28 February 2012

For The Record #3: Optigram

Link: Optigram
Link: Bob Hickson

Asked to cite an example of music artwork that has made a huge personal impression, Optigram - a.k.a. Manuel Sepulveda - selected the sleeve for 1977's eponymous Mandré long-player. And seemingly without hesitation.

Alongside that amazing logo, the airbrushed illustration came courtesy of Bob Hickson [who additionally completed similarly iconic work for ELO] while the Motown release's tuxedo-wearing robot has been discussed in recent years for allegedly providing a blueprint for Daft Punk's cyborg reinvention. In any case, the cover offered an arresting representation for the masked alter ego of space-funk pioneer Andre Lewis: a visionary figure that passed away just four weeks ago.

Mandré's retro-futurism influence lives on today and may be evident when assessing some of the work designed by Optigram for labels like Hyperdub, Citinite, Planet Mu and Warp [check his science-fiction sleevescapes devised for Terror Danjah, for example].

"Great concept," says Optigram, "for me the coolest album cover of all time. One of those records you want to buy for the cover alone."

27 February 2012

Archers of Loaf - Vee Vee re-issue by Jay Ryan

Link: Merge Records
Link: Jay Ryan
When Merge Records opted to re-issue a number of recordings by Archers of Loaf, the label discovered that most of the accompanying artwork had been lost. But this mishap presented an opportunity to re-master, or at least re-imagine, the covers with, poster artist, Jay Ryan stepping forward to present his own vision of 1995's Vee Vee [pictured bottom].

The update [pictured top] was out last week and sees the original model succumbing to Ryan's doodling. Two other albums by the band - White Trash Heroes and All the Nation's Airports - are to have new artwork commissioned for release later in the year.

While the project isn't typified by the kind of artwork that gets me really excited [although I've long admired Ryan's illustration style], it's good to see that there is the potential to re-contextualise back-catalogue releases for new audiences. Previously there was Alex Trochut providing a typography-based deluxe edition of The Rolling Stones' Rolled Gold but, in general, the practice is still something more closely associated with the books market.

17 February 2012

Marble Music releases

Link: Marble Music

It has almost been a year since France's Institubes label came to an end and announced the launch of, a replacement, the Marble Music logo.

What's followed has been a succession of releases that in part utilise the kind of design template that has typified the Deutsche Grammophon-evoking artwork of the associated Sound Pellegrino alongside a decidedly 1980's-themed postmodern edge. The latter brings to mind memories of Memphis and Barney Bubbles with its art direction, design and illustration from such talents as Museum Studio, Ill Studio, Partel Oliva, Benbo George and Jonathan Zawada.

Meantime the music - let's not forget - has been courtesy of Institubes lynchpins like Surkin alongside the new wave of Gallic music makers that are known for representing the likes of the lauded Club Cheval.

16 February 2012

Ssaliva - 'RZA EP' by DimRun

Link: Vlek Records

Originally limited to a run of just 300 10" gold vinyl singles, there are just two copies of Ssaliva's 'RZA EP' left at Vlek Records' shop. From the alter-ego of Cupp Cave [who also has an album poised for the UK's Ramp label] it has been made even more collectable due to its lovingly assembled, hand-screenprinted and embossed sleeve by designer/DJ DimRun.

So while the Belgian label takes its name from Brussels slang for "junk" - the kind of cheap rubbish that falls apart as soon as you touch it - this "Vlek" appear to be anything but that.

JJ DOOM logo by Steve Powers

Link: Lex Records
Link: Steve Powers

Man behind the metal mask DOOM (né MF DOOM) has teamed up with, rapper, Jneiro Janel a new project titled JJ DOOM. The pair's hip hop collaboration culminates in, album, Key to the Kuffs that comes on Lex Records in May. [A taster may be found on 21st February when the twosome DJ together for a Boiler Room session.]

Meantime there's a logo created by Steve Powers: a renowned artist that first gained attention for his graffiti in Philadelphia under the ESPO pseudonym. Previously he also provided the artwork for Tommy Guerrero's Soul Food Taqueria long-player that was issued by Mo Wax back in 2003.

6 February 2012

Hubro releases by Yokoland

Link: Hubro
Link: Yokoland
Link: Grappa Musikkforlag

I first spotted the releases of Norway's Hubro label when Australian designer Heath Killen included them in a blog post. You can find that here.

Anmyway, largely photographic - using found images or those taken by Aslak Gurholt Rønsen and Thomas Nordby of art directors/designers Yokoland - there's now a series of lovingly crafted physical releases for the kind of Scandinavian jazz and improvised music that has come to typify the Hubro aesthetic. Actually a sub-label of Grappa Musikkforlag - Norway's leading independent - each album is linked through the use of hand-written text plus an illustration of the Eagle Owl. (Or, as that bird is known in Norwegian, the "Hubro".)