Our latest pick of beautiful, inventive and intriguing album art features a futuristic all-white vinyl for Amon Tobin, a twisted pop-up package for Father John Misty and a striking cover shot by photographer Ryan Hopkinson for musician David Kennedy (Pearson Sound), as well as some painterly images based on skin cell samples for Ghostpoet's third album, Shedding Skin...
Amon Tobin - Dark Jovian
Dark Jovian is Amon Tobin's first release since 2011 and is described by the artist as a kind of imaginary film score, inspired by space exploration films. Tracks aim to reflect "a sense of scale," he says, "like moving towards impossibly giant objects until they occupy your whole field of vision, planets turning, or even how it can feel just looking up at night."
Produced exclusively for Record Store Day on April 18, the vinyl edition of the album comes with two heavyweight, all-white etched vinyl discs encased in a white rubber wheel and packaged in a transparent box. The record was designed by photographer and designer Alexander Brown, and is intended to reflect the album's celestial and other-worldly references: "Like the heavenly bodies that inspired Dark Jovian, and the golden discs sent into space as messages from Earth, the EP's packaging is enigmatic and beautiful in appearance," reads a release from label Ninja Tune. It's unusual to see such a minimal design, and the all-white discs feel suitably futuristic.
Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
The vinyl edition of Father John Misty (Joshua Tillman)'s I Love You, Honeybear is packaged in some surreal Renaissance-inspired artwork by Los Angeles-based artist Stacey Rozich. The album comes with two rainbow coloured discs and inside, a brilliantly bizarre musical pop-up depicts a series of anthropomorphic creatures in a violent and fiery bar scene (shown below).
"The concept for the cover art was very much a collaborative brainstorm between Josh and I, but he was very encouraging of me to get weird with the visuals that I saw fit," says Rozich.
"The album itself is full of so much potent imagery, it was easy for me to pick out certain scenarios to bring into the whole piece, but it was sometimes hard to make a cut-off point because I could have made a billboard-sized LP cover with every idea Josh and I had based off of the lyrics," she says.
"[The final artwork] does relate to the songs, but it's not so literal - I went with the feelings I got listening to the demo over and over again. I could see certain figures evolving in my mind's eye that I had to incorporate in the scene. Josh was fairly hands off with the directions but he did say he wanted the focal point to be his head on a baby's body nursing on a beautiful woman's breast. I immediately associated it was classic Renaissance iconographic depictions of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus - the religious icon aesthetic was something we both really liked, so it was a great fit to channel his idea through that lens," she explains.
There have been issues with the elaborate packaging causing some vinyl to warp - Sub Pop records published an apology to customers and has promised to issue new records to those affected - but it's an inventive, ambitious design, with some great hand painted illustrations from Rozich.
Ghostpoet - Shedding Skin
For his latest album, Shedding Skin, Ghostpoet (Obaro Ejimiwe) worked with researchers at University College London to develop some fascinating imagery based on skin cell biopsies.
As Ejimiwe explains in a film on the making of the artwork below, the album's title refers to the idea of "shedding things that have been holding you back": he came across skin biopsies after searching for a less literal way to represent the album's title and contacted UCL after testing the idea out himself. "At home I got a projector and literally projected these biopsies [which he'd found online] on to a piece of vinyl to see what it would look like...it just looked amazing, so I thought it'd be interesting to try and get my own skin cells used for the artwork," he explains.
Often used to diagnose skin cancer or identify lesions, biopsies involve taking a small sample of skin using a 'punch' or scalpel so it can be placed under a microscope and the tissue examined in close detail. After the procedure, Ejimiwe says he waited around two weeks before receiving the processed tissue, which had been stained shades of blue, green, pink and purple to create the effect shown in the finished album art. "They looked beautiful, like paintings...I was really blown away by how beautiful they were and the detail," he adds.
Ejimiwe worked with Kate Baker on design and art direction for the album, and biopsy images are also used on artwork for singles Off Peak Dreams and X Marks the Spot (shown below). It's a clever concept with some surprisingly beautiful results, and an imaginative alternative to commonly used images of skin.
