Mini CDs #7: XTC – Oranges & Lemons

XTC front
This beautifully unique object is possibly the first example of a full album presented across three mini CDs, housed in a fragile cigarette-sized box. Sporting a Yellow Submarine-esque flip up cover, the discs are stacked as you see them below in tiered slots but the box is easy to crush or tear – as you can see here. I always found it odd that they did this album after two Dukes of the Stratosphear LPs but maybe they had dipped their toes in the psychedelic waters enough to put it out as XTC by this time.XTC inside
XTC 3 CDs 2 XTC back

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Mini CDs #6: The The – Gravitate To Me

Gravitate frontThe post-Mind Bomb’ single, again released on multiple formats including 7″, cassette, two 12″s and another 12″ box set with photos, postcard and stencil, it also came as a 3″ CD in downscaled fold out card sleeve with pocket for the disc. It’s horribly fragile, isn’t easy to keep in good shape 30 years on and hasn’t any exclusive material. I’m not sure whether the German stamp on the inner cover is the previous owner’s or a shop address.

Gravitate openGravitate insideGravitate back

Buro Destruct 4 book kickstarter

Buro-Destruct-4-00_GIF
Those lovely guys from Buro Destruct in Bern, Switzerland have just launched a kickstarter for their 4th collection of design work (see excerpts above and below). I first became aware of them in the mid 90’s when we started touring Europe and when we played at the Reitschule in Bern the flyers and posters plastered over the walls were of a higher standard than normal. This was in large due to Buro Destruct who provided a lot of the work and it didn’t take longer for their work to feature in magazines and books of the time as well as their own publications collecting the work.
They’re now onto the 4th volume, featuring 12 years of work (volume 3 was back in 2009) including unused work, intermediate steps and experiments along the way. The softcover book will be 256 pages long and you can support the kickstarter here although only 5 of the early bird discounted price copies are left as I write this.

Buro-Destruct-4-08 Buro-Destruct-4-10 Buro-Destruct-4-11 Buro-Destruct-4-12 Buro-Destruct-4-13

Mini CDs #5: The The – The Beaten Generation

The The Beaten cover
The The‘s eagerly-awaited single, preceding their ‘Mind Bomb’ album and including the first fixed line up of a band Matt Johnson had assembled to tour with, including a certain Johnny Marr. Released on multiple formats including 7″, two 12″s and a 12″ box set with postcards and badge, it also came as a 3″ CD that downscaled the box set with fold out insert. It’s a cute little item but doesn’t have any material not on other formats and is hard to find in good shape.

The The Beaten inside 2 The The Beaten insideThe The Beaten back

The New Obsolescents LP cover process 2 – Cover assembly

TNO Printed stack

For the first part of this process and a little back story, see Part 1

TNO selection

Once Jonas Ranson at paperHAUS had screen printed each panel during the summer of 2020 it was down to me to assemble them. Each sheet was 18″ x 18″, sadly not large enough to fold round into a full LP sleeve, so each panel had to be trimmed to a 12” x 12” size and painstakingly glued to each already printed sleeve – 300 of them.

TNO cutting

I’d specified that the designs be printed dead centre of each pattern to take advantage of the symmetrical nature of the cover graphic so there were lots of offcuts (which will be used somehow on future projects).

TNO offcuts

This was all done sometime during the Autumn of 2020 in my studio while we waited for the vinyl to come back from the pressing plant. The original plan had been for Colin at Castles in Space and I to then rent a bigger space for a day and glue the foil panels to each sleeve but I quickly realised that this just wasn’t going to be possible in such a short time. The next lockdown put a stop to any thoughts of that anyway.

Eventually the vinyl turned up and Colin arrived one evening with 17 boxes of covers in the back of his car and, in a socially distanced handover, I hauled them up to my studio.

TNO plain

Just after the Xmas period, during the 3rd lockdown, I began the extremely long task of gluing a panel to each sleeve, padding every cover out with a card square then laying them between newsprint sheets to avoid anything sticking while drying. The glue would start to curl the card within about a minute as it dried and started to contract so it was imperative to press them flat under weights.

TNO sticking beginsTNO sticking 2

I could average two boxes of 17 a day in two shifts by the end; one box first thing in the morning then leave to dry. Once stuck they were inspected for marks, sleeved in PVC outers and then boxed. Clean the area, do another box before bed and leave to dry in a stack overnight. By the end I could do one box in under 50 minutes, below is the last box on the 8th or 9th day.

