one because it’s the first editorial feature we’ve done where we’ve gone out and created all of the content. We went to the shop and took some photos, spoke to the owners and got the interview done. So it’s our first end to end editorial post and is exactly the direction where we want to move towards. All of our colectivo futurist posts I’m quite proud of as well because it was one of the first series of features we started doing where we interview a different graphic artist each month and gives us a space to share the works of some amazin creatives from around the world. We’ve done everything from graphic design studios, industrial designers, photographers, and one of our next ones should be a fashion brand which would be our first. Finally, there was a post I wrote about the architecture studio MVRDV out of Rotterdam which I really enjoyed doing and definitely would like to do more of.

Can you recommend us any blogs you’re reading?

Visual Melt is the blog of Leif Podhajsky who’s a graphic artist living in London. His blog totally represents his own art but kind of expands on it. It’s really well curated and they write about anything including music. It’s very coherent and visually stunning.

Suppaduppa this is a Brazilian blog, which I can’t even remember how I stumbled upon. They write about music mainly and some other lifestyle related content. We actually did a colectivo futurist feature with Bruna Canepa who’s an architecture student and is part of the collective behind this blog. I love finding blogs from other countries and checking out what they are writing about.

The New Graphic is a blog curated by Michael Cina, one of my favorite contemporary graphic designers and artists. He does a lot of the covers and other design work for Ghostly International. It’s just a great place to read about interesting new and old graphic design and other related content. From what I can tell Michael is also an avid music and record collector. So they write a lot of music related posts from a graphic design standpoint and I really enjoy that.

And lastly, can you tell us a bit about the mix you put together for us?

Initially I wanted to do a mix with only music from last year to kind of round up CFs favorite music from 2012. But then I ended up doing something completely different as it usually happens. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop lately and particularly have been enjoying a lot of what’s coming out of NY where a lot of young rappers and crews are sort of taking a fresh approach towards that boom bap sound. People like Joey Bada$$, The Underachievers, Pro Era, etc. So I wanted to do a mix that included some of their stuff, which is often quite jazzy and surrounded that with some other jazzy stuff from BBNG, Madlib, Darryl Reeves, and Chris Dave. We love all kinds of music at Colectivo Futuro so it’s hard to include everything in one mix; so in the end I just went with a gut feeling of music I’m personally digging at the moment.

Subscribe (iTunes)01. Jeremih – F@$k U All The Time
02. Juj – Gradsmoke
03. Chris Dave & The Drumhedz – Cosmic Slop
04. Darryl Reeves – Donut Man
05. Pro Era – Last Cypher
06. MF Doom – Doomsday (instrumental)
07. BadBadNotGood – The World Is Yours
08. Triosk meets Jan Jelinek – Munmorah aka The Hell You Say
09. Joey Bada$$ – Suspect
10. Flying Lotus – Getting There
11. Teebs feat. Austin Peralta – Lsp
12. The Roots – Eve
13. Jahari Massamba Unit – Wonderin’
14. Kendrick Lamar feat. Ab-soul – Ab Soul’s Outro
15. Cosmic Compositions – Ann Arbor / Pharoah’s Dance
16. Cuthead feat. Elektrohan – Karma Vision
17. The Underachievers – Land Of Lords
18. Lukid – Veto
19. Hodgy Beats – Malaya
20. Swede:art – Snapshots On A Sunday Night
21. V – Untitled Xi
22. Karriem Riggins – Summer Maddness S.A.
23. Rawdee – I’m Sorry Interlude

Apart from their website, you can find Colectivo Futuro on Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr.

Dis|cover 2012… with Tetsuo

Last week, we posted Optigram’s selection for the best record covers of 2012, which was a great way to discover some sleeves unknown to me (and maybe you.) Naturally, there were some overlaps, most notably Jam City or Andy Stott (the latter which I included anyway), but fortunately I have collected enough over the year to come up with a full article.

Old Apparatus – Derren (Sullen Tone)

Old Apparatus - Derren

Old Apparatus released four EPs in 2012, all of them following a similar style in their artwork. My favourite is pictured above, a menacing image of some kind of man machine. One of the qualities that makes it so appealing to me is the golden metallic texture you will only get to see on the physical release.

In Aeternam Vale – D.U.B. (Minimal Wave)

In Aeternam Vale - D.U.B.

In recent years, we’ve seen artists hiding behind masks to try and avoid the cult of personality, preferring their audience to be interested in their art, not the artist. But beyond mystification, masks also carry a visual quality, as exemplified by the tribal looks of last couple of SBTRKT sleeves. Pictured above is the cover for Dust Under Brightness (D.U.B.), one a collections of remastered songs by French In Aeternam Vale. Painting by Eamon Ore-Giron.

Jacques Green – Ready (3024)

Jacques Greene - Ready

Redshape ‎– Throw In Dirt / The Land (3024)

Redshape ‎– Throw In Dirt / The Land

Jon Convex ‎– Lied To Be Loved (3024)

Jon Convex ‎– Lied To Be Loved

Jeroen Erosie has been in my book for some time now. I love his approach to street art, the flow of his lines, the use of colour. He’s been responsible all the sleeves for Martyn’s 3024 label, so I’m confident his artwork will make it in my list for years to come.

Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)

Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

Despite it’s classic look, I didn’t expect the picture above to be an old photograph. You have to look closer at the imperfections, like the ripples around the head of the diver, to reveal traces of its age. Photographer Otto Bettmann has been responsible for one of the most iconic shots in the history of the medium, sold on postcards and at IKEA stores around the world, yet his name is relatively unknown. Being a fan the aesthetics in Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, this cover is an easy favourite.

fLako – Eclosure (Five Easy Pieces)

fLako - Eclosure

Pictures of nature, forests in particular, or the colour green alone easily win my sympathy, as you can see in the following series of three. The cover for fLako‘s most recent EP is one of my favourites of the year. Beside the visual beauty, it makes you think about the motif and the mysticism for some time. Artwork by Clemens Fantur.

Slugabed – Time Team (Ninja Tune)

Slugabed - Time Team

I remember seeing the sleeve for Slugabed’s debut album on some worst-artwork-of-the-year lists. I can understand that people are growing tired of the triangle in general, it has been one of the most used geometric shapes in recent years, but that doesn’t mean they make bad covers per se. I’ve been thinking about this one for quite some time, trying to figure out if this was done digitally or if it’s simply a mirror put up on a meadow. Also, it looks like the gateway to the Black Lodge to me, and that speaks to the Twin Peaks fan in me. Artwork by Francisco Infante-Arana.

Gerry Read – Jummy (Fourth Wave)

Gerry Read - Jummy

Thanks to Google Earth and the likes, it’s seems so everyday to look at the earth from space. I don’t even like the typography too much, yet there’s something about this that made me include the record.

DVA – Fly Juice (Hyperdub)

DVA - Fly Juice

Record sleeves designed by Optigram‘s have impressed me for some time now, especially his work for DVA’s last couple of records.

Nick Edwards – Plekzationz (Editions Mego)

Nick Edwards - Plekzationz

Artwork by Hollis

Jimmy Edgar – Sex Drive (Hotflush)

Jimmy Edgar - Sex Drive

It’s funny, while Jimmy Edgars’ album would’ve easily made it on my list for the worst covers of the year (if I made one), I’m quite fond of the sleeves of his recent EPs. I like the eighties-inspired use of gradients and the (possible) hommage to that Grace Jones Citroën ad and some of her own record covers. Airbrush by Jimmy Edgar.

Greeen Linez – Things that fade (Diskotopia)

Greeen Linez - Things that fade

Same as above: the use of gradients and the typography appeal to me. Artwork by Shaw (Neithercorp)

How about a little bonus round? I buy a lot of records and not all of them are new, actually it’s quite the opposite. Here are two more records I bought last year that I also love for their looks:

Soft Machine – Bundles (Harvest, 1975)

Soft Machine - Bundles

This is an unusual cover to say the least, but it got me thinking about it for some time: what makes a band put that in its record? The somewhat comforting, peaceful motif, the soft style of painting have probably to be seen in a Cold War context. There’s clearly something that made me remember Raymond Brigg’s When the Wind Blows, a comic book about an elderly couple living on the verge of nuclear war. Artwork by Reg Cartwright.

Liquid Liquid – Slip in and out of Phenomenon (Domino, 2008)

Liquid Liquid - Slip in and out of Phenomenon

The cover for this greatest hits compilation seems to capture the spirit of the post-punk, no-wave hey-days of New York, which is exactly what you’ll find on this record. Artwork by Richard McGuire.

Feel invited to (re)visit last year’s selection by Give Up Art and Colectivo Futuro or go back even further in time!

Dis|cover 2012… with Optigram

In the last couple of years, we asked friends and designers we admire to put together a selection of their favourite record sleeves. Previous editions were curated by Stuart Hammersley (Give Up Art), Nitzan Hermon (Edit, Fineart) or Colectivo Futuro, but this year we were a bit hesitant seeking out a curator. We are most honoured that Manuel Sepulveda (aka Optigram) was interested and availaible on such short notice. Known for his countless designs for Hyperdub and more recently Planet Mu and Bleep, Manuel build up an impressive body of work in the last couple of years, regularly ending up in many best-of selections himself. But let’s hear (and see) it from the man himself.

I’m glad I was asked to make this list as it made me do a bit of extra research into what had been produced this year – I found about half a dozen great sleeves that I’d never seen before. Once I’d finished putting this list together it was nice to see that good covers were coming from a variety of different media still, be it photography (straight, manipulated and collage), illustration (traditional media and computer-assisted), 3D computer renders (realistic and surrealistic), or just straight-up graphics.

I’ve seen a few “best sleeves of the year” lists recently on some music sites and they seem to be focused around albums that have gotten good reviews; there seems to have been an inability to separate good music from the sleeve it comes in, with some terrible sleeves being lauded just because the album was great, and conversely some great sleeves getting overlooked because the album got a poor review. With the exception of seven of the albums I actually have no idea what the music even sounds like from the following list, and of those seven I only like four of them. These are simply covers that I thought were interesting and well executed.

One other thing, I’m not particularly interested in packaging, so even though there were some albums which had great packaging design (like Cave Painting’s Votive Life) they haven’t made this list. I believe that a strong image is by far the most important thing. Clever printing and fancy folding bits of paper just don’t move me.

Sakanaction – Yoru no Odoriko (Victor Music)

Sakanaction - Dance of the Night

Anyone interested in cover design should remember to look beyond European and American releases. It’s obviously much harder to come across great design from Japan or Brazil or wherever if the albums aren’t getting reviewed by the English-speaking press, but it can be worth it.

