Electronic Love

I’ve just received the most WONDERFUL Christmas gift from one of my oldest and dearest friends. If every you’ve asked yourself, “what is the perfect gift for the audiophile who has everything?” this is precisely the sort of gift you should consider.

This is the Electronic Love Blueprint: A History of Electronic Music by the Dorothy design collective – an electrical schematic of a theremin mapping 200 inventors, innovators, artists, composers spanning the entire history of recorded sound. Key pioneers featured include Léon Theremin, Bob Moog, Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin.

It loosely groups genres, from the obscure Musique Concrète (Pierre Schaeffer) to the better known Krautrock (Kraftwerk, Can, Tangerine Dream, Neu!, Faust, Cluster, Harmonia and Amon Düül II) Synthpop (Gary Numan, Human League, Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Pet Shop Boys) and Electronica (New Order, The Prodigy, Massive Attack, LCD Sound System and Daft Punk). There are also references to the experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop and favourite innovating record labels Mute and Warp.

This metallic silver screen print on 120gsm Keaykolour Royal Blue uncoated paper measures 60 x 80cm and will be the pride of my listening room.

I’ve ordered a UK frame and can’t wait to display it!

dorothy-104-electric-love_b-webdorothy-104-electric-love_2-webdorothy-104-electric-love_4-webdorothy-104-electric-love_3-webdorothy-104-electric-love_h-web

Breaking the Fourth Wall (Typographic LPs)

Einmusik - Kleine Nachtmusik (2005)

I downloaded the image above from Marshall Watson back in 2005. Marshall used to travel the dirtyforum back in the day and won the Underworld remix contest for his version of “Bird 1”). While in 2005 it was a challenge to identify the single he holds in the shot, times have certainly changed by 2016.  Feeding the image into Google’s reverse image search now immediately produces the single’s credits.

The album is Einmusik – “Kleine Nachtmusik” (“A Little Night Music”) – minimal tech-house distributed by Germany’s famous Kompakt label.  I have to applaud this cover for it’s ballsy simplicity, even though I know it’s been done before.  After sampling the single on YouTube eleven years after I’d first spotting the cover I decided it was just the sort of thing I should have in my collection.  A few moments later I secured a clean copy from a collector in the US and this evening it arrived at my door.  It’s amazing how far music collectors have come with the empowerment of the digital age.

Here’s XTC’s second studio LP from 1978 – Go 2.  For those unfamiliar with this record, the text continues and fills the entire reverse side of the LP sleeve.

XTC - Go 2 (1978)

Most of the Remixes… by Soulwax is another typographical cover, this one from 2007. The cover clocks in 552 characters of text.

Soulwax Remixes aka_Most Of The Remixes We've Made For Other People Over The Years Except For The One (2007)

Dubstep artist, Skream opted for a humorously post-modern fourth-wall cover for Skream presents The Freeizm Album in 2010.

_Skream ‎– The Freeizm Album (2010)

And no feature on typographic covers is complete without mentioning Howlin’ Wolf…

Howlin' Wolf ‎– The Howlin' Wolf Album (1969)

EDIT: A reader kindly informed me that I’d made at least one glaring omission – and I felt it was my duty to correct the error.  Here is the fantastic The Faust Tapes from 1973!

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And tonight I’m proud to add“Kleine Nachtmusik” to my collection… eleven years in the making.  Here’s my newly-acquired copy, fittingly pictured beside an image of Karl Hyde.

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If you know of any similar covers I’d love to see ’em!

5’50” of Pop – The Sound of Muzak

5'50'' of Pop

As an archivist of historically significant recordings, I thrive on sound that is experimental, that tests the limits of and challenges the very definition of what we call music.  I’m grateful that, for most hours of the day, I have the freedom to immerse myself in cerebral and inspiring sounds.

But once upon a time, not so very long ago, I worked a job where that sort of musical luxury was the stuff of pure fantasy.  For I, like so many of my young peers, spent each day in a world of retail Muzak.

Perhaps you’ve worked a similar job at one point of your life.  Perhaps you see no problem with Muzak as you can simply, “tune it out.”  Unfortunately, we are not all so lucky.

The Sound of Muzak

The Sound of Muzak

The soundtrack of my former workplace was a Muzak station comprising 100 pop songs repeated ad infinitum for the entirety of my retail servitude.   It was eight hours a day of Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Shania Twain, Reba McEntire, Nickelback and Amy Grant… enough to drive any reasonable man insane.  But instead of succumbing to the madness, I made it a personal mission to transform my situation into something expressive and artful.

The result was 5’50” of Pop – a complex, atonal and aggressive short film effectively simulating the experience of living inside a forty-hour loop of teen pop-idols.  5’50” of Pop aims to transform formulaic, predictable, homogeneous pop music into something challenging, something arresting, and something dauntingly complex.

The film composites the music videos for every one of the songs I heard each day… played from start to finish… all at the same time.  The result is a cacophonous stream of abstract noise and an indiscernible collage of light and shadow, presenting the viewer with a visual and auditory experience completely unlike the content of which it was composed.

If you’ve never had the misfortune of working retail, please indulge me, for a mere 5’50” of Pop.

