28 January 2011

Ranta Lewis Plank - Mu

Link: Boomkat

Housed in a luxurious linen box and limited to just 300 copies (Vinyl) and 500 copies (CD) - these amazing recordings from 1970 feature unbelievable material from seminal engineer and Kraftwerk producer Conny Plank alongside noted percussionists Michael Ranta and Mike Lewis, complete with a 16-page booklet translated to English, German and Dutch by Belgium's Metaphon label.

Hailed as "a masterpiece" by Nurse With Wound's Steven Stapleton, 'Mu' was recorded at Conny Plank's studio only a few months after the legendary Wired session which ended up on Deutsche Grammofon's Free Improvisation boxset in 1974. Limited only by the length of the tapes available, the trio created the four sections of 'Mu' in one night and mixed the whole album down the following morning, showcasing a masterful handling of freeform sonic abstractions and sublimely minimal psychedelic improvisations.

Their music is suspended in a timeless, spiritually resonant space, connecting threads and fragments of purely esoteric sonics into an organic matrix of otherworldly shapes and aural apparations, Plank using the studio as an instrument restricted only by the very outer bounds of possibility, imagination, and his own unquestionable talent. The results are genuinely breathtaking, delivering one of the most visceral, abstract and engrossing Krautrock experiences imaginable. We urge you to grab one of these beautiful editions while you can.

27 January 2011

Hip Hop logos by Eric Haze

Link: Eric Haze

Some seminal hip hop iconography here courtesy of Eric Haze: a NYC graffiti artist whose work also includes marques for LL Cool J and Stussy plus the tidying-up of Chuck D's original Tippex and Xerox-made Public Enemy logo.

25 January 2011

Fenech-Soler work by Kate Moross

Maybe it's because it wasn't uploaded to Kate Moross' site or because the shops I'd frequented had decided not to stock, but the last batch of work for Fenech-Soler had passed me by. Odd really as I had been aware of the earlier - and less interesting - output by this electropop band.

Anyway what Moross has commendably managed to do here is retain the essence of the 1980s that more blatantly permeated their early visuals yet stayed true to her own passion for geometric shapes. The typography has an Art Deco revival feel but that, for me, only adds to that eighties aesthetic. Plus there's a lovely metallic sheen courtesy of Jane Stockdale's phototography.

I hate to say 'retro-futurism' again, but it is all a bit like Miami Vice in space.


John Foxx and The Maths - Interplay by Jonathan Barnbrook

Typography demi-god Jonathan Barnbrook announced on Twitter that he was designing a cover for John Foxx and The Maths' Interplay album. Just seven minutes later he posted a link to it. Is this some kind of record?

Anyway, it reminded me of Fischerspooner's Odyssey: a sleeve I had previously admired for its pharmaceutical company logo-like simplicity.

24 January 2011

Various Production feat. MC Vex - 'Drink It' video by Voyeur

I'm sure there are those really technical people that are less impressed, but I'm in awe of the abstract animations that crop up on Vimeo as unofficial music promos. This may have something to do with my own disastrous attempts to get to grips with Autodesk's 3D Studio Max. Anyway I can now really appreciate the patience that goes into these projects and, when the end result is as compelling and as odd as this one created by Voyeur for the mysterious Various Production, I'm glad that someone else makes the effort.

If you like this kind of esoteric eye candy, perhaps seek out Form + Format's audio generative's motion piece that's set to the Shlohmo remix of Robot Koch's 'Gorom Sen'.

23 January 2011

Skinny Ships' 10 x 10

Link: Skinny Ships

Lists of records are great. However Richard 'Skinny Ships' Perez is a designer from San Francisco and he has compiled his top 10 albums of 2010 as a unique visual collection.

They're currently viewable on his Flickr photostream and fall somewhere between alternative cover art and (via the inclusion of release date, number of plays, etc) infographics. The Kanye West one - with the halftone on the painted text - is my personal favourite.

22 January 2011

Demdike Stare - Tryptych by Andy Votel

Link: Modern Love

I really like Andy Votel. His enthusiasm is tireless but always stops short of exhausting. He's the only person that's ever insisted that I buy a particular record while personally offering a money back guarantee should I not completely fall in love with it. I really admire how he's completely submerged in music and design and film and art yet is still driven by the passion to find something new. Even when that 'new' turns out to be something so old and so obscure that even the creator of the work isn't aware that it ever existed.

