I love some of these designs from the first 20 or so releases from Mo Wax by Ian ‘Swifty’ Swift. I’ve purposely excluded the more well known releases like RPM, DJ Shadow, Attica Blues and La Funk Mob that came to characterize the label later and focused on the less well remembered artists. The first 3 releases had stickers like obi-strips on white sleeves and later they were printed on the covers.
I follow Ian McQue on Twitter and have posted about him a couple of times now, his output and range never ceases to amaze me and he does these in a matter of hours. Here’s a collection of recent vehicles that sees a departure from his tugboat images of old.
Check his beautiful black & white work below and he does a fine line in scenery and twisted old trees too. Also he put out a new sketchbook last year, the brilliantly titled (or groan-inducing if you hate puns) ‘Mechs & The City’. His online store has just reopened with restocks of prints and two sketchbooks.
There’s been something in the air recently concerning (The) Rammellzee, firstly there was the old interview that surfaced, pressed up for last year’s Mo Wax exhibition. Then ‘Rammellzee‘ appeared on Twitter last month, despite passing away in 2010… most strange. I got word that this was something to do with Gamma Proforma and a forthcoming project was hinted at. Then this morning Dan Lish posted his take on early Wildstyle-era Ramm as part of his Egostrips series…
Then the bombshell: Gamma announces a new release entitled ‘Brainstorm’ from an unreleased album, ‘Cosmic Flush’, Rammellzee’s magnum opus, recorded before his death. This will be the first part of a set and this edition will consist of vinyl (with a remix by Divine Styler) and a print by Ian Kuali’i, released March 30th. Preorder HERE
Definitely something in the air.
Richard Littler‘s Scarfolk blog just keeps on giving, the latest entry is one of the best, a perfect balance of the horror and dark humour that the site thrives on coupled with excellent graphic creations to match. I can’t recommend the book enough and, if you pop into Forbidden Planet to buy one (in London at least), they also have a fine line in Scarfolk mugs, birthday cards and magnets too.
An expert in paper craft from Japan called (I think) uhu02 has made these incredibly detailed ships, droids and weapons from classic sci-fi and fantasy films. His/her uhu02 Paper Craft site “It is a production diary of precision Paper Craft (model) with a focus on items that appeared in the movie” has detailed photos and even downloadable plans to make them. Don’t think this is an easy few hours cutting, folding and gluing though, it’ll take you that long to get through his site.
There’s is so much to see, the detail on the Lunar Lander is just insane and what’s most impressive is the scale, most of the ships you can easily hold in one hand.
Original link from Sploid via the excellent Ian McQue
I’ve been wrestling with old laptops and copies of Freehand all day to try and open the original artwork for the ‘A Recipe For Disaster’ album. I managed to extract the original files from the first ever disc I burned back in 1997 which houses the first work I did for Ninja Tune on it. To think that the first designs were made in 1994 but I didn’t think to archive them until 1997 says a lot about how small the file sizes were back then. The first LP I ever designed for Ninja was 9 Lazy 9‘s ‘Electric Lazyland’ and it all fitted on a 1.4MB floppy disc!
So, ‘Recipe…’ came out in the Autumn of 1995 and I was using Aldus Freehand 3.1 to lay out my designs and deal with type. At the time there were four main programs: the ubiquitous Photoshop, the fiddly Quark Express (good for laying out books and magazines), Illustrator and Freehand. The last two weren’t that dissimilar and were both good at drawing in vectors but you could do decent layouts with them as long as you didn’t want to use reams of text across multiple pages. For some reason I learned Freehand at college instead of Illustrator so that’s what I stuck to, along with Photoshop to manipulate the images, and most Ninja sleeves were done using this in the 90’s and 00’s.
Along the way Freehand got bought by Macromedia and made some big jumps between versions which rewrote a lot of the internals apparently whilst still being backwards compatible with older versions. As with any applications, they’re at the mercy of the Operating Systems they’re made to run on and, through the years, Freehand had to make some big changes. It was finally bought by Adobe and then unceremoniously dumped with everything after Mavericks refusing to run the app. But even before this, getting older versions to open on newer Macs was a task and the files I recovered from 1995 just came up with ‘unsupported format’ messages when I tried to open them in Freehand 10, Illustrator and more.
Even on an old laptop running the OS 9 ‘Classic’ environment I had no joy until I remembered that Freehand 5.5 was a big upgrade and should be able to read the older FH3 files. But I couldn’t find a copy anywhere, not on archive discs or the web, the oldest version I had was Freehand 7. As a last resort I booted that up on the old laptop (all 24 MBs of app) and lo and behold, it worked! Here’s the lesson; don’t throw away those old applications that aren’t compatible with current operating systems, you never know when you might need them. What you see at the top is the low res preview of the DJ Food LP cover as it appeared this afternoon. I know it looks crappy but that’s all I need to work with and I’d rather have that than have to remake the whole thing from scratch.