Madegg – Tempera (flau)

Madegg - Tempera

The triangle, which was all pervasive as a motif in the previous couple of years, seemed to have pretty much disappeared in 2012. You can still count on the circle though. Artwork by Hiroshi Sato.

Ital – Hive Mind (Planet Mu)

Ital - Hive Mind

Artwork by Sam Chirnside

CFCF – Exercises (Paper Bag)

CFCF - Exercises

Photography by Ken Schwarz

The XX – Coexist (Young Turks)

The XX - Coexist

It says someting about the strength of The XX brand that a cover with just a solitary X can be recognised as a release by them. Artwork by Phil Lee.

Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio (Blue Note)

Robert Glasper Experiment - Black Radio

The headshot is a common staple of the album cover, but they can be really uninteresting, so I think it’s important (if possible) to try and do something unusual with it. Artwork by Giuliyani.

Young Magic – Melt (Carpark Records)

Young Magic - Melt

Artwork by Leif Podhajsky

Lorn – Ask the Dust (Ninja Tune)

Lorn - Ask the Dust

Artwork by Jesse Auersalo

DVA – Pretty Ugly (Hyperdub)

DVA - Pretty Ugly

I did a few album sleeves this year, and even though I’m pleased with most of them, particularly the albums by LV and Traxman, and Lion by Harmonic 313, I think the best cover I did was probably released at the start of the year. Artwork by Optigram.

Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city (Aftermath Entertainment)

Kendrick Lamar - good kid m.A.A.d. city

Sometimes an uncrafted image just works perfectly.

Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (Modern Love)

Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

If I didn’t know any better I’d have said this was a cover for an indie band from the 80s, like The Smiths. Photography by Otto Bettmann.

Django Django – Django Django (Because Music)

Django Django - Django Django

Artwork possibly by Dave Maclean

Horseback – Half Blood (Relapse Records)

Horseback - Half Blood

I find it hard to specifically make out what this is a drawing of, and maybe that’s why it appeals to me so much – the mystery of the macabre. Artwork by Denis Forkas Kostromitin.

Lone – Galaxy Garden (R&S)

Lone - Galaxy Garden

Artwork by Konx-Om-Pax

Jam City – Classical Curves (Night Slugs)

Jam City - Classical Curves

If I had to select the best cover of the year it would probably be this one for Jam City by Sina Taherkhani. It matched the music perfectly.

The Darkness – Hot Cakes (Wind-Up)

The Darkness - Hot Cakes

I know it’s cheesy and a bit sexist but that’s obviously the point, and the painter did it well. It’s also worth pointing out how serious most cover design is (and has been for several years) so it’s good to occasionally see humour in album design. It’s just a shame that humour seems to only be seen on rock albums these days – I can’t remember the last electronic/dance cover that made me laugh. Painting by Diego Gravinese.

Laurel Halo – Quarantine (Hyperdub)

Laurel Halo - Quarantine

What am I saying, this one was funny too. I’m not being immodest and putting a second sleeve of mine in this list – although I put this together, it was a painting by Makoto Aida that Laurel herself chose. I was just the hired help.

Spoek Mathambo – Father Creeper (Sub Pop)

Spoek Mathambo - Father Creeper

I love that this evokes some of those classic paintings that adorned the covers of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis albums in the early 70s. Artwork by Daniel Anum Jasper.

Robot Koch – Cosmic Waves (Project: Mooncircle)

Robot Koch - Cosmic Waves

Artwork by Fefe Talavera

The Rolling Stones – GRRR! (ABKCO)

The Rolling Stones - GRRR!

What I liked most about this was the idea that after more than 40 years the owner of those famous lips (designed by John Pasche in 1970) was finally revealed. Painting by Walton Ford.

If you want to find out a bit more about Optigram, make sure to visit the website or browse the discography. Manuel’s personal work recently got its own website, Werk (Not Work), and a Twitter account.

Unlike last year, I kept some of my favourite artworks of last year in a special folder. I will present my selection in a post coming next week.

Los Angeles: The Artwork

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!

Los Angeles CD & LP © Build 
Los Angeles LP © Build 
Los Angeles LP © Build 
Los Angeles LP © Build 
Los Angeles EPs © Build 

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.

Los Angeles Booklet © Timothy Saccenti 
Los Angeles Booklet © Timothy Saccenti 
Los Angeles Booklet © Timothy Saccenti 
Los Angeles Booklet © Timothy Saccenti 

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.

Dis|cover 2011… with GiveUpArt

Following the first part curated by Colectivo Futuro, it’s Stuart Hammersley of GiveUpArt taken over the second. The London-based graphic design studio was founded in 2006 and since then helped shaping the face of dubstep – from the logos and identities of Rinse and Tempa, including cover artworks including both debuts from Skream and Benga, or my favourite – the entire Apple Pips catalogue. Further examples of GiveUpArt’s work can be found here, here and here.

Below you can find ten of Stuart’s favourite artworks from 2011, and I’m sure many of you will agree on his selection. Let me point out that it’s worth clicking the images, as they sometimes reveal a different view!