So to his work for Demdike Stare that follows on from his sleeves for Twisted Nerve, Grand Central, XL Recordings and Finders Keepers. The latter re-issue label is obviously one of Votel's own babies but it is also one that relies on input from Sean Canty - one half of Demdike Stare. With Miles Whittaker of Pendle Coven and MLZ, he released a trio of occult-dabbling drone and dub-oriented sonic curiosities that have now been collected together (with bonus material) for Tryptych. Votel supplies the bewitching artwork. And I'm especially loving the ouija board that was first spotted on 'Forest of Evil'.

Amazon link: Tryptych

21 January 2011

Off The Page

Link: Sound and Music

Date: Friday 11 - Sunday 13 February 2011
Venue: The Playhouse, Whitstable
Produced by: Sound and Music and The Wire

In February 2011, Sound and Music and The Wire present Off the Page, the UK’s first ever literary festival devoted to music criticism. Taking place at the Playhouse Theatre, Whitstable, on the South coast, this weekend-long event will feature a host of internationally-renowned critics, authors, musicians and artists discussing the current state of underground and experimental music in a programme of talks, presentations, panel discussions and workshops.


Friday 11 February, 7pm – 10.30pm
Doors open at 7pm
Presentation: Robert Wyatt on his favourite music
Short films hosted by BFI and introduced by Jonny Trunk: Tristram Cary on film

Saturday 12 February, 10am – 10.30pm
Talk: Ken Hollings on the post-Cageian universe
Talk: Rob Young and Matthew Herbert on the impact of musique concrète on contemporary sonic culture
Talk: Steve Beresford and John Kieffer in conversation
Talk: Kodwo Eshun on his favourite music writing
Talk: Dave Tompkins on the history of the vocoder, from its use in the Second World War to its role in the era of Auto Tune
Talk: Teal Triggs on Fanzines
Presentation: Christian Marclay
Short films hosted by Lux: Cage On Cable

Sunday 13 February: 11am – 5pm
Writing tips from The Wire (limited capacity)
Panel discussion: Salome Voegelin, David Toop, Daniela Cascella on the philosophy of listening
In conversation: Green Gartside with Mark Fisher discussing politics and cultural theory in pop culture and music
Performance lecture: Claudia Molitor, Jennifer Walshe, Sarah Nicholls on music notation


Tickets are available from Ticketweb:

Early bird weekend pass: £25 + bkg fee
Weekend pass: £30 + bkg fee
Friday pass: £12.50 + bkg fee
Saturday pass: £15 + bkg fee
Sunday pass: £12.50 + bkg fee

Book now

Please note: the Playhouse Theatre Whitstable has restricted wheelchair access

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes by Leif Podhajsky

Link: Leif Podhajsky

After gaining attention for saturated psychedelic sleeves for Modular band Tame Impala, Leif Podhajsky's work for Lykke Li employs a moody monochromatic approach. It also abandons the symmetry that is usually associated with Podhajsky's imagery.

Released next month, the album Wounded Rhymes will additionally be available as a collectors edition complete with vinyl, CD and high quality digital files plus a bonus pre-order track and, for the first 500, a numbered lithograph print.

Limited edition: Wounded Rhymes
Standard CD edition: Wounded Rhymes

20 January 2011

Popol Vuh - The Werner Herzog Soundtracks (Box Set)

The divine music of Popol Vuh is inextricable from the Werner Herzog films it soundtracks. This lavish set includes five seminal film scores: Heart of Glass (1976), Aguirre (1972), Nosferatu (1979), Fitzcarraldo (1982) and Cobra Verde (1987) in one lavish, beautiful box including a 98-page hardback book with rare photos and liner notes.

Scoring Herzog's 'Aguirre', Popol Vuh, lead by Florian Fricke, established a longstanding relationship with the director, providing him with a milestone of electronic music which is still regularly cited as a masterpiece. Fricke's innately moving compositions presaged the electronic ambient and new age genres, incorporating avant-garde classical, religious music, prog and krautrock themes into a substantial, harmonically rich sound.

Over the next fifteen years Fricke's musical evolution was charted by his work for Herzog, weaving increasingly elaborate instrumentation into the electronic fabric of his compositions. Between his captivating choral work for Nosferatu, the operatic classicism of Fitzcarraldo, or the breathtaking lushness of Cobra Verde, Fricke and Popol Vuh inspired a generation and re-defined the art of the soundtrack.

Boomkat link: The Werner Herzog Soundtracks
Amazon link: The Werner Herzog Soundtracks

For The Record #1: Lone

Link: Lone
Link: Boards of Canada
Link: Magic Wire Recordings

Lone is Matt Cutler - a production talent whose deep and tripped-out electronic compositions have found their way out via labels like Actress' Werk Discs.