TNO Last boxTNO Boxes done

As a nod to the site of the original performance recordings at the Museum of London, with moon rock bean bags and a space travel theme, we decided on a silver and black hybrid moon surface effect for the vinyl. The whole process of making the sleeves probably took longer than the whole album but I couldn’t be happier with the results, I doubt it’ll see a repress in this state as I’m told the foil stocks are virtually gone now but it was worth it.

TNO Hyperspace
Hyperspace

TNO Spiral
Spiral

TNO Starburst
Starburst

TNO Cross
Cross

TNO Curls
Swirls

TNO Back

The New Obsolescents LP cover process 1 – Screenprinting

L1340496
Seeing as The New Obsolescents album is up for pre order today I thought I’d break down how we made the cover as it was quite an involved job using obsolete materials and analogue processes without the aid of automation. Part of the concept behind the group name is referencing the use of largely obsolete practices and equipment and I thought I’d carry this on with the artwork. This post is about the printing and there’s another about the assembly here.
L1340497
I met Jonas Ranson a couple of years back when I got him to print a poster for the De:tuned 10th anniversary exclusive via Bleep (I think they even have some left). It was a complex 6 colour job and I was impressed with how diligently he worked to get it as good as possible using tests to determine the best results and revising screens with me after we both agree the first tests didn’t look right. So the sleeves for The New Obsolescents LP cover required a similar touch as this was printing onto delicate foil covered card that marked if you ran a fingernail across it.

L1340425
To rewind slightly, since discovering the Philips 21st Century Prospective series of French musique concrete LPs on tour in Europe the 90s I’d been fantasizing about one day making a record with a Héliophore patterned silver foil cover. The patterns etched in the covers are achieved by minute differences in the angles of the foil coating which then reflect the light and appear to animate when moved. These legendary and increasingly expensive LPs contain critical works from an international array of leading artists in the tape and electro acoustic field, spearheaded by Pierre Henry who also released many of his own works on the label.

L1340504
Tracking down the company who made the original Philips covers in France led to a dead end many years ago as they had long ceased to exist so I gave up hope. Unknown to me a British company had managed to replicate the process under the name Dufex in the UK. Sadly they’d also wound up business in 2019 but via a chance encounter on a separate project I managed to find the final stocks of card from the business at a lighting company so I filed that away for future use.

L1340505
Once The New Obsolescents’ album was in the bag we started to think about artwork and I knew that this collision of tape loops and turntablism was the perfect record to sleeve in foil as a homage to the Philips series. Those familiar with the originals would immediately make the visual connection and it would set the tone for the sounds contained inside as the group name would be unfamiliar to most. When we sent the album out to record labels it included a mock up of the cover art with foil and that was part of the package we wanted to produce. Colin Morrison at Castles in Space was fully on board with the sleeve idea from the beginning and it’s a testament to his belief in the project that he was prepared to trust me with the whole process despite the considerable extra costs.

L1340514
Ordering 300 sheets in five different designs, I gave them to Jonas at paperHAUS who carefully but expertly screen printed each panel with the cover design, making sure not to scratch the extremely delicate foil. I specified that the designs be printed dead centre to take advantage of the symmetrical nature of the cover graphic and asked Jonas to document the process as I wasn’t allowed in the studio due to lockdown restrictions at the time. Many thanks to Jonas, these are his beautiful photos of the job and you can contact him and see his work at www.jonasranson.com/paperhouse

 

L1340521 L1340432

L1340431L1340519 L1340508 L1340509 L1340528L1340527
All photos © Jonas Ranson 2020

Mini CDs #4: Yazz & The Plastic Population – The Only Way Is Up

Coldcut Only Way is front
This US CD single is unfortunately missing part of its cover, it was part of a long box as can be seen in the bottom photo. The extended UK mix and the Bam Bam remix feature from both of the UK 12″s but the most interesting thing about this release is the Acid Dub mix by Justin Strauss and Murray Elias which was exclusive to the US releases and not featured on any European editions. It all starts getting interesting around the 3.50 mark

Coldcut Only Way is back Coldcut Only Way is disc TOWIU long back

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Zodiac posters by Funky Features, 1967

FF Sagittarius
(images and text adapted from the pbagalleries website)
A complete set of original 12 Zodiac Astrology Star Sign Posters, commissioned by Jack Leahy (“Funky Jack”), of San Francisco’s Funky Features, in 1967. Funky Features was originally a home recording studio in an Edwardian house that quickly became a popular recording location for Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cold Blood, Steve Miller, and others. Leahy also went on to do artwork for a number of motion pictures, airbrushing the Starship Enterprise for the first Star Trek film. Each poster is by a different artist, uniquely capturing the heyday of San Francisco’s counterculture. Artists include Dick Moore, Tommy Dixon, Lee and Shirley Goddard, Robert McClay, Fred Adams, Primo Angel, Jim Blashfield, and others. Complete sets of all 12 posters are extremely rare, especially in this condition.

