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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Recent signals

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Signals (2014): vinyl front cover. Photo by Nico Hogg.

Seeing as my design for the recent Signals album by Wen has been deemed one of the best covers of the year so far I thought I ought to mention some of the other albums I’ve worked on over the past few months. I tend to give the most attention here to my book designs and illustrations but I’m still working on music releases, albeit with less regularity.

One reason the book work receives more attention is that there’s more of my input involved. Almost all these recent releases have begun as picture selections from the artist which it’s been my job to work into a printable form then place the relevant information in a suitable typeface. This isn’t to downplay the work involved: the careful placing of type becomes more critical the more the design tends to minimalism, and even the best photo can be ruined by clumsy typesetting or an unsympathetic typeface. The challenge of working in a more minimal direction can be a refreshing one when much of the work I do tends to visual excess.

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Signals (2014): vinyl labels. Photos by Nico Hogg.

Wen’s album for Keysound Recordings is a collection of dark urban rhythms for which Nico Hogg provided some suitable views of nighttime London. The numbers on the vinyl labels are lift buttons from a high-rise block, while the abstract scene below is a photo of the Thamesmead housing estate.

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Signals (2014): CD interior. Photo by Nico Hogg.

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Andøya (2014); vinyl front cover. Photo by James Ginzburg.

Subtext provide a much more abstracted form of dark electronica exemplified by the vast slabs of sound produced by Emptyset. Eric Holm’s Andøya reworks location recordings made by a contact mic attached to a telegraph pole 300 km north of the Arctic circle. This is a like a cold-climate equivalent of the celebrated wire recordings made in Australia by Alan Lamb. The cover photo looks straightforward enough but required a great deal of Photoshop work on my part.

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Andøya (2014); vinyl back cover. Photo by James Ginzburg.

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Andøya (2014); vinyl labels. Photos by James Ginzburg.

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Life Cycle Of A Massive Star (2013); vinyl front cover. Photo by NASA.

Roly Porter’s album is another Subtext release, and a further cosmic exploration after his Dune-inspired Aftertime (2011). I chose the photos for this one myself, then we spent some time going back and forth to achieve a colour scheme that provided a suitable contrast with the vivid gatefold interior.

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Life Cycle Of A Massive Star (2013); vinyl back cover. Photo by NASA.

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Life Cycle Of A Massive Star (2013); vinyl gatefold interior. Photo by Barbara Pocek & James Ginzburg.

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Cold Mission (2013): CD front. Photo by NASA.

Just to show that these releases aren’t so very distant from each other, the Logos album is another Keysound release of dark electronica but the visual component is closer to Roly Porter than Wen. A simple design but it made the Best Album Covers of 2013 list at FACT late last year.

 


 

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