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 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 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)
Redshape – Throw In Dirt / The Land (3024)
Jon Convex – Lied To Be Loved (3024)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Artwork by Hollis
Jimmy Edgar – Sex Drive (Hotflush)
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)
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)
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)
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!
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)
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)
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)
Addison Groove – It’s Got Me / Minutes Of Funk (3024)
Jon Convex – Convexations EP (3024)
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)
I just love the simplicity and mystery of this cover shot… [photo by Emmette Murkett]
Blues Control & Laraaji – FRKYS Vol. 8 (Rvng Intl.)
Borden, Ferraro, Godin, Halo, Lopatin – Frkwys Vol. 07 (Rvng Intl.)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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!
Don’t have much to share this week, but still a couple of things you should know of.
When I’m asked for my favourite concert, I will answer Kahil El Zabar without hesitation. I accidently came across this trailer for the documentary Be Known, which is currently in post-production. Looking much forward to this one!
Back in the day, James Pants tried to be a hip-hop producer. I’m not saying I’m happy he failed, but I certainly prefer the music he’s doing now. Anyway, he has decided to give away some of his old beats.
Juno Plus did an interview with Actress, talking to him about the DRC Music project and Clubbing in the Congo.
German magazine Groove launched their podcast series with a mix by Shitkatapult founder and now bandleader Apparat.
Another recommended mix comes from Sonar Kollektiv‘s Roskow Kretschmann, better known as Sygaire. Check his Proto Disco Pronto mixtape over at SoundCloud.
Spine TV interviewed Martyn and collaborator Erosie, and there’s also a music video for Martyn’s Viper.
And lastly, here’s one more interview with Teebs recorded at this year’s Sónar festival.
Update Due to popular demand, here’s a backup link for the Apparat podcast
Always interested in the artwork that packages the music, I have collected some record covers I particularly liked in the first half of 2010. These are not necessarily records I listen to or write about, in fact I’ve included some I’m not even familiar with, stuff I came across through newsletters and some other websites. Most of them came out this year, with some exceptions from 2009.
As you can see, I’m fully backing current trends like triangles, pattern-based designs or symmetric compositions.
Some of the artists responsible for the artwork shown above: Andy Gilmore (Warp), Erosie (3024), GiveUpArt (Tempa, Rinse, Apple Pips), Optigram (Hyperdub), Donal Thornton (Onra), Future Classic Design (Future Classic), James Joyce and of course The Designers Republic. If you can help with those I missed, please leave a comment.
Watch out for the second part of this post, in which Dynooo (Mac Fly) and Nitzan Hermon (Fine Art Recordings) pick their favourites.