Funky Features logoFF credit Robert McClayFF Gemini FF TaurusFF LeoFF LibraFF Pisces FF VirgoFF Scorpio

FF Aquarius FF Aries FF Cancer FF Capricorn

The Mercier Press record label design

Challenge of Change

Hipped in part to this label last year by collector Andrew Divine, I have been collecting images of the Irish imprint’s output from all the sources I could find on the web. Mercier Press, the famous Irish book publisher founded after WW2, also released many religious spoken word records from the 60s onwards under its own name and under their Mercier Catholic Record Club banner. In the 1960s and 70s the Mercier paperback books had a distinctive cover style which usually consisted of an illustration, in both pen & ink and brush & ink, and always in two colours.

The Dutch designer Cor Klaasen who had studied in Germany and Switzerland before coming to Ireland was Mercier’s main cover designer as well as the artist John Skelton (1925-2009) – Skelton worked as an art director and book illustrator before concentrating full-time on painting in 1975. The record labels mirrored this beautiful sense of design and graphic identity of the books with clean cut illustrations and vertically or horizontally split covers delineating each side of the album. There are even more on this Flickr page

Facing Up 2 Vocation is 2 Is Community necessary Single Mindedness Understanding our vocation Lightening Out Burden Hazards 2 God Loves Us Adaptation & Renewal

Community Worship blue Community Worship red Death & Resurrection Folk songs 1 Folk songs 2 Light of the World Message from the manger Mary, her role Our Christmas Religion Today
Euchrist 2 copy Seeking New Forms The Church Authority & Obedience yellow The Church blue The Church Christ among us orange The Church Kingdom of God greenNot My Will The Midnight Court The West WindWhat Is a religious Why The Old Testament Theology Issues Today green Theology Issues Today pink Theology Issues Today purple Theology Issues Today yellow True Prayer orange True Prayer pink

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Mini CDs #3: Coldcut – Stop That Crazy Thing

CC Stop That front

An early example of packaging that attempted to forma the 3″ CD into a 5″ size, sadly destined to fail but a beautiful attempt nevertheless. The mini gatefold sleeve housed the CD and then one flap was supposed to be inserted into the slit just below the COLDCUT logo and this would secure the cover to the plastic border. A nice idea but in practice the weak cardboard sleeve would weaken and tear at the corners, weighed down by the rest of the cover.

CC Stop That back

The plastic would bend at the corners too and it must have been a pain to assemble. This release has the exclusive ‘vocal dub mix’ of the title track and lovely design by Mark Porter using the illustration by Michael Bartalos who later also made the original Ninja Tune logo in a similar style. It was also released as a mini CD in Germany but in a mini CD case with inlay and the same tracklist as the 12″.

CC Stop That inside 2 CC Stop That inside 3C Stop That inside 4

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Announcing: The Superceded Sounds of… The New Obsolescents

Presented for your delectation, a brand new deep space travelogue from the collective minds of DJ Food and Howlround. A new collaborative group release that I’m part of…

The Superceded Sounds of… The New Obsolescents

Format: 12” Coloured Vinyl LP in Screen Printed Foil Board Sleeve. Hand Assembled by DJ Food

Cat No: CiS069

Released: 26th February, 2021 – Pre-order Feb 12th (I’ll post the link when it’s live)

Genre: Electronic / Turntables / Tape Music / Psychedelic / Ambient / Experimental

This album began life four years ago when the trio of Strictly Kev, Robin The Fog and Chris Weaver were tasked by Jonny Trunk with providing an all-night immersive soundtrack for the mammoth ‘Museum Of Last Parties’ extravaganza in the Museum of London’s Torch Room. Setting up their vintage reel to reel tape machines, turntables and various FX units in the very shadow of the torch that became the icon of the 2012 Olympics, the trio set about creating a soundtrack worthy of champions.

Strange new worlds conjured from obsolete media, a vision of the future constructed live using nothing but vintage analogue technology and a sense of adventure.

With a constant stream of revellers stopping by to lounge on moon-shaped cushions and enjoy this interstellar soundtrack being woven right before their ears, the trio amassed almost four hours of improvised oddities that night. It wasn’t until the spring of 2020 when they suddenly each found themselves at home with all plans cancelled and a LOT of spare time that the tapes were resurrected and the album started to take shape.