Rustie – Glass Swords (Warp)

Rustie - Glass Swords

Reminds me of a Roger Dean prog cover – crossed with an eighties Athena art – in a ‘good’ way… Designed by the very talented Australian Jonathan Zawanda

Toddla T – Cherry Picking (Ninja Tune)

Toddla T - Cherry Picking

I think is a limited editon 12″ released on record store day this year. A lovely idea – a screenprinted clear plastic sleeve combined with some gorgeous red vinyl makes a sexy cherry. Designed by Peter & Paul in Sheffield… Clever sods. : )

Julio Bashmore – Batty Knee Dance (3024)

Julio Bashmore - Batty Knee Dance

Addison Groove – It’s Got Me / Minutes Of Funk (3024)

Addison Groove - It's Got Me / Minutes Of Funk

Jon Convex – Convexations EP (3024)

Jon Convex - Convexations EP

Really liked the last few 3024 12″ house sleeves from Erosie – a great colourful mess of pattern and texture – that manages to look individual yet easily recognisable at the same time as a 3024 release.

Balam Acab – Wander / Wonder (Tri Angle)

Balam Acab - Wander/Wonder

I just love the simplicity and mystery of this cover shot… [photo by Emmette Murkett]

Blues Control & Laraaji – FRKYS Vol. 8 (Rvng Intl.)

Blues Control & Laraaji – FRKYS Vol. 8

Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, Lopatin – Frkwys Vol. 07 (Rvng Intl.)

Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, Lopatin – Frkwys Vol. 07

FRKWYS is a sister lable to RVNG records out of New York. This series started before last year, but they put out a couple of lovely sleeves in 2011. Tipped on single colour print on coloured paper stock, containing the track list and cover imagery – onto a leatherette’ style cover stock.. It has the feel of a private pressing, or a fanzine – and reminds me of single-colour photocopied flyers that I used to make for parties we put onwhen I was at college. By Will Work For Good from NY. Superb…

Jamie xx – Far Nearer / Beat For (Numbers)

Jamie xx – Far Nearer / Beat For

You’ve just got to love a pink and red gradient… Nice play on the original minimalist artwork for his Gil Scott-Heron remix album. Well done Numbers… and hello to the Remote Location boys!

Massimiliano Pagliara – Focus For Infinity (Live At Robert Johnson)

Massimilliano Pagliara - Focus for Infinity

Love the type-free cover photography of rocks and minerals – feels like a shot from an old encyclopaedia. [artwork by Michael Satter & Sandra Doeller]

Matthewdavid – International EP (Brainfeeder)

Matthewdavid - International EP

Cover image looks like it’s some VHS video feedback shot from a tv screen… That analogue lo-fi oddness matches perfectly the woozy, hazy sounds that Matthew makes… This EP and the album he realeased as well was one of my highlights of 2011. Matthew’s a really great guy.. (Check his label Leaving Records, too)

Scratcha DVA – Madness (Hyperdub)

Scratcha DVA - Madness EP

Not sure who’s designed this cover for Scratcha‘s latest EP on Hyperdub. But I love the Weird, disorientating, psyche-y colours… [artwork by Optigram]

“Bleep:100 Tracks 2011 (Bleep)

Bleep:100 Tracks 2011

A bit of a shameless plug I’m afraid (sorry!) – and not technically a sleeve design as such… Bleep approached us to design the packaging for their digital compilation of the 100 best tracks of the year. Instead of just purchasing a download code for a Zip file – we made a package that you would receive or could buy as a gift. It comprised of a fold out poster with a unique download code on it, that came in a recycled card wallet stamped with clear foil text details. The poster contained loads of data that Bleep had collected from their site over the year – best seeling tunes, most searched for artists, most popular labels and so on.. so the design derived from all of this data that was presented in a (to my mind at least!) beautiful way.

I hope you enjoyed this feature! For more of this, feel invited to (re)visit last year‘s features, the Cover Culture blog, and for vintage records Project Thirty-Three is always worth a visit. See you next year!

Dis|cover 2011… with Colectivo Futuro

Back in 2010, I posted some of my favourite covers of that year (well, it was only for the first half) and intended to do the same for each year. When it comes to 2011, I haven’t really made up my mind. What I noticed though is that triangles were still strong and baby photos became a new thing (2562, Samiyam or Lil Wayne etc.)

Also like last year I wanted to ask some people whose opinion I respect for their selection. The first part this year comes from Colectivo Futuro, a Spanish blog about arts and culture.

Kode9 & The Spaceape – Black Sun (Hyperdub)

Kode9 & The Spaceape - Black Sun

We really love all of Optigram‘s work for Hyperdub, we actually made a feature on his work recently. we chose this particular cover because it’s so different compared to his usual geometric patterns, it fits the music on the album nicely and the LP version is just a beautiful looking item.

Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)

Bon Iver - Bon Iver, Bon Iver

This is a beautiful looking record with paintings by Gregory Euclide. There’s a pretty good interview with the artist on Pitchfork.

SBTRKT – SBTRKT (Young Turks)


the mask design for this cover was done by A Hidden Place. Also, we really love how SBTRKT has tied in their artwork to their live shows giving them a very recognizable image.

Various – SMM: Context (Ghostly)

Various - SMM: Context

Michael Cina never fails to impress us, his range of works is absolutely impressive. His cover for Ghostly‘s experimental compilation series is a perfect companion for the music found inside. we also recommend checking out his blog for features on graphic design and other artforms.

Kuedo – Severant (Planet Mu)

Kuedo - Severant

Machinedrum – Room(s) (Planet Mu)

Machinedrum - Room(s)

We are suckers for good illustration and this year Planet Mu delivered some really cool ones, our two favorites were the Severant cover by fashion illustrator Anna Higgie and the Room(s) cover by LuckyMe.

