Our latest pick of album art includes an eerie image for Venetian Snares, breakfast-themed still lifes for Battles, lunar artwork by The Designers Republic for The Orb and some stunning images by Matthew Stone for FKA twigs EP M3LL155X
Chemical Brothers – Born in the Echoes
First up is Hingston Studio‘s artwork for The Chemical Brothers’ Born in the Echoes, which features a monochrome pattern based on a 19th century fabric sample discovered by the band.
“With this album, the overall sound and production has a very raw feel to it, so the band were keen to explore something that felt quite primal or tribal,” explains Tom Hingston. “Our initial reference or visual cue came from the band themselves – it was a black and white sample that they had stumbled across in a book and although it wasn’t entirely right, there was a raw simplicity to it that seemed to resonate.
“We noticed that the picture credit in the book stated the design came from the The National Archives in Kew – it also detailed the year, so we decided pay a visit to the archives and see what else we could find there. We spent two days researching (going through the old ledgers is time consuming), leafing through hundreds of patented fabric samples, bound into ledgers that were over 150 years old,” adds Hingston.
“Most of the designs were period floral prints but nestled in amongst all of these, was a small series of incredible monochromatic patterns from a company called Thomson and Sons – they seemed really progressive and almost futuristic for the time they were created. ‘Born in The Echoes’ is an electronic album with a very contemporary sound, so for us the idea of re-appropriating something that had actually been painted in 1843 seemed just brilliant. The mark making has an inherent raw energy to it which felt really strong – it looks like something you’d find on a shield or a mask – and of course it was just crying out to be animated.”
FKA twigs – M3LL155X
Next up is artist Matthew Stone’s striking imagery for FKA twigs’ EP M3LL155X, which she released last week with a trio of short films. Stone previously worked with twigs on an editorial shoot for i-D magazine for his multi-disciplinary project, Everything is Possible.
“I’ve done a lot of photographic work exploring the body and bodies…I did tests years ago, when I was using digital manipulation in a similar way, and this was an opportunity to further that, [and] rather than just have bodies next to each other, to look at the idea of bodies passing through each other,” he says.
“If you look at visual culture now, taking in art but also advertising, the body is ever present – it’s something we instantly connect to and we know in a second – but I’m interested in using the body to create imagery that takes us out of what we feel we know. When you look at an image, you read it quickly, it’s totally unconscious, but I’m interested in trying to disrupt that reading of the body, so people look again, and to create a moment of confusion,” he adds.
Manipulating or distorting her image is something twigs often experiments with in visuals for her music: early gig posters featured distorted portraits of the singer run through a photocopier, while the artwork for her debut album, shot by Jesse Kanda, shows the singer with a painted, glossy, almost doll-like face. In her new films (which twigs directed), she appears as both a blow up doll and heavily pregnant.
“There’s certainly a mutual interest there,” says Stone. “We’re both interested in the idea of using the body to manipulate emotions. I’m also interested in trying to find a contemporary language for things like intimacy – to try and talk about the ways we interact with people, that maybe represent a kind of merging,” he adds.
Stone describes working with twigs as a collaboration, with the musician involved throughout the creative process. “I don’t think it’s possible to work with twigs and it not be a direct collaboration. She’s not someone you just project something on to. When we work together, it’s not like she’s a model for me to make artwork with, it’s us making a project together.”
The Orb – Moonbuilding 2703AD
Moonbuilding 2703 AD is the latest album from electronic music group The Orb, founded in 1988 by Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty. The album is made up of four tracks, each lasting over 10 minutes, and according to Paterson, the release is inspired by “this place called Earth and the idea that in the future, mankind discovers its root element in the ancient rocks on solar moons…which are based on musical harmonies.”
The artwork was created by The Designers Republic: the cover features an original painting by artist Christabel Cristo, art directed by Ian Anderson and based on a sketch he created “with [Christo’s] style in mind.”
“The concept behind the Moonbuilding album artwork is based on two time and/or space travellers’ (possibly Alex and Thomas [Felmann], possibly not) obsession with the moon and their consequent moonmadness caused by prolonged proximity and/or exposure to it, either physical or metaphorical, drawing them deeper into the vortex of its orbit/influence,” he says.
