Harold Budd, 1936–2020

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Art and design for The Pearl by Russell Mills.

I must have listened to this album hundreds of times, maybe thousands, there having been days when I’ve allowed it to loop for hours on end. I’ll never tire of it.

There’s a lot I could write about Harold Budd: about his early electronic compositions like The Oak Of The Golden Dreams; about the way that The Pavilion Of Dreams is the slowest jazz album you’ll ever hear; about the Eno/Lanois production on The Pearl which creates music that’s simultaneously earthed and extraterrestrial, the latter quality making it a (dark-eyed) sister to Apollo—Soundtracks & Atmospheres; about the time that Budd became the fourth member of the Cocteau Twins; about the William Burroughs influence in the poems that Budd reads on By The Dawn’s Early Light; about the beautiful soundtrack he composed with Robin Guthrie for Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin, a film whose subject matter isn’t beautiful at all… But it’s easier to simply say listen to this.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Made To Measure
Night Music in two parts

Weekend links 358

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Painted beetle (2016) by Akihiro Higuchi.

David Horbury: The Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition ignores the pioneering scholarship of Emmanuel Cooper, author of The Sexual Perspective: Homosexuality and Art in the last 100 years in the West (1986).

L’Androgyne Alchemique is an exhibition at the Azzedine Alaïa Gallery, Paris, by pascALEjandro, a collaboration between Pascale Montandon-Jodorowsky and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

• At Strange Flowers: an interview with DJ Sheppard, biographer of poet Theodore Wratislaw (1871–1933), one of the models for Max Beerbohm’s hapless Enoch Soames.

Eloise or, the Realities is a new 122-page comic book by Ibrahim R. Ineke “inspired in part by Children of the Stones and The Owl Service“.

• Cormac McCarthy hasn’t published a novel for over ten years now but this new piece of writing addresses the mysterious origin of language.

• “…she invented a kind of symbolic code that channelled the occult and the Renaissance masters”. Yo Zushi on Leonora Carrington.

John O’Reilly on the Samuel Beckett cover designs created by Russell Mills and Gary Day-Ellison for Picador.

Porter Ricks (Thomas Köner & Andy Mellwig) have announced their first album in 18 years.

• At The Daily Grail: Alan Moore on science, imagination, language and spirits of place.

• All 66 issues of Performance Magazine (1979–1992) are now available online.

• The Throbbing Gristle catalogue is being reissued (again).

Lost Soul In Disillusion (1967) by The Power Of Beckett | Liquid Insects (1993) by Amorphous Androgynous | Biokinetics 2 (1996) by Porter Ricks

El Lissitzky record covers

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Your Generation (1977) by Generation X. Design by Barney Bubbles.

Continuing an occasional series about the work of particular artists or designers being used on record sleeves. El Lissitzky (1890–1941) is an interesting candidate in this area since his pioneering abstractions have greatly influenced subsequent generations of graphic designers. As a result of this you’re just as likely to find his Suprematist style being pastiched on an album cover as find one of his paintings decorating the sleeve. Pastiches are difficult to locate unless you already know they exist—or unless the album credits acknowledge the style they’re imitating—so this list will no doubt be incomplete.

Barney Bubbles’ design for the debut single by Generation X is the earliest example I’m aware of that makes use of the El Lissitzky style. It was also one of Bubbles’ first sleeves for a punk band, and a significant break with his often florid hippy designs.

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Die Mensch Maschine (1978) by Kraftwerk. Design by Karl Klefisch, “inspired by El Lissitzky”.

Kraftwerk’s seventh album uses Lissitzkian typography and graphics on its front and back covers. A very popular album with the post-punk crowd that would have been the first introduction for many people to El Lissitzky’s name. Kraftwerk still use that vibrant arrangement of black, red and white in their stage shows.

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B-2 Unit (1980) by Riuichi Sakamoto. Design by Tsuguya Inoue.

More pastiche, this time borrowing from El Lissitzky’s Suprematist book for children: About Two Squares: In 6 Constructions: A Suprematist Tale (1922). The book’s two characters of a red square and a black square appear on the vinyl labels. This is a great album, incidentally, still my favourite by Sakamoto.

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Continue reading “El Lissitzky record covers”

Tom Phillips album covers

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Words and Music (1975) by Tom Phillips.

Two related posts is coincidence, three is a series. Earlier posts from the past couple of weeks looked at album covers created by designers better known for their work in other areas. Tom Phillips is a British artist, writer and composer who I continue to insist is one of our greatest living artists, a figure of singular intelligence, invention and versatility whose lack of grandstanding has never raised his profile to, say, the Hockney level. Phillips’ involvement with the music world, both as composer/librettist, and his oft-cited position as Brian Eno’s art teacher in the 1960s, have led to the creation of a handful of record and CD covers from the mid-70s on. Before we get onto those I’ll note that Phillips has a piece in the latest edition of Eye magazine where he reviews a book of postcards from the Wiener Werkstätte. I happen to have a review in the same issue looking at a republished Kenneth Anger study.

Words and Music above has a January 1975 release date although the cover clearly states “LXXIV” in Phillips’ customary stencil lettering. The pressing was limited to 500 copies and doesn’t seem to have been reissued since which means that copies for sale command excessive prices. Side A comprises recordings of Phillips’ compositions while on the flip the artist/author reads extracts from A Humument, the treated book/experimental novel which is not only his most celebrated work but a project whose influence permeates all of the Phillips oeuvre, including the sleeve art.

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Starless and Bible Black (1974) by King Crimson.

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A year before Words and Music, Phillips created the cover art for this King Crimson album, and he’s also credited with the design. The fractured stencil lettering on the gatefold interior resembles similar effects in some of Phillips’ paintings while on the back cover there’s a tiny extract from A Humument bearing the enigmatic phrase “this night wounds time”. I’ve wondered for years how this cover came about: Robert Fripp often selects the art for King Crimson’s covers so was Phillips his choice as artist/designer? Or was it a result of the Fripp and Eno connection? If anyone knows the answer, please leave a comment.

Continue reading “Tom Phillips album covers”

The art of Ralph Koltai

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Ralph Koltai‘s contrasting of panels of corroded metal with smooth objects makes for some attractive combinations, reminding me of similar rough and smooth juxtapositions by artist and designer Russell Mills, notably on one of his Samuel Beckett covers and his design for Harold Budd and Brian Eno’s The Pearl. Koltai’s site also includes a gallery of his designs for theatre. Digital rust infiltrates my own work now and then via some photos I took of a Manchester railway bridge, the most recent use being in the background of the cover for Finch.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Finch posters
Samuel Beckett and Russell Mills
The art of Jo Whaley