Virgo Four – Resurrection (Rush Hour)

Virgo Four - Resurrection

Morphosis – What Have We Learned (Delsin)

Morphosis - What Have We Learned

Dutch labels Rush Hour and Delsin provided two of our favorite covers this year by taking a very simple, typographic approach on the Virgo Four Resurrection box set by Marco Sterk, and Morphosis’ What Have We Learned by Tankboys.

Ezekiel Honig – Folding In On Itself (Type)

Ezekiel Honig - Folding In On Itself

We usually love most of Type‘s artworks, but this one in particular was a very special one given that it was done by Ezekiel Honig himself. The hazy photograph chosen is a perfect fit for the laid back, abstract music found inside.

Roman Flügel – Fatty Folders (Dial)

Roman Flügel - Fatty Folders

Dial‘s artwork is usually very austere and cold, but for Roman Flügel’s album Fatty Folders they went with a different approach by using a colorful photograph instead, while keeping their minimal design spirit intact.

The second part will be curated by GiveUpArt and should be online in the next couple of days, keep an eye out for that one!

Interview with Tascforce

In early summer, I’ve posted an obscure cover-version of the Dorian Concept tune Trilingual Dance Sexperience. It was recorded by Sam Irl under the name of Tascforce, a name he’s using for music recorded on a TASCAM cassette recorder and a bunch of vintage synthesizers. After having received some more of his music, I got interested and talked to him about the project.

Can you give a bit of a background on who you are and what you do?

My name is Sam Irl, I’m a half-German, half-American 26 year old producer, musician and DJ from Lower Bavaria, Germany, but have been living and studying in Vienna, Austria for the last 6-7 years now. Musically I started getting piano lessons when I was six years old, later had a short excursion with church organ and violin, but for the most time only actively practised piano, leading onto jazz piano lessons and playing in the school big band when I was about 14. Around that time I also started experimenting with a very, very oldschool version of Logic and a terrible digital Korg synth. After I got Logic running with their first software sampler I gradually shifted towards more sample-based music, which I’ve basically been doing continually since then. I’ve always added synthesizers, melodies and harmonies to my tracks, the whole piano background has a strong influence on how I work. So I’ve been making electronic music for roughly 10 years now, but of course many of the first tracks weren’t particularly good and a bit clumsy, but it still was lots of fun to discover what was possible to do at home on a computer.

Besides making electronic music I always played a lot of jazz piano when I was a teenager, went to a many different workshops and courses and also was a member of the “Bavarian Youth Jazz Orchestra”. I’ve also got another project with two good friends of mine (with an American singer and my flatmate, who plays guitar), which is more acoustic soul-folk stuff, where I played Rhodes or Wurlitzer.

I originally came to Vienna to study musicology but later switched to recording engineer & music production at the University of Music and Performing Arts.

How did you get your hands on that TASCAM 424?

I found the TASCAM 424 via a classified-ad page for about €25, which was really cheap. I had been interested in 4-track cassette recorders and vintage recording technology for quite a while and had been looking for one every now and then. Choosing this specific 4-track-recorder was mainly a coincidence, I had known about other recorders but hadn’t tried any of them. The 424 is somewhat of a home-recordering classic and finding it so cheap basically made the decision quite easy.

At that time I just liked the idea of working with 4-track tape. I had been spending all my time on the computer at the uni and making music at home, that I wanted to get away from it for a while and work on some more live piano playing. I originally got the TASCAM for practising playing live piano and working on grooves. The whole Tascforce project and album just developed by chance.

What other instruments did you choose for the Tascforce album?

I used the Oberheim Matrix 6, Roland JUNO-106, JUNO-60, JUPITER-8, SH-101, Alpha Juno 1, VP-330 Vocoder, Moog Rogue, Yamaha DX-7, Korg Poly-61, microKORG and the Fender Rhodes MK2. Analogue and digital drumcomputers included the Oberheim DX, Roland TR-808, TR-606, TR-505, Korg KR-55, DDM-110, Boss Doctor Rhythm DR-110, DR-220A, Stix Programma ST-305.

The only effects I used during recording and mixing on the TASCAM were my Roland Space Echo RE-201 for tape delay and spring reverb, which I used heavily on every track, and occasionally an Alesis 3630 compressor.

I used all these instruments because each adds its own colour and vibe to the tracks. each analogue synthesizer (and drumcomputer) is different from another and some have very distinctive sounds, which I didn’t want to use on every track, so I tried to change the set-up for each track a little bit to add more sonic diversity to the whole album.

That’s quite an arsenal of gear, but at the same time it must’ve been a limitation to record on a 4-track. Did you find it true, that limitation sparks creativity?

Well, that’s true. I definitely had the luck to be able to use so much great gear on these tracks and am quite thankful for this. This will sound a bit contradictory in context of the question before, but I really like working with limitations. With these tracks the limitation comes from recording on 4-track tape and mixing everything “on” the tascam itself. I didn’t do any post-editing or mixing on the computer.

Recording on 4-track cassette really limits the amount of tracks you can possibly record. I had to learn a few work-arounds, which used to be the studio-standard when working with 4-tracks (since the 60ies). The main thing I did is to record three tracks (for example, drums, bass, some chords) and then re-record them on the 4th empty mono track (nowadays this would be considered “re-sampling”). This reduces the sound quality but it makes three new “empty” tracks available for over-dubs, solos, etc.

