17 August 2010

Hot Chip work by Wallzo

I referenced some music sleeve/packaging designs over the past couple of weeks purely for their aesthetic style. Others I've posted as they take a different approach to physical products or have some thought-provoking rationale behind them.

One aspect that the Tom Hingston or Ben Drury posts touched on with regards to their respective Massive Attack and Mo Wax work is the idea of a series that can only come from a long relationship with a musician or label.

Many visually interesting music items are part of release 'campaigns' where a different designer will take on an album and its singles. The baton is then handed to the next studio for the subsequent long-player's campaign. I suspect that part of this is down to the the musicians or label owners having an approach to commissioning that is linked to curating a personal collection. Although there is a suggestion that a different aesthetic approach to each stage in an artist's career is in tandem with the alternate sonic 'direction' of each album: that these phases might require a markedly distanced visual style.

Hot Chip has avoided this creative 'relay' by instead opting to collaborate with designer Darren 'Wallzo' Wall for the band's three albums and each one's selected singles. This has resulted in a trio of clearly defined campaigns that still have very different solutions.

I thought that Wall's discussion of the development process for each of these was particularly enlightening. Additionally I can also see the benefit in a single designer being able to apply a rationale and depth of understanding to a catalogue of releases over a disparate design that comes from a single campaign pitch and that more fleeting involvement.

Following interview from It's Nice That.

Wallzo / Hot Chip

* Posted by Will 2 February 2010

Yesterday saw the launch of the fourth Hot Chip album, One Life Stand and with it saw London based designer Wallzo successfully design the third consecutive album artwork. With rave reviews filling many of the weekends papers and music press we thought we’d check in the Darren Wall (aka Wallzo) to find out more about the artwork.

Evening Darren, following on from The Warning and Made in the Dark you’ve just designed the latest record from Hot Chip, One Life Stand, does it get easier year on year?

Yes, I think I was a lot less nervous about this one. When I did the first album, The Warning, I created a cover with no prior understanding that it would become so well-known. Of course this was a really wonderful experience for me and I was hugely grateful for the chance to get my work seen by so many people, but when it came to sit down and tackle the second album cover I must admit I felt the weight of expectation upon me. That pressure is good of course – it makes for good work – but now its much more self-imposed than anything else.

Is there a conscious effort to do something completely different, keep certain things the same?

After each two year gap, personal influences and tastes are always a little bit different so between myself and the five band members, we always end up doing something different. I work closely with Owen Clarke from the band on the initial ideas, and we have hugely overlapping tastes, so after an evening talking about ideas we normally get to a core aesthetic that we can then experiment with. The band are generally happy if Owen is happy, so its good that we share such similar tastes. That said, we always seem to gravitate towards ‘mysterious objects’ that invite interpretation; the blocks from The Warning, the artifact from the Made in the Dark campaign, and now, of all things, a suspended marble head.

What’s the idea behind the current artwork?

When statues are installed or transported they are often lowered into place with large, colourful canvas slings. Owen had a few photographic examples of this in action and they seemed to create an interesting theme; classical forms intersected with bright stripes of colour. The idea of a head seemed to appeal to the band most of all, and from there it all came together after lots of experimentation. There’s plenty of Giorgio de Chirico and Hipgnosis reference in there too. I think its essentially quite an over-the-top image – like a prog-cover reduced to a screen-print. The most enjoyable part of the process was working with the Vinyl Factory who created the 12” versions of the album. The special edition is a 2-disc gatefold with an art print and we’ve even printed a pattern hidden on the inside of the sleeve.

What are you listening to at the moment?

A friend of ours; Rob Smougton operates under the name Grovesnor and makes music like a laser-guided Hall and Oates. He’s just been signed to Lo Recordings and his forthcoming album will soon be graced with a cover from none other than Non-Format. If his music doesn’t make you smile, then something has gone awfully wrong. You can hear his music here.

I'm very interested in Wall's approach for 'Made in the Dark' - Hot Chip's second album. Exploring the oxidising of copper for the print process (in addition to also devising a die-cut poster version), he developed a series of circular forms. Especially his discussion of the one from the album cover as 'the Artefact'. Plus, for me, The Warning's a whole catalogue of esoteric shapes/ambiguous objects also links Wallzo's work with the Matthew Dear 'Totem'.

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