This isn’t a ‘best of 2014′ list – just the things that I liked more than most, they’re not definitive or in an order other than the one I thought of them in.
• New Music:
The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia LP (Ghost Box)
Ghost of a Sabre Tooth Tiger – Midnight Sun LP (Chimera)
Jane Weaver – The Silver Globe LP (Bird)
Heliocentrics & Melvin Van Peebles – The Last Transmission LP (Now Again)
Jeremy Schmidt / Sinoia Caves – Beyond The Black Rainbow LP (Death Waltz)
Jokers of the Scene – End Scene LP (Throne of Canada)
Nico Motte – Rheologia EP (Antinote)
An-I – Kino-i 12” (Cititrax)
The Advisory Circle – From Out Here LP (Ghost Box)
Temples – Sun Structures / Sun Restructured LP (Heavenly)
Andy Votel / Doug Shipton – Polivox Orthodox mixtape (Finders Keepers)
Daniel Haaksman – Duck Rock – A Sonic Essay (mixtape)
tUnE-yArDs – Water Fountain 7″ (4AD)
Pye Corner Audio – The Black Mist EP (Front &Follow)
Mac McRaw feat. Audessey & Oxygen – B-Boy Bionics / Dust 12″ (Cold Rock Stuff)
Ukkonen – Change Time EP (Uncharted Audio)
Syd Arthur vs The Amorphous Androgynous LP (Monstrous Bubble Records)
John Carpenter / Alan Howarth – Halloween III (updated version) LP (Death Waltz)
Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Inside the Pleasuredome box set (ZTT/USM) (biased obviously)
The The – Soul Mining box set (Sony)
Z – Visions of Dune LP (Infiné)
• Sleeves / Packaging:
Astralasia – Wind On Water LP (Fruits De Mer)
Jack White – Lazaretto LP (Third Man)
(Not so much for the cover but for the whole package and vinyl cutting extravaganza)
Joe Mansfield – Beat Box: A Drum Machine Obsession (Gingko Press)
Andrew Lilies – The Equestrian Vortex 10″ (Death Waltz)
Temples – Sun Restructured LP (Lenticular sleeve) (Heavenly)
Various – Wild Style Breakbeats (7″s + book) (Kay-Dee)
Sage Francis, B. Dolan, Buddy Peace – Epic Beard Men 7″ (Blunt Force Trauma)
Rave Wars 3 – The Return of the Old School (7″ + Star Wars figure) (Balkan Vinyl)
Clone – Son of Octabred (Finders Keepers)
Sculpture – Plastic Infinite
The Soundcarriers – Entropicalia LP (Ghost Box)
• Books / Comics:
Prophet – Simon Roy & Brandon Graham / various artists (Image)
B.P.R.D. – Various (Dark Horse)
Punks – The Comic – Joshua Hale Fialkov & Kody Chamberlain (Image)
God Hates Astronauts – Ryan Browne (Image)
Black Science – Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera, Dean White (Image)
Hip Hop Family Tree 1&2 – Ed Piskor (Fantagraphics)
Sandman: Overture – Neil Gaiman & J. H. Williams III (Vertigo)
Discovering Scarfolk – Richard Littler (Ebury Press)
Dust & Grooves – Eilon Paz (self-published)
The Art of Smallfilms – Oliver Postgate, Peter Firmin, Jonny Trunk (Four Corners Books)
Urban Archaeology - 21 Years of Mo Wax – James Lavelle (Rizzoli International)
2000 TC – John Higgs (self-published)
2000ad / Judge Dredd The Megazine – Various (Rebellion)
Moosekid Comics – Various (self-published)
For Whom The Cowbell Tolls – Dan LeRoy (6623) (biased again)
• Films: (I didn’t watch too much this year sadly)
Blade Runner (finally saw it at the cinema)
Guardians of the Galaxy
Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary with Jodorowsky Q&A
The Cobbler & The Thief with Richard Williams Q&A
Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD documentary with Pat Mills, Kev O’Neill & crew Q&A
The Lego Movie
Ghost Box Night at the ICA
Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys
Jet Propelled Cinema – How Psychedelia Infected Hollywood Sci-Fi at the BFI
Touring the 3-Way Mix with Cheeba & Moneyshot
Cosmic Trigger – The Play
Meeting Brian Eno
Kid Koala‘s ‘Nufonia Must Fall’ show at the Roundhouse
Interviewing Matt Johnson at Rough Trade East
Future Shock gig at the Watershed, Bristol with Cheeba & Tom Lumen
Designing for Frankie Goes To Hollywood / ZTT
Space In This Place gig at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London
Welcome To The Pleasuredome playback at Sarm West Studios
Digital Revolution exhibition at the Barbican with the family
Visiting underground caves in Switzerland
4 deck AV show at Madrid Espacio with DK
One of my sons getting a drawing printed in the Phoenix comic
Ryoji Ikeda‘s ‘Spectra’ installation in the Queen Victoria Park
Adam Ant playing Dirk Wears White Sox at the Hammersmith Odeon
Crazy DJ weekend in Eketerinberg and Samara in Russia
Mike McMahon finally finishing my Dredd commission after 2 years.