Re-recording the basic tracks onto one mono track also solidifies the foundation of the developing track, meaning all mistakes, arrangement details, volume balancing, breaks and such can’t be changed anymore in the process of recording overdubs. “Total Recall” or later editing of the mix isn’t possible anymore, you basically have to stick with what you got or start from scratch again (which I did loads of times.) This definitely was a different experience, as I’ve been recording, mixing and arranging in logic for over 10 years now.

Another limitation was that I played the foundation of the track (as above, drums, bass and chords) at the same time and completely live all the way through. It’s a bit difficult to do clean “punch-in” recording on the tascam, so I just recorded over and over again, always starting from the beginning, For hours until I made fewer mistakes and also figured out the groove that I wanted to play. After that was done I did the solo overdubs, lines and more chords.

What was the idea behind the album, was there a concept apart using specific hardware?

The basic inspiration actually came from the idea of trying out 4-track recording and making myself practice more piano actively again. At that time I was very busy studying and spent lots of time on the computer, for university, at home, communicating, and so forth, so I really wanted to make music again which was independent of the computer, just live playing, no post-production, just record, play, mix and finish it in one session. In the beginning, I started trying out how to record and structure songs on the tascam and after the first few experiments some tracks started to develope. The whole idea of an album came after I had done about 7-8 tracks and realized that they seemed to fit together quite well and were on a similar vibe.
I had occasionaly made some tracks before which were a bit oldschool, but they never really had that depth and sound that I was looking for. Working with the TASCAM I learned to take my time, let grooves develope or just let them roll for as long as it takes. And analogue synthesizers, old drumcomputers and the warmth of tape are just a perfect combination.

When I started working on these tracks I hadn’t really known the music of Dam-Funk that well, I knew a few random tracks and liked them but it was later, after I had done quite a few Tascforce tracks that I really got to know his music a bit more and especially the way he works, which was pretty impressive. He records live on a CDR, then puts the CDR in a CD-player and records that plus overdubs on a new CDR! It’s a pretty unique way of working and he’s a super tight keyboard player! Soundwise, Tascforce obviously has many aesthetic familiarities to music like Dam-Funk and Krystal Klear, but I really hadn’t known much about that when I started. I just started trying it out and first realized later that there are more people working in a similar way and style (and even with similar equipment.)

I would guess this sound is coming back again, because music production has become more available to many people, plugins are getting better and better, software better to use, etc. At the same time analogue synthesizers are getting more sought after (and expensive) because they have a sound-character that software can’t quite offer in that way. They are real physical instruments, that need time to get warmed up, need to be taken care of to work properly and never sound exactly the same when you turn them on. And besides all that they just have a good and well-crafted sonic quality to them, a real TR-808 still blows every good sample library away. Also, artists like Dam-Funk are really pushing this early 80ies synthesizer funk sound, spreading names of records of that time and not trying to keep certain underground tracks deliberately secret but making them known to a wider audience.

What are your plans with the music, will you release any of this?

There are plans to release a few of the album tracks on a vinyl EP with a small and young Vienna/Berlin-based label. This is still in the planning stage so there are no details at this point. I mainly have been passing around this album to all of my friends and musical partners, that was pretty much my main plan once I had finished it. I’m not really sure if I want to sell it, I made the album foremost for myself. But I’m playing with the idea of putting it on Bandcamp, maybe selling it in form of voluntary donations. I’m not the most active internet self-promoter and a bit lazy about all that, so we’ll see…

Sam was so kind to share these tracks as a limited download. Keep an eye out for more Tascforce music and follow Sam Irl’s other activities on SoundCloud and MySpace.

Interview with Beeple

Always appreciating good visuals, I accidently stumbled across one of Mike Winkelmann‘s clips some years ago already. But it wasn’t until the amazing Kill Your Co-workers video for Flying Lotus until I consciously got aware of his work.

It’s been a while since the last feature of a visual artist feature, so I spoke with Mike a couple of days ago.

Can you give an introduction on who you are and what you do?

My name is Mike Winkelmann and I release films, VJ loops and graphic design shit under the name Beeple.

I guess you got on a lot of people’s radar through your video for Flying Lotus, how did that come about, how did you meet?

A friend of his showed him some of my work and he gave me a call out of the blue. I’d never actually heard of him before then, but the label he’s on, Warp, is my all-time favorite. I very quickly fell in love with his shit and the whole LA beat scene music in general. Turns out after listening to his shit, I had actually heard a ton of his music before because through a radio station on Pandora I had seeded with Dabrye who makes very similiar music.

How was it to work with him? Did he give you any directions on what he had in mind for the video or did you have full artistic freedom?

It was really good. He have me an enormous amount of freedom. I’d really just send him a screenshot here and there every couple months and he’d be like “rad!! can’t wait to see it finished.” But it’s funny because in the end, the film turned out to be exactly what he said it was when we first talked. When we first talked he said “the music is like a parade” just describing it and after tossing around a bunch of other ideas, I was finally like fuck it, I’ll just make it a parade.

Since then I’ve noticed a lot of your loops and videos use music from the Brainfeeder camp. Will there be more “big” collaborations like music videos or audio-visual shows?

