27 Nov, 2013

Record sleeves of the month

Posted by: admin In: Creative Review

A look at the most striking sleeve designs we’ve spotted in the past few weeks, including artwork for Mogwai, Arcade Fire and The Jezabels.

The Jezabels

The cover for Australian band The Jezabels’ forthcoming album, The Brink, features Polish artist Jarek Puczel’s painting, Lovers and was designed by Sydney-based art director Christopher Doyle. Doyle has worked on all of the band’s album covers to date, including Prisoners, which received a Best Cover Art nomination at last year’s Australian Record Industry Awards.

Label: MGM Distribution

Arcade Fire

The artwork for Arcade Fire’s fourth album, Reflektor, was designed by creative director Caroline Robert (featured in CR as one to watch in 2011). The cover image is of Auguste Rodin’s sculpture, Orphée et Eurydice, which depicts the Greek mythological hero, Orpheus.

“Orpheus’ myth inspired [the band] while writing some of their songs. They were also talking a lot about the influence of Caribbean culture on their music…[and] wanted to create a clash between those two worlds: super classic and beautiful versus raw and spontaneous,” explains Robert.

The idea to use a hologram design came out of discussions the band had about the death of CDs, she adds. “They wanted to use old CDs as reflectors during live performances…a clash between the fact that this shiny, multicolour object is the symbol of obsolescence. Paradoxically, I wanted to make a CD jacket that people would like to have and not throw away in five years – something they would keep like treasure – so the idea that the artwork should be a reflector came naturally,” she adds.

Label: Merge


Glasgow DJ Debukas’ debut album, I Am Machinery, features a custom typeface designed by Richard Robinson and fluorescent cover in Pantone shade 811. Robinson initially planned on using kaleidoscope imagery like he had for earlier Debukas EPs, but decided on a change of artistic direction when “nothing seemed to strike a chord.”

“I decided that rather than continue with the image based approach, I would rework the original typeface I had been using – it was quite difficult to read, and had lots of characters I didn’t really like,” he says. “I ended up reworking the entire alphabet and then realised what I had created was striking enough to become the basis of the artwork.”

“With this in mind, I looked at ways to enhance the machinery idea from the title and built a grid that would give the whole thing more weight and energy,” he adds.

The orange cover has been twinned with yellow and blue as a lower-cost alternative to using flourescent shades throughout, and both colours have been used in single releases from the album to create a unified campaign, says Robinson.

Label: 2020Vision


Machinedrum (music producer Travis Stewart)’s album, Vapor City, is inspired by his recurring dream of waking up in a mansion with friends and family before travelling around districts in an unknown city. Each song represents a different district, and the artwork includes an illustration to accompany each track.

The artwork was designed by Dominic Flannigan and Éclair Fifi at LuckyMe Arts. To create it, Flannigan and Stewart mapped the virtual city, then took photographs to evoke each district and screenprinted the images. “We then asked Eclair to hand render pointillised and Japanese brush illustrations of them to try break down any solid lines – to make the work feel more dream like. Our final step was to screenprint again,” explains Flannigan.

The typeface is a mixture of Berlin and New York underground signage – Stewart’s home cities – and Flannigan and Stewart also devised a Vapor City ‘seal’ that is used throughout the artwork.

“Having worked closely with Travis as a creative director since 2010, we maintain a certain synergy for how his music ‘looks’. He’s continued to be my favourite artist to work with – approaching each project with a formed concept and palette. This is exactly the sort of brief I love, [because] the idea is there, it’s formed, and my job is to make some aesthetic decisions…to merely convey his vision,” adds Flannigan.

Label: Ninjatune / LuckyMe


The unsettling cover image for Poliça’s album Shulasmith features a woman with her back turned to the camera and what appears to be blood trickling from her head. In fact, it’s red hair dye, and the woman pictured is JoLynn Garnes, who works with the band.

The image was taken by band member Isaac Gale. Some found it offensive – it was censored in some media reports and a pixellated version was also released – but it is certainly striking and memorable.

“I had seen JoLynn dye her hair many times and knew I had to shoot the entire process…she says she could be a lot less messy about it, but doesn’t care – I just love this totally nonchalant ritual the looks so brutal and gory and beautiful,” explains Gale. “When she’s washing the dye out, it’s total horror movie stuff with red running down her skin and the tub filling up.”

“Channy [Leaneagh] and Ryan [Olson] and I were going through my stuff looking for photos that might fit for the album art and when we got to that series it was instantaneous: that’s it,” he says.

“The decision to use that photo, cut it out and place it on blue was all figured out in 2 minutes. I kinda can’t believe the cover was censored but not the back image [of red trickling on to Garnes’ feet]. That’s the scarier one to me,” he says.

Design: Andrea Hyde
Label: Memphis Industries

Om Unit

Visual artist John Leigh, also known as Karborn, designed the striking artwork for Om Unit (Jim Cole)’s album, Threads. “Om Unit presented me with a kind of Dadaist poem dealing with what he saw as key themes for the piece,” says Leigh.

“The body of the work was created in a glycerine bath I built over my Epson 1000xl A3 scanner, layering in dried leaves of paint, tippex, flowers, petals and gold leaf directly into inches of semi-frozen glycerine. The image was completed in a single scanner exposure, says Leigh – but the pair did have a run in with police after ordering vast quantities of glycerine to a warehouse in Leytonstone, East London.

Label: Civil Music


Rave Tapes is the fifth release designer Dave Thomas has worked on for Glasgow band Mogwai. The band usually have a photograph or film still in mind for artwork, he says, but for Rave Tapes, they were looking for something more graphic.

“It started with a few members sending me things that they liked visually as inspiration,” explains Thomas. Suggested visuals included old sci-fi illustrations and films – in particular, Phase IV, which was directed by Saul Bass. “Of course, that source material has been used a lot, so it was about [using it] in a way that the band felt was personal to them and represented their ideas,” he adds.

Thomas looked to the recurring shapes and motifs in 1960s and 70s sci-fi films – such as octagons – and when he discovered the album would be named Rave Tapes, began researching the design of analogue reel to reel tape boxes and diagrams of wave forms.

“I started to play with illustrations that took those shapes as a starting point and went back to the band with a number of designs, ranging from straight geometric patterns to something more illustrative and maybe inspired by a loose psychedelic of semi-abstract direction,” he says. “Initially I saw it all as very much a monotone world that the imagery existed in, but the band felt that having something more colourful would capture the mood of the album more.”

Thomas worked with each member of Mogwai on the artwork – which he says is unusual for a band but “allows the design to go in interesting directions that otherwise might not have been taken”.

He has created a series of designs to work alongside the central image – both the CD and LP versions come with a die cut in the front cover and interchangeable inserts which can be swapped to change the eye motif on the cover. A limited edition including a set of three art prints, a 7″ laser etched disc, a pink 12″ vinyl and a book of photographs taken by Steve Gullick while the band were recording the album will also be released in January.

Label: Rock Action Records

If you’ve designed album art recently and would like to submit your work, contact rachael.steven@centaur.co.uk, or leave a comment if you’ve spotted any other great examples.

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