Under the Sun is Pritchard’s first solo album in five years. It is described as a mix of sounds inspired by nu-wave, avante garde electronic and folk music “re-imagined through an otherworldly filter”. Tracks include collaborations with Thom Yorke and electronic musician Bibio, as well as a strangely soothing sample of a nursery rhyme voiced by Julie Andrews.
In keeping with the record’s other worldliness, visual artist and designer Jonathan Zawada has created a series of mysterious CG landscapes for the album’s artwork and live performances.
Images feature rocky landscapes, deserts and mountains: there are dark caves and glittering boulders, a seaside scene turned on its side and a strange stone sculpture emerging from a pool of pink water. There’s a quiet eeriness in each scene and a strong sense of the uncanny.
Zawada says he wanted to reflect the “tense, unexpected energy” in Pritchard’s music and the idea of “something that was both dark and light, loving and disquieting at the same time.”
“I had worked with Mark on the preceding three LPs and we had developed a fairly good rapport by the time it came to the album which meant we didn’t ever actually speak much about what the imagery for it should be. Instead, it just kind of grew up organically alongside the music itself,” he explains.
Zawada started working on visuals when Pritchard began work on the album, developing images as the record progressed. “That was a really unique and exciting prospect for me as I could hear how the music was progressing and evolving and adjust where the imagery was heading accordingly,” he says. “It also meant that conceptually, the imagery ended up becoming much less precise, non-narrative and more open-ended.”
Images were created using a landscape generation and rendering engine – “the process itself is very non-visual and consists of connecting bunches of mathematical functions together,” explains Zawada – and will appear in the vinyl and CD editions of the album. Zawada and Pritchard will also present an audiovisual performance of Under the Sun at the Red Bull Music Academy Festival in New York next month.
We first featured Zawada’s work in our October 2013 issue. Based in Los Angeles, the Australian artist and designer’s output spans graphics, typography, textiles, painting, digital and video installations. He has worked at record labels and fashion brands, designed rugs, digitally printed silk scarves and handbags for Trust Fun (a brand he co-founded with his wife, Annie Wright-Zawada and friend Shane Sakkeus) and held solo exhibitions at art galleries in Los Angeles and Sydney – from an exhibition of large-scale oil paintings to a show featuring flat pack furniture, plastic sculptures and digital installations.
Speaking to CR at the time of the article, Zawada said he has always tried to avoid developing a signature style, preferring instead to experiment with new techniques and mediums – “though now when I look back I can see a fair amount of popular colourings or approaches to my work. I always try to introduce an element of humour too, even if it’s concealed,” he said. His artwork for Pritchard provides a suitably intriguing visual accompaniment to the album, which the musician says is designed to be listened to from start to finish in a single sitting.
Under the Sun is released on Warp Records on May 13. For details, see warp.net