Ummm, well I just got done doing some visuals for Deadmau5 so you should see pieces of that in his current tour, but other than that I’d hunkering down and working on my next film/ music video, IV.10 [Instrumental Video]

What’s your usual workflow? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

My work flow usually involves a retarded amount of experimentation. I usually sit down with only very vague ideas in mind of shit I’d like to fuck with. Usually things turn out nothing like I’d planned. I like just sort of going with it and seeing where it takes you. I get inspiration from a lot of the good design blogs out there, Abduzeedo, Design You Trust, Cruzine, Behance, etc. I’m inspired by a lot of different styles moreso than specific people.

Is working as a VJ something you do or do you prefer creating material others can use?

Nope, I’m definitely no VJ, don’t know shit about it really. I have done it a few times but where I live there is really no audience and to be honest I’m not really into the whole live scene that much. The idea of it appeals to me, but I’m much more interested in just making cool little clips that appeal to me. I was making these clips looong before I had ever even heard of VJs. Only recently has it occured to me to release them as VJ clips for others to use but it’s been really fucking sweet seeing people use them.

While I sympathize with the Creative Commons idea, I was rather surprised to see high quality material like yours released under such open conditions. Maybe you can tell a little about your philosophy doing so and where it comes from.

It basically comes from me wanting to get my shit out there for people to see. I used to spend a lot of money trying to get into film festivals to get my shit shown, only to have it rejected by a panel of douche-lords. Now I can just put out a clip for free and have a fuckton of people show it to others all over the world without me having to do shit!

I think the other reason is that I’ve learned so much from the kindness and generosity of others, I feel like I need to give back any way I can.

What projects have you been working on lately?

Just been working on IV.10, one day i’d really love to finish this motherfucker!!!!!!11111111111 🙂

For more of Beeple’s work, check out his website and his portfolio on Vimeo. Also worth checking is the stuff he likes and tweets about.

Interview with Tropics

We’d really like to cover Brighton’s Tropics a little more, but with only one release, the massive Soft Vision EP, a video (or watch below) and a couple of mixtapes, there is little to cover. So we got in contact with Tropics via his SoundCloud page and did a little interview, our 1000th post!

I wonder myself how I first came across your music, so maybe you can start by introducing yourself. Who is Tropics and what does he do?

Tropics is me, Chris Ward. Im 23, in my final year at Southampton University studying Digital Music. I sing, play keys & guitar and produce my music.

Is Tropics your first musical project, have there been other projects before?

I count it as my first as what came before was pretty dire in my eyes, Ive been producing as Tropics for about three or four years. It started out as a bedroom project and over those years evolved all the way to me producing my first debut album and performing a live show with a band.

There’s a lot of space in your music. How are you working, are you a hardware or a software guy? How do you achieve your sound?

Software for synths always. Id love to buy a hardware synth one day. I use all hardware for bass guitar and electric guitar instruments though. And I also have a drum kit i record hits or loops from. I’ve played the drums since I was about 10, I love it and get a bit jealous of Morgan’s job when we play live!

Your music awakens memories of the stuff I listened to as a child, yet I can’t figure out what it reminds me of. Something between Kate Bush, Vangelis and Steve Reich maybe, but it could also be on a Sophia Coppola soundtrack. What are your influences?

Yeah the tracks on the ep were very 70’s and 80’s sampled-based music apart from Soft Vision, they were a few early demos Id be working on over the last couple of years. Around the time of release I knew I wanted to go down the Soft Vision route for an album, I picked up the singing and use of more live instruments so that’s what Ive been working on over the last year. Mainly taking the inspiration from the kind of artists I’ve previously sampled and performing an ensemble how they would, rather than just sample them!

I’m feeling a bit unpleasant about the next question, but would you describe your music like? I’ve seen the word “chillwave” here and there, but I can’t really make anything out of it. What do you think about it (I think I’ve seen you using it yourself) and can you explain it to us? Just a another word?

I really don’t mind what people call it, genre definitions I always find tricky with my music. I’d describe it as quite emotional, hot and atmospheric. Very nostalgic in places, and soulful?

Is that why you’ve chosen to call yourself Tropics? I think of certain colors and your music is bringing those colors on my mind.

I chose the name Tropics when I started the project out about three or four years ago, at that time I wanted something that gave hot and colourful imagery, which is the vision I had for the music.. I was making a mixture of sounds, most very ‘tropical’ so the name’s always fitted.

How’s the work on the album progressing? Can you share any details with us yet?

It’s very nearly finished, however I say that a lot and continue to make new tracks haha. I believe It will be out in September.

And is there any other music coming from you before that?

Yep, look out for an EP prior to the album in summer. It is finished and the album’s nearly there. The EP is called ‘Mouves’ and will be released early July, it will be showcasing my new style with my vocals and more matured approach to Tropics that I’ve developed since gigging with my band, and the album will follow it up in September.

You’re playing a wide selection of styles in your DJ mixes, are you interested in doing side projects where you go in a different direction or maybe collaborations?

Sure, after this album finishes I have a couple potential collabs and as for side projects I’d like to produce some film music or bands/other artists.

Already got any projects in sight? Do you consider yourself being a movie guy? What are you into?

There’s nothing much on the film horizon yet, i do have a friend making films so may try to get some experience working with him there. I love all sorts of movies but im real big on my old school style gangster flicks!

What new music have you been feeling in the last year?

Keep Shelly In Athens who are currently remixing a track of mine, great music. Bibio’s new album is also a winner. So many debut albums to come out this year, very exciting!

Let’s sum up those links one more time, so you can listen or buy some of Chris’ music. Planet Mu is the label that puts his music out, he blogs on Tumblr and uploads new tracks and mixtapes on SoundCloud. Please check him out!