“The splitting moon references the track God’s Mirrorball and our previous work, personal and commercial, variously fusing disco balls with planet earth, the moon and other planets, and even the Death Star. It’s either a coming together or a tearing apart of the moon and the mirrorball, whichever you choose, with a gentle nod to film concepts such as Mission To Mars. Whether the moon is exerting an influence on the people of earth or drawing energy from us is deliberately unspecified,” he adds.
Gatefold artwork includes a painting of a deer wearing a space helmet in a moonlit forest, line drawings reminiscent of images from ancient cultures and a series of abstract symbols, which are embossed on the cover and printed on vinyl labels and CDs.
“The Orb Runes embossed into the cover and seen on the labels tap into my dissolving memories of Dalek typography adorning their city in an early 60s Dr Who film, and the sense of coded messages from abandoned civilisations,” adds Anderson. “This sense of the future as a past from an ever more distant future, and the mythic relationship between the earth and our moon, both literal and in literature, are the basis for the internal images.”
Petite Noir – La Vie est Belle/Life Is Beautiful
La Vie est Belle/Life is Beautiful is the debut album from Petite Noir (South African musician and producer Yannick Iluga) who describes his music as “Noirwave”, a mix of post-punk, electronica and African shuffles.
The artwork was designed by Lina Viktor, a fine artist who has exhibited work alongside Takashi Murakami and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and creates paintings hand gilded in 24-carat gold.
The image features malachite – the stone of transformation, love and change, says Viktor – key themes explored in the album. “The cover image represents transcendence,” she explains. “I wanted to create an image that spoke to a new paradigm of thought – one which aligned with what Yannick & Rochelle [Nembhard, Iluga’s girlfriend, who co-directed the video for his track The Fall] believe to be our birthright, our innate power to transcend the confines of this space and time.
“However, it is still rooted within visual motifs that bridge recognisable moments in European art history, placing it in a different context and under a new lens, one that is universal. The use of carrara marble and Yannick’s frozen pose references Michelangelo’s Pietá, but rather than the literal Virgin Mary cradling Jesus, I wanted to shift the energy from one of mourning to one of exaltation and self-determination. So I removed what would be the supporting figure beneath, and instead made him levitate above this malachite altar to signify pure energy. It is unclear whether Yannick is falling or rising. That is the question we wanted to leave with the viewer.”
Iluga posed on a bench in a studio, before Viktor edited the image to create the illusion of him being suspended in mid-air. The stone was sourced from Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo – “one of the few places in the world where malachite is found. It is also, coincidentally, Yannick’s hometown,” – she adds.
Battles – La Di Da Di
La Di Da Di is the third album from rock group Battles, out on 18 September. The artwork was designed by guitarist Dave Konopka, and features an array of breakfast food in an unusual formation…
Konopka also devised the imagery for the band’s previous albums, Mirrored and Gloss Drop, which featured a photo of a pink mound sculpted by Konopka and photographed by Lesley Unruh. In an interview with NME, he described his sculpture as “essentially, a big pink blob of nothing,” adding: “I wanted to represent a solid document that would be the album, that is a controlled atmosphere and have something that is completely organic that you can’t even control the way things are going to happen.”
Gig posters for the band’s latest tour and the single artwork for new track The Yabba features some equally fun and bizarre food art, with chickens, hot dogs and spaghetti, peanut butter and some ominous looking jam all making an appearance:
Venetian Snares – Your Face
Great album art isn’t just beautiful: it’s an image that is surprising, intriguing or one that simply forces you to look twice, and the unsettling cover art for Venetian Snares (Canadian electronic musician Aaron Funk)’s album Your Face does just that.
The artwork features an image by Chinese fashion photographer and artist Chen Man, who combines traditional photography with 3D rendering to create hyper-real images of subjects. It was edited by Ek Dojo (Matthieu Borel), a collage artist who mixes traditional cut and paste techniques with digital editing to create surreal portraits. The end result is an uncanny image that’s almost impossible to look away from.
Images via bleep.com
Label: Planet Mu
Mongrels – Low Budget High Concept
Images: Kid Acne
We end with some more playful artwork by Kid Acne for Low Budget, High Concept, a 6-track EP by Mongrels (Kid Acne & Benjamin). The release is the first in a series of limited edition vinyls to be released by the duo, and sleeves are hand printed, numbered and stamped, produced in a run of 300.
The cover art and litho insert feature Kid Acne’s signature, black-and-white style, with some cheerful illustrations and hand-drawn lettering. The artist has also produced some hand-pulled screenprints to promote the release, available via B&B Gallery.