Ben Coghill (agent)
DJs Cheeba & Moneyshot
Philip Marshall (designer), Ian Peel (writer) & Steve Bunyan (USM organiser)
Eilon Paz (photographer)
Carlos Ezquerra (artist)
Rob Williams (writer)
Jamie Smart (childen’s comic creator)
Hope & Greenwood (East Dulwich branch of the sweet shop)
• Looking forward to:
Renegades of Rhythm tour (DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist)
Mad Max : Fury Road
21st Century Tank Girl book
The Writing On The Wall – Roger Perry book
John Carpenter – Lost Themes LP
Create A Mess
Trevor Jackson – Format LP
The The – Hyena soundtrack
Prophet: Earth War
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The 2nd edition of the Dust & Grooves book by Eilon Paz arrived just before Xmas along with a beautiful set of 48 postcards, both in sturdy slipcases. Of course I’m biased but the quality in these are beyond the usual and when I say ‘postcards’ it’s a bit of an understatement because these large format cards are only one step away from an actual print in terms of quality. I’d be splitting up a great set if I ever actually sent any out into the world – you can get a set here along with the 2nd edition of the book (with extra Questlove interview) here.
The Future Sound of London ‘Artworks’ – 36 page A5 full colour booklet depicting FSOL’s art from the last 7 years. Hand numbered and limited to 250 copies (better hurry as mine is no. 240!) Booklet comes with a free gift download of 4 tracks (320kbps mp3) for £7.00 – Available here.
There’s been lot of online activity surrounding the Alien film franchise recently, specifically aimed at the original film. I don’t seem to be able to go a day without some new spin-off popping up, I’ve updated this post three times already.
You might have seen the recent Alien: Isolation game that takes the look of Ridley Scott‘s version and goes to great lengths to emulate it. The Art of the Title website has an extensive feature on what went into creating the look and design of the game here with some fascinating info and behind the scenes stuff. Just the opening title sequence alone is worth a watch (above – click the image to be taken to the site).
On the Alien: Isolation website there’s a whole host of Alien advent calendar goodies to get into, most pleasing to me being that you can now download parts of the comic that Henry Flint drew for the release around the time of SDCC. As well as that there are posters, concept art, game play tips and add-ons.
Poster posse have a great gallery of tribute posters to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the original and most, predictably, centre on the mood and tone of the debut. They’ve split the posters into three different phases and they can be viewed here PHASE 1 / PHASE 2 / PHASE 3.
If sound is your thing then Ambient Sleep Aids in the form of looped atmospherics and sound FX from Sci-Fi films are at your fingertips. Want to drift off to the sound of the Nostromo or the Death Star drifting through space? Someone called Crysknife007 has posted 20 minutes loops of just that.
and there’s more… check out this gorgeous fan image by Lord Mishkin which reminds me of John Bolton‘s work. Just look at that light source casting shadows and the reflection in the helmet, beautifully realised. She must be really knackered not to have clocked the Alien hanging from the rafters though…
I’ve saved the best post for last, I hope you have some time on your hands because this one goes way deeper than most. Dave Addey‘s Typeset In The Future site has published a feature on the graphic design of ‘Alien’ after his exploration of the typography in ‘Moon’ and ‘2001’.
It’s beyond nerdy in all the best ways – going from the opening titles to signage and on screen read outs on board the Nostromo. Clothing insignia, food packaging, warning signs and even keyboard labeling is covered, the last of which reveals some telling details about what the designers were reading at the time.
A version including 12″, 10” and 7” vinyl, CD, Mini CD, Cassette, USB, VHS, Mini Disc, DAT, 8-track and Reel-to-Reel will be available in February with standard vinyl and digital editions to follow. No idea on price yet but more info is here.
The latest album from Jon Brooks under his The Advisory Circle guise is his best yet. I feel confident in saying this, not only because it’s already received universal praise from others but because there’s something in ‘From Out Here’ that goes further than before. There’s a deeper sense of menace than previous, lighter, works, as well as that ‘remembered nostalgia’ feeling that you really have heard some of these songs before. As with Boards of Canada‘s best, relying more on the familiarity of sound textures than samples, Brooks transports us back to an unspecific time somewhere between the mid 60’s and the late 70’s.