Embittered pretension aside, 5’50” is first a reactionary piece, but also serves as an honest criticism of the pop music status quo.  Contemporary pop is made to be instantly forgotten and shuffled through in a constant stream of predictability and irreverence.  More product than poetry, its cookie-cutter lyricism and melodic structure have abandoned all that made-great the genres it’s co-opted and mimicked in empty pantomime.

Thankfully, I’ve since freed myself from that terrible environment, and now spend my days soaking-in Frippertronic solos and tape music soundscapes.  So to any of my readers still-trapped in a similarly vapid and soulless work environ; take heart.  There are scores of beautiful music waiting for you.  Until then, keep tuning in.  The music will set you free.

[NOTE: Due to copyright claims from Warner Music and the Universal Music Group, this video is not available in Germany and may include advertisements.]

The World’s Most Beautifully Ugly Music

I’m so happy to bring you this brief but magnificent post before my massive birthday vinyl and equipment update which I promise is coming just as soon as the FedEx man delivers.

As you may already know I’ve never taken any courses in music theory, music appreciation, or music history.  Still I am immeasurably passionate about each of these subjects and plan to audit courses in the future if at all possible.

One question that has recently plagued my mind as I research experimental and avant-garde music is the grand question, “what makes a composition beautiful or repulsive?”

At first I tried to approach the question scientifically.  I hypothesized that a set of characteristics about a piece might be directly proportional to it’s value.  (Of course this is incorrect, I just wanted to eliminate possibilities to narrow my solution set.)  What I kept coming back to was that most listeners in the west prefer the familiarity, order, and harmony of short, common-key verse-chorus-verse expressions in 4/4 time.  Then there are others like myself who lust for the dissonance, simulated chaos, and less-structured qualities of more experimental and micro-tonal music.

My girlfriend has provided me with significant figures of philosophy and art history who wrote on the subject of beauty, and I will be exploring them in the months ahead.

This evening’s research surrounded the Fibonacci Sequence and the golden mean and their influence on musical composition.  The search brought me to this outstanding Ted Talk, intriguingly titled, The World’s Ugliest Music!

Do not miss this fantastic clip!

Published in: on July 10, 2012 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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Finest Examples of Where Music Meets Design (3 of 3)

Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman was a milestone in the history of electronic music. It was the first thing I’d ever heard that wasn’t top 40 pop radio and it blew my mind.  If “Born Slippy” (yes, that song from Trainspotting) is all you know of Underworld, do yourself a favor and give “Dark and Long,” “Dirty Epic” and “Cowgirl” a solid listen.  The most accurate term I’ve found for this album so far has been “progressive house” and if you follow the evolution of their sound from their synth-pop beginnings in ’78 to their 2011 album, Barking you’ll see what I mean.  Dubnobass has only gotten better with age.

Just as Lemon Jelly’s art is created by Airside, Karl Hyde (half of Underworld) works for a similarly innovative design collective called Tomato.  The team is responsible for Underworld’s incredible typographical album art. The very first moment I saw this album I knew I had to pursue a degree in the field of graphic design, and I’ve never looked back. 261 Underworld releases later, it’s led me to delve deep into the history of ambient and electronic music, studying everything from Satie and Stockhausen to Cage and Eno and a thousand other artists.   This album changed my life.

Here is the elusive 1993 video for “Cowgirl,” from the Footwear Repairs by Craftsmen at Competitive Prices VHS.

Click here to view my photos of the album’s glorious packaging.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 12:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Finest Examples of Where Music Meets Design (2 of 3)

Coming in second place for my all time favorite album designs is Lost Horizons, also by Lemon Jelly.  (Don’t worry – I promise I’ve saved the #1 slot for another wonderful duo.)

Upon hearing a track from this album playing in an indie record shop back in 2002, I promptly purchased both of their CDs.  Over the next ten years I’d pick up 90 of their live shows, 7″ singles, and now finally the two albums that got me started, on vinyl (at last!)

The triple gatefold artwork was originally available as a beautiful 50″ print suitable for framing.  I hope to one day have it on my wall.

For a taste of their style both musically and graphically check out Airside’s video for the song I heard in the shop – “Nice Weather For Ducks.”

Click here to view my photos of the album’s glorious packaging.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Finest Examples of Where Music Meets Design (1 of 3)

I wanted to present three albums which not only have outstanding music but also feature exceptional design concepts in their packaging.

Coming in third in my all time favorite album designs is Lemonjelly.ky.

I’ve been after this record for years and today it’s finally mine!

After the release of Lemon Jelly’s first three EPs, Lemonjelly.ky debuted in 2000 as their first proper album.   A declarative sticker on the cover proclaimed, ” if you already own these EPs there is NO REASON for you to buy this product.”

Reviewers often compare their blissful electronic sound to the likes of Zero 7, Boards of Canada and Mr. Scruff, but what separates Lemon Jelly from other groups is their creative edge and the fact that you just can’t stay in a bad mood when listening to them.

The packaging for every one of their albums and singles were designed by Fred Deakin (half of Lemon Jelly) and his award-winning design company, Airside.  Their colorful style is instantly recognizable wherever it appears, from print ads to music videos.

Below are a few tracks from the album.

Click here to view my photos of the album’s glorious packaging.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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