The album is presented in an extraordinary sleeve, hand assembled by Strictly Kev, who explains, “Since discovering the Philips 21st Century Prospective series of French musique concrete LPs on tour in European the 90s I’ve been fantasising about one day making a record with a Héliophore patterned silver foil cover. The patterns etched in the covers are achieved by minute differences in the angles of the foil coating which then reflects the light and appears to animate when moved. These legendary and increasingly expensive LPs contained critical works from an international array of leading artists in the tape and electro acoustic field, spearheaded by Pierre Henry who also released many of his own works on the label.

Tracking down the company who made the original Philips covers in France led to a dead end as they had long ceased to exist so I gave up hope. Unknown to me a British company had managed to replicate the process under the name Dufex in the UK. Sadly they’d also wound up business in 2019 but via a chance encounter on a separate project I managed to find the final stocks of card from the business at a lighting company.

Once The New Obsolescents’ album was in the bag we started to think about artwork and I knew that this collision of tape loops and turntablism was the perfect record to sleeve in foil as a homage to the Philips series. Those familiar with the originals would immediately make the visual connection and it would set the tone for the sounds contained inside as the group name would be unfamiliar to most.

Colin at Castles in Space was fully on board with the sleeve idea from the beginning and it’s a testament to his belief in the project that he was prepared to trust me with the whole process despite the considerable extra costs. Procuring 300 sheets in five different designs, I gave them to Jonas Ranson at paperHAUS who carefully but expertly screen printed each panel with the cover design. Each sheet was then cut to a 12”x12” size and painstakingly glued to each sleeve, pressed while drying and sleeved in PVC outers, making sure not to scratch the foil which is extremely delicate.

As a nod to the site of the original performance recordings at the Museum of London, with moon rock bean bags and a space travel theme, we decided on a silver and black hybrid moon surface effect for the vinyl. The whole process of making the sleeves probably took longer than the whole album but I couldn’t be happier with the results, it was worth it.”

Kev has tagged the five variants of the foil board sleeves as “Spiral’, “Starburst’, “Cross’, “Swirls’ and “Hyperspace”!

This extraordinary and unique album is available to pre-order directly from Castles in Space from 12th February for a full release on 26th February.

Nick Taylor Space Is The Place and Synthesizer zines

Synth coverSynth 5Synth 4Synth 2 Synth 3Synth 6

Nick Taylor at Spectral Studio has recently put up a load of new items for sale in his shop including the long-time-coming Brief But Electrifying History of the Synthesizer zine and a new tribute zine to various sonic pioneers entitled ‘Space Is The Place’. The former is a gorgeous green and red screen printed landscape booklet covering key sound synthesizing inventions from the last 100 or so years including QR codes that link to YouTube or Spotify to listen to the instruments.
The latter is a black and silver square, concertina folded look at six different sonic pioneers from Sun Ra to Moondog, each with a small piece on the reverse and sealed with a tracing paper strip. Nick has published several things like this before, namely the ‘Sisters in Sound’ zine from 5 years ago – all of which (and more) can be found in his Etsy shop here.

SITP cover SITP 2 SITP 3 SITP 4 SITP 5

Mini CDs #2: Todd Terry productions

Swan Lake front:CD

A couple of Todd Terry productions licensed to Champion in the UK with unique design once again by Trevor Jackson at Bite It!. Unlike the Eric B & Rakim single last week, the Swan Lake release is in a 5″ CD sleeve with an adaptor ring to play the CD in a regular machine and the cover has just been shrunk wholesale from the vinyl artwork. A sticker has been applied over the original catalogue number with a new CD prefix and the text is so tiny it’s virtually indistinguishable. The CD repeats the regular 12″ tracklist, there’s also a German mini CD single but the artwork has been replaced with something else.

Swan Lake CDSwan Lake back

The Black Riot ‘A Day in The Life’ CD is in a mini 3″ sleeve and I’m yet to find one of these so have nicked images from Discogs. The chances of ever finding one of these in the racks is remote and it repeats the standard 12″ tracklist as well. Look at that tiny text though, you can see why they didn’t catch on, these were pocket-sized, although we can now carry our whole music collections around in our pockets if we choose. Certain CD players had a 3″ dip in the tray that would accommodate the smaller discs and with some modern day players you just fit the disc over a centre spindle.
Black Riot frontBlack Riot discBlack Riot back

Zodiac Posters by Simboli Design, 1969

Full set 2 In my periodic searches for graphic material from the late 60s I came across several sellers on eBay offering these lovely zodiac posters for sale. I did some digging and found decent resolution copies of most of them and a bit of info about their origins. In 1969, Poster Prints commissioned Simboli Design Gerry & Joe Simboli – to create a line of graphically strong and colourful zodiac posters, which were sold worldwide. There seems to have been two different designs for Gemini for some reason but finding an original of the fire-headed twins seems impossible, their website seems to suggest it’s a new design.