Interview with Kelpe

With his latest EP Chocolate Money available in stores now, London based producer Kelpe not only contributed to our podcast. We also got the chance to speak to him about how he became a musician, his production methods and we take a look-out at future releases.

Maybe you can just start by introducing yourself?

I’m Kelpe, my real name is Kel McKeown, and I make instrumental electronic music and beats

Do you remember the first time you were fascinated by music?

I can’t really remember specifically the first time I enjoyed music, but I remember when I was a really young toddler sitting when my mum was playing the piano and she’d let me play the low notes at the same time she was playing. Not sure why she let me as it probably sounded awful. But the first time wanting to be involved with music was when I was a teenager, into punk bands and playing in a crap band with my friends. I’d also been messing around with an Amiga computer and a sampler but I can’t remember if that was before or after the band.

Ah, the good old Amiga!

Yeah, that was great fun, ProTracker and OctaMED. I had this computer game where you fly a plane and I found where the sound of the engine was stored and swapped it for a drum break, and when I played the game the engine would be a drum break, speeding up and slowing down with the plane, etc.

How serious where those attempts on the Amiga and what music where you into at the time?

I was into Altern8 and The Prodigy (the really early stuff) at the time of making that stuff. I was really into it, so I sort of took it seriously, although not seriuous enough to keep hold of what I made, if I heard it again -which i never will- it would probably sound pretty weak. But I used to spend a lot of time doing it, I was quite nerdy actually

So what were the influences on what you do now? Did you just keep on making music?

Making music wasn’t really a continuous process as there was a big gap from those teenage years to taking it up again years later when i went to university. So when I came back to it I was into all the electronica stuff. Warp stuff, Boards of Canada, Prefuse 73 etc.

I was going to ask you about DC Recordings, because I thought I didn’t know them. But then I figured it’s the label that brought us Tom Tyler, Octagon Man, Depth Charge and the likes, music I liked a lot when I was younger, before buying vinyl.

Well, I heard that Depth Charge album around 95 I think and loved it, I think that was quite an influential album. And I’d get excited when I found DC records in shops. […] I got involved with them around 2002, I’d been a big fan of them years before but slightly lost track of their releases, then a friend suggested sending a demo in so I did that and they were into it. After encouragement I got together the first release The People Are Trying To Sleep. I was really pleased to be on the label and ended up releasing quite a few records with them, enjoying other stuff on the label too. They haven’t done much recently but apparently they’ll be back next with with Emperor Machine and Arcadion albums.

What I love about your music, is its organic sound, especially the drums…

I record a lot of drums. Either me playing or my drummer that I play live with all the time, Chris Walmsley (from Voice of The Seven Woods). Also, I did some recording a while ago in the drummer from Stereolab’s studio with Chris playing, still got a lot of material to work through.

Are you religiously using your own sounds only or do you sample records as well?

I’m not afraid to use samples. Some people try to never use samples and I think its silly to restrict youself like that. I think the golden age of recording was the early 70s and that’s why people sample stuff from that era so much. Anyway, I like to record stuff as well. It’s a good challenge trying to get my crappily recorded stuff to fit in with nicely recorded samples. And its a massive cliche but I’ll always try to chop up a sample into something new

What else do you use in your studio?

I use Ableton, I have two Akai controllers for that, the APC40, and the MPD24. The MPD I always use live, but so does everyone else as well now, it is probably the most used thing I have. Then I got a Moog Little Phatty, which is a stupid name but it sounds good. I got another small analogue synth which sits on my desk, the Doepfer Dark Energy. That’s pretty fat but tiny. A Technics 1200, an Italia Rimini electric guitar which I love, the bass guitar I’ve had since my teenage years. Also a fairly normal looking acoustic guitar and of course a Korg Monotron, which I don’t use much, just for fun.

I also want to ask about your cover art, who have you worked with?

Scot at La Boca, they are in the same building as DC Recordings, and owned by the same person. They do great stuff. They did the sleeve for this big stadium rock band here called Muse, so last year I saw their work every time I went on the underground. The new one, Chocolate Money EP (Fremdtunes), was by a Dutch guy called Mister Adam.

That EP will be out on November 22nd, are you already working on something new?

Yeah, recently I finished a collaboration with Coco Bryce on a track for his album, also on Fremdtunes. I’ve just submitted a new track for the next Astrodynamics compilation, which sounds like its going to be a brilliant compilation. I’m working on a 7″ for Coco Bryce’s own label, MYOR, and soon to be released is a remix I did for Huess, on Inaudible Answer, that’s going to be a good 12″. Other than that I’m just working on new tracks, thinking about the next EP or album

How does that work, do you have a concept in mind or do you record tracks and see what fits together?

I just start working, maybe with a specific change of sound that’s slightly different from the last release.

Any other music you’ve been enjoying lately that you’d like to recommend?

I’ve been listening to McDonald & Giles on repeat lately but that isn’t very recent. Some recent releases I’ve been enjoying is an album by ARP called The Soft Wave, not to be confused with Arp 101 which is great too. The new Bullion record on Young Turks is great, and I’ve been enjoying the last Dosh album Tommy. Dunian has got a free EP that’s really good as well.

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You can find a lot more of Kelpe’s music on SoundCloud, including a couple of mixtapes. He also runs his own website and keeps his YouTube page up to date. You can also add him on Twitter, Facebook or MySpace.