Asked to select his favourite artwork for Plastic Circles, he has opted for Music Has The Right To Children by Boards of Canada. Cutler has repeatedly cited this duo as a major musical influence, yet this design [by Boards of Canada themselves for release on Skam and, latterly, Warp] also appears to have a visual connection to, his own current long-player, Emerald Fantasy Tracks. The similar use of the hazy holiday snaps perhaps then being an ideal accompaniment for a sound that audibly reconfigures past memories into something that is simultaneously strange and familiar.

19 January 2011

Sleeves of Desire: A Cover Story

Link: ECM

Often typified by a combination of European sans-serif type with intriguing imagery, the ECM label has built an archive of influential sleeve design around its classical and jazz releases.

Sleeves of Desire - A Cover Story
compiled many of the key moments from the back-catalogue including the abstract approach of Barbara Wojirsch. Anyway, I've routinely had the library copy at home and was beginning to think that I should get one for myself. Although now out of print, I was shocked to see that the best price I could get on a used copy was £200. So, basically, if you see one knocking about in a charity shop, snap it up. Then drop me a line and I'll give you back the 20p that you paid for it.

Failing that, a more reasonably priced alternative that focuses on ECM's output is more widely avaible. Granta's Horizons Touched - The Music of ECM can be ordered via ECM's site for €29 [link above]. Meanwhile Lars Müller Publishers (the company that printed Sleeves of Desire) has issued Windfall Light - The Visual Language of ECM which places considerably more focus on some of the photography-based artwork.
That one is currently discounted at Amazon via the following link:

Windfall Light: The Visual Language of ECM

Beck - Modern Guilt by Mario Hugo

Link: Mario Hugo

Here's some beautiful typography for Beck's Moden Guilt that actually turns out to be just one of six treatments that Mario Hugo pitched. All of his ideas were actually great. Yet none of them were used. The final artwork has also been pasted below and, while I happen to be more of a fan of Hugo's approach, I suppose you have to respect Beck Hansen's right to go with his own instincts. After all, he has been a great patron of good design throughout that recording career of his.

Let's just hope that Hugo gets to use those letter forms elsewhere.

The Designers Republic 2011 retrospective

Link: ginza graphic gallery

The 295th Exhibition
Ian Anderson / The Designers Republic Come Home

The Designers Republic (TDR) gained a wide following around the world beginning in the 1990s with its music-related artwork, including album covers for the Warp record label, and other striking visuals that reinterpreted or reconstructed familiar corporate logos, symbols and katakana characters in ways that strayed from their original meaning.

Japan was hardly immune to the phenomenon. Indeed, TDR had an enormous influence that extended even beyond the realms of music, fashion, games, and graphic design. TDR founder Ian Anderson, whose designs often incorporate Japanese pop culture elements, was deeply influenced by the swirl of consumerism he discovered in the youth culture hot spot of Shibuya—a Blade Runner world of clamorous neon. Though committed to working primarily from Sheffield, the group called Tokyo something of a second home, even opening a TDR store called The Peoples Bureau for Consumer Information in Harajuku’s shopping paradise in 2002.

When the UK design blog Creative Review first ran reports of TDR’s dissolution on 20 January 2009, the news instantly reverberated among designers around the world. It was a shocking event that left many feeling a kind of stunned resignation, but Anderson insisted from the start that TDR would be back. He continued pursuing his own work and before long, though without fanfare, again under the TDR name. One could say, perhaps, that the current event in Tokyo, TDR’s home away from home, marks the beginning of its next chapter.

TDR design—communicating with others through the questions and dialogue generated when preconceived notions are overturned—is alive and well. At last, the world of TDR, and the pleasure of expectations betrayed, descends upon ggg.

ginza graphic gallery (ggg)
Friday. February 4 – Monday. February 28, 2011
DNP Ginza Bldg., 7-7-2 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: 03-3571-5206
11:00am – 7:00pm (Open until 6:00pm on Saturdays)
Closed on Sundays and holidays. Admission free.

Gallery Talk: Ian Anderson is scheduled to give a talk sometime during the exhibition period. Further information will be provided on our website once all the details have been confirmed.
Note: ggg Books 96: The Designers Republic will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.
Note: TDR-related events will be held and products sold throughout Tokyo during the period of the exhibition. Additional details will be posted to the website as they are finalized.

18 January 2011

The Emperor Machine artwork by La Boca

Link: La Boca

Despite justifiably receiving a lot of attention for the geometric approach created for Muse, I'm even more enamoured with La Boca's designs for The Emperor Machine. Maybe it's the retro-futurism of the typography or the quirky yet unsettling lo-fi imagery [that seemingly recounts obscure old library recordings and Krautrock oddities] but - either way - it's a strong aesthetic that fits perfectly with The Emperor Machine's spaced-out psyche-disco.