Take a track like ‘Escape Lane’ for example; the opening motif recalling classic Carpenter / Howarth before the main chiming keyboard riff instantly evokes a forgotten library cue from a BBC schools play or educational programme. The kind of track that would be labelled “light, breezy, synthetic, optimistic… ‘ on the back of any library LP description. So far, so good, this is then followed by a much subtler, darker piece that recalls some of David Sylvian‘s soundscapes before swinging back into another light synth line, this time accompanied by acoustic guitar and piano. Then things get weird as we eavesdrop of a recording of someone sending a message back to a loved one, repeatedly referred to in a slightly stilted way as, “…darling”. It’s here that the phrase ‘from out here’ is uttered and presumably what inspired the album title. Further spoken word pieces appear; a disembodied voice intoning ‘pushing, pushing, pushing and purring’ and ‘2, 5, 9′ in a mix of Twin Peaks meets number station menace.
There are shades of old world nostalgia similar to Kraftwerk‘s ‘Radio Activity’ on tracks like ‘Experiment!’ with synthesized machines blowing steam and pumping pistons in the background. It continues on side 2 as Brooks conjurers themes from the kind of TV programmes that would start just as it was time for bed, the opening strains of which would be all you’d hear as you were ushered out of the living room and up the stairs, wondering what they could contain that wasn’t fit for children’s eyes. It’s also a distinctly British sound and approach, from the sonic tones to the accents of the spoken passages and nowhere near as dark as Jeremy Schmidt‘s similarly-themed ‘Beyond The Black Rainbow’ which piled on the horror.
Julian House‘s artwork has now moved to a point where he has defined a good portion of the visual stimulus associated with the Hauntological genre and his cover doesn’t shy away from including as many as possible. On receiving the LP my wife remarked, “oh is there a record of that book?” (referring to ‘Discovering Scarfolk’ by Richard Littler), so strong are the associated connections now. And make no mistake, that’s no bad thing, this is a perfect example of Hauntology right down to the sci-fi concept of patient experimentation and computer-generated society. All this is helped by track titles like ‘Discipline Before Data’, ‘Jessica Finds The Beach’ and references to ‘Triadex’ (a Triadex Muse was an old 70’s sequencer-based synthesizer) set in the old Monotype ‘Computer’ font.
It’s hard to pick a favourite track as they all work to form a larger picture, a complete work that’s all any composer could wish for in an age where albums are cherry-picked into a distilled form of ‘highlights’. Brooks has been on a roll this year with the highly personal ’52’ album on Clay Pipe Music, mastering work, mixes and a collaboration with Sean O’Hagan on the Other Voices series for Ghost Box. ‘From Out Here’ is my favourite though as it embodies everything I love about the label and it’ll be interesting to see where he takes things next. You can buy it direct from the label here and, although vinyl is my preferred format for all GB releases, the CD and DL have 3 extra tracks so I might have to get a second copy.
A couple of big design-related things happened this week – I’ve now finessed a site for the best of my design work over the last 20 years under the Openmind alias. You can check it out at www.openmindesign.uk – it’s not exhaustive and doesn’t contains all the extra info I provide in the design section of this site (look, it’s up there ^) but it offers a quick overview of some of the things I’ve done. Who knows, maybe you might even want my design work to grace your own objects?
Speaking of this site, it’s been undergoing a redesign, spring clean and update over the last few months as well as being made responsive so as to work better on mobiles, tablets and desktops. This has all been happening on a server elsewhere but should go live before Xmas. Don’t worry, everything will still be here (mostly) in the same place, it will just be easier to use, view and the Design and Discog sections will be fully up to date. It’s been 5 years since this version debuted and it’s never had an overhaul save for a couple of back end updates.
The other big design thing is the first part of an interview about the making of the Frankie Goes To Hollywood ‘Inside The Pleasuredome’ box set over on the Super Deluxe Editon website. Curator Ian Peel, co-designer Philip Marshall, Steve Bunyan from Union Sq Music and myself all discuss aspects of the thinking and approach to making the set with part two set to appear next week…
My good friend David Vallade has a new website, go have a look and commission him to draw something especially for you…
Christ this is good! If you love real Hip Hop then this is as real as it gets. Cold Rock Stuff with Audessey and Oxygen from Soundsci, mixes by Daily Diggers and The Process, sleeve by Mr Krum. Get it here.
Following on from the brief exhibition at the Southbank (featured here) ‘Build & Destroy’ is an exhibition of rare art works, proofs and merchandise from the Mo Wax archive. It will also feature new works and limited editions by various artists like Swifty, (who has been posting things on his Instagram recently) Futura and 3D who have worked with Mo Wax over the past 21 years. Build & Destroy also coincides with the major survey exhibition Post Pop: East Meets West at the Saatchi Gallery.
All of the works are available to buy and the exhibition is a rare opportunity for people to obtain original works and limited editions produced throughout the history of the label to date alongside newly commissioned pieces. More details here