Our latest round-up of beautiful, unusual and intriguing album art includes some apocalyptic designs for The Bug, surreal artwork for Sbtrkt and some lovely imagery for Perfume Genius and Jamie T.
First up though, is Malmö studio Matthew + Emelie’s limited edition packaging for Danish band Black Light White Light’s new album, Gold Into Dreams. “We were asked to design a special limited edition of the new album … so we came up with the concept of producing a custom guitar pedal with the album contained on a flash drive,” explain Matthew Bolger and Emelie Lidström. “You connect the pedal to your computer to download the album and artwork via the mini jack output at the back of the pedal.”
The pedal was created with the help of Dave Adkins at Looperstar Effects, who designed the inner workings and built each pedal by hand. The package also includes a switch which produces oscillations, electronic bleeps and synth tones, as the film below demonstrates:
Label: Target Records
The Bug – Angels & Devils
The vinyl edition of The Bug (producer Kevin Martin)’s latest album, Angels & Devils, features some intricate apocalyptic illustrations by Simon Fowler. The outer sleeve features a detailed sketch of a red snake wrapped around feathered wings, while the inner artwork presents an unsettling abstract explosion scene.
“The front cover and inner artwork were hand drawn with Rapidograph technical pens on line board, then coloured digitally using scans of washi I had printed using woodblocks. The red lines were added last and were made with graphite on tracing paper,” explains Fowler.
Fowler says the artwork is intended to reflect the key themes of Angels & Devils, without relying on cliched notions of dark versus light, or anything too literal. “What I find successful about the cover image is its ambiguity … There is a fine line between these opposing themes and it’s hard sometimes to see when one may turn into the other,” says Fowler.
“[For the inner gatefold], I wanted to start with an explosion, and explore themes in connection with mankind and our position in the world today – how we are affecting it and how a human can be born neutral with the potential to become a good or bad person, rather than depicting a mythical battle. The image is essentially an explosion of energy … the streams of energy are fracturing the page, some cells illustrate natural disasters … some are cross sections of a human brain, representing psychological torment or battling with ones’ own demons,” he adds.
Inner gatefold close-up
Fowler’s artwork also appeared on pamphlets sent to fans and journalists before the album was announced, as well as an animated teaser film and large-scale posters, which featured a new logo for The Bug (also designed by Fowler) and text written by Martin with no explanation or reference to either the artist or record label Ninja Tune.
The motif (pictured below) and campaign was inspired by advertising for the film 12 Monkeys, in which a mysterious stencil appeared on city streets with no explanation. “We wanted to create a mystery, like this bizarre manifesto or a cryptic invitation from an underground organisation. It was fun to see people on social media talking about it, trying to figure out what it was connected to,” says Fowler.
“[For the logo], I wanted to move away from previous logos – the insect/bug centric design – and try to bring Kevin’s attitude to making music and performing live into the design somehow. The rings of bullets are a blatantly aggressive statement … on top of that, the centre piece is a speaker cone with three snakes emerging from it, roughly resembling the sine wave or frequency of high, middle and low end sound waves, symbolising the sonic assault of The Bug’s live shows. So [it] is a statement of intent,” he adds.
The first promo video for tracks from the album was released online this week, and is a dystopic affair featuring opposing songs Function and Void. Created by motion studio Factory Fifteen and production company Nexus, it features a character trapped in a totalitarian system which comes crashing down around him, and includes some great CG footage of the famous Alexandra and Ainsworth estate in Camden:
Singe releases from the album will also feature intricate artwork based on hand carved vinyl relief prints by Fowler – including this design for single Exit, inspired in part by the poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s Verigo – “and strangely, photos of Viking swords and spears,” adds Fowler. “The image is again open to interpretation but the falling figure could either be an angel falling from grace into a void or Icarus flying too close to the sun…”
The illustrations are incredibly detailed, and it’s great to see this level of craft go into the making of an album cover.
Label: Ninja Tune
Perfume Genius – Too Bright
The polished artwork for Perfume Genius (Mike Hadreas)’s third album, Too Bright, has a notably different look and feel to the singer’s previous albums. Instead of ageing photographs defaced with hand-drawn type (below), it features an imposing image of the singer in a shimmering metallic vest shot by fashion photographer Luke Gilford. Inside, an accompanying booklet features more photographs of Hadreas’ alongside lyrics printed on gold paper in white sans type.
The layout was designed by Alison Fielding of London studio Gas Associates, who also worked on the packaging for Sohn’s album, Tremors. “Mike Hadreas worked closely with Luke and he produced some stark and impressive images of him. We wanted to take the imposing nature of the photography one step further and used the metallics and vignettes to both block out and give the idea of peering through into the images and crops,” she explains.
“The gold also gives it quite a luxurious feel and accents the incredible Margiela metallic vest, which was so heavy it left indents in his skin,” she adds.
It’s a simple design but an elegant one, and the radically different look is bound to grab existing fans’ attention, as well as those who’ve never heard of Perfume Genius. By keeping the layout simple, Fielding has also avoided overshadowing Gilford’s imagery with unecessary details.
Jamie T – Carry on the Grudge
Hope’s original image
Another image which caught our eye this month was the cover shot for Jamie T’s album, Carry on the Grudge, the singer’s first in five years. The cover features a painting by London-based artist Luke Waller, which is based on an original image by New York and London-based photographer Emily Hope. The concept was devised by the singer.
“The piece is loosely based around the concept of being force fed opinion through youth, suckling at the teat of bitterness as it were,” says Jamie T.
“Jamie came to me with the idea or concept of what he wanted, and we talked a lot about how we wanted it to look, [including] the type of room and the type of woman who would model,” explains Hope. “Everything down to the type of bed and mirror was discussed, and her hair colour.
“We shot it in this old house on the river in SE London – which I used to live in actually – in Deptford. It’s called the Master Shipwrights House. I knew it would be great as I could control the natural light, because every window has wooden shutters. I was looking at a lot of Edward Hopper paintings and Caravagio too, for the light reference more than anything.”
The artwork was designed by Andrew Murabito at London studio We Art You. Murabito also shot additional photographs for the inner artwork which reflect the style and colour palette of Hope’s image.
Label: Virgin Records
Sbtrkt – Wonder Where We Land
The surreal artwork for Sbtrkt [producer Aaron Jerome]’s second album was created by art director A Hidden Place, who also designed the hypnotic visuals for his Transitions EP and his mask (which features on the cover of his self-titled debut album and is worn by the producer on stage).
The album sleeve features a miniature Egyptian cat-type creature sitting in the palm of a metallic hand, and the deluxe vinyl comes with a 7” zoetrope picture disc covered in tiny cat silhouettes, which appear to run when the record plays (you can see it in action here).
Animated versions of the creature appear in both a slick animated album teaser:
And the noir-ish video for track New York, New Dorp (directed by Fons Schieden), in which it is pictured roaming the streets of New York.
We’ve covered A Hidden Place’s artwork for Sbtrkt in the past, but this is the most striking yet: it’s brighter and bolder than previous releases, and the image really stands out on both the album cover and large-scale posters. The same colour palette and imagery have also been applied to Sbtrkt’s website, as you can see in the screenshot below.
Image via sbtrkt_official on Instagram
Label: Young Turks / XL
If you’ve designed album art recently and would like to submit your work, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.