Label: Play It Again Sam
Hot Chip - Why Make Sense?
Vinyl editions of albums often include bonus features but rarely is each copy unique - especially if it's one of hundreds of thousands printed. For Hot Chip's sixth album, Why Make Sense?, however, designers Matt Cooper and Nick Relph used variable data printing and an extensive library of visuals to ensure that no two vinyl copies of the forthcoming album will be the same.
Variable data printing allows elements of a design to be adapted with each pass of a printer, explains Cooper. Once he and Relph had settled on a design for the artwork, they developed hundreds of colour swatches and hundreds of pattern variations, resulting in hundreds of thousands of possible print combinations, from bold yellows, greens and blues to softer shades of lilac and coral.
"Nick was interested in the idea that some of the variations would be quite subtle," says Cooper. "We've got hundreds and hundreds of different colours, so some of the variations are very close in colour and tone, a little like the small variations you get in traditional print methods at the beginning and end of a print run, or flecks of dirt, or other vagaries of the print process," he adds.
"The graphic's vertical lines are static, [but] the angled lines' orientations alter. Sometimes, lines are almost vertical, while others cross the design at nearly 90 degrees. The changing moiré pattern that results was something that we were interested in," he adds.
The album is released on May 18 but you can preview a selection of colours available on a microsite promoting the album here.
Pearson Sound - Pearson Sound
The cover for art Pearson Sound (electronic musician David Kennedy)'s self-titled debut album features a strange and striking portrait of the artist, photographed by Ryan Hopkinson and art directed by set designer Andrew Stellitano.
Kennedy says he wanted the cover to include a warped or distorted portrait, playing with the idea of electronic musicians being faceless. "Initially I was drawn towards computer glitch art, and had played around with glitching a portrait of myself. But it wasn't working out - then my girlfriend introduced me to Andrew's work, and it turned out he had heard of my music, so we met up a few times and ran through some references and inspirations," explains Kennedy.
"I was keen for it to be a bright, sharp and striking cover - I wanted to avoid anything that looked too 'moody', or was too prescriptive about what the record inside it would sound like. I loved some of Andrew's work in the past using suspended reflected panels, as well as smoke and liquid, so we used that as a starting point for my record."
The cover was shot in camera by Hopkinson, using a system of bent and folded mirrors sculpted by Stellitano (shown in process shots below). "Mirrors were suspended to create multiple reflections, creating the fluid, distorted effect shown in the cover image and CD insert," Stellitano explains.
"When we initially met up, David and I talked about the themes of audio feedback and distortion which he had explored throughout the album. I think the process of capturing the portrait through formed mirror was a nice reference to this visually," he adds.
Label: Hessle Audio
Raft Records - Raft Records EP 1
Raft Records is a new label launched by The Horrors' Faris Badwan and his brother Tarik (lead singer of Loom) in collaboration with The Vinyl Factory. Marc Donaldson designed the label's identity and its inaugural EP and is currently working on merchandise, communications and a follow-up release for the imprint.
The EP features a bold black, white and red design and a repeat pattern based on an R monogram. The symbol forms the basis of the label's identity, but it's a flexible system with no fixed colour palette, says Donaldson.
"Faris set up the label because he wanted to provide a platform to publish new and unreleased music in a physical format," explains Donaldson. "He owns thousands of vinyl records, and finds listening to music digitally pretty joyless in comparison, so wanted to make records people would cherish and want to keep...When we talked about the identity, he said he wanted something reminiscent of the old independent records from the 70s and 80s that he used to collect."
"We chose black, red and white for the first record, as it felt a little more serious and premium, but the next release will be blue. As the first record contains work by four different bands, we wanted to present it as a selection curated by Raft Records, but with albums featuring just one act, you have to give them their own identity, so the logo will become a secondary thing like a stamp or small icon," he adds. "There's no one consistent element, and because were working in physical rather than digital releases, we can have a bit more fun with it."
Donaldson also worked on a stained glass window featuring the logo, which will reside at the label's office and be used at live events. "We're still experimenting with it, and exploring how the logo can be used," he adds. For now, you can order the debut EP here.
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