Gemini 2

Paul Smith, the UK fashion designer, found the posters on a website and used them for a line of casual clothing for Neiman Marcus in 2004. Recently, the posters were also used on the set of the HBO series, Vinyl, produced by Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger.

1 Abstract Leo 2 Abstract Cancer poster 3 Abstract Taurus 4 Abstract Virgo 5 Abstract Scorpio 6 Abstract Libra poster 7 Abstract Aries 8 Abstract Pisces 9 Abstract Sagittarius 10 Abstract Aquariius 1969 Astrology Gerry & Joe Simboli 11 Abstract Gemini 12 Abstract Capricorn

Simboli have a website and they sell some of the originals and Gicleé repros via Etsy, dimensions are 12″x18″ with additional 1″ border for matte. They also have other sets themed around Anti-War, Tea, Coffee, some great logo designs, toys and this lovely robot which was created at some point in the 70s.
There are several more zodiac set by different designers from this era out there that I’ll be posting as I find complete sets.

Robot in Love 1970s

Mini CDs #1: Eric B & Rakim – Microphone Fiend

CD3 logo bannerI’ve been meaning to catalogue and show my collection of 3″ mini CDs – much the same as I did for my flexi discs – for about 5 years now but haven’t got round to it. With the dawning of a new year and the impetus to start something new I thought it was about time, seeing as the CD revival still hasn’t swung round yet, although with the current price and manufacturing times of vinyl it can’t be far off.

But first, a little bit of history:
3″ or 80cm mini CDs first appeared around the end of the 80s and, for a short while at least, were a companion release to the 7″ and 12″ singles of the pop and dance music of the era before being replaced by full sized CD singles. The main problem with the discs was their size, they were so small that they were difficult to play unless you had the right CD tray or an adaptor and they disappeared in the racks. A few attempts were made to come up with some sort of standardized cover packaging including transparent plastic moulded holders the same size as regular CDs which would encapsulate the card sleeve and disc but these never caught on. In the US they were known as CD3 and the regular albums as CD5 and some came in the long boxes of the day over there which were eventually phased out due to the excessive waste of the card packaging.

The discs could hold 24 minutes of music and would generally contain three or four tracks like a 12″, sometimes with exclusive mixes or edits. With designers already complaining about the miniaturisation of the album sleeve to normal 5″ CD size, these posed an even smaller canvas to work with but some found a way to make beautiful packaging to house them. By the early 90s they were superceded by their larger cousins and then started being used by more experimental and enterprising labels, keen to exploit their unique format for tour EPs and cheap extras inside books or magazines. The Japanese especially loved 3″ CDs and there are many different examples throughout the 90s and 00s of them being used to great effect as promos.

First off I’m going to concentrate on the late 80s, mainly in the UK and then move roughly through the 90s and up to the present day with selections from my collection. This is by no means a definitive list, just examples of mini CDs I’ve picked up over the decades for their content, packaging or design.
Eric B cover

Eric B & Rakim‘s ‘Microhone Fiend’ has a miniature version of the UK 7″ for the cover, designed by Trevor Jackson at Bite It!, but has to dispense with the regular back cover for a track listing as the text would have been way too small to read otherwise. The single also includes the 7″ edit of ‘Follow The Leader’ which isn’t on any other version.
Eric B back Eric B front

Posted in Design, Mini CDs, Music. | 6 Comments |

Kaiser George Marionettes

Kaiser George Joe Meek

I saw this on Facebook the other day, reposted by Andrew Divine, and had to investigate further. ‘Kaiser’ George Miller sculpts these marionettes of rock n roll legends, Ursula Cleary makes their clothes, Chris Taylor illustrates the cards and box art and ‘Kaiser’ Johnny Maben prints it all. So far they’ve made Xmas cards, prints and bubble gum cards which you buy here. Here’s hoping one day they get round to doing Kraftwerk
Follow K.G.M. on Instagram

SS card backs SS detail B&W SS detail colour

Zappa documentary by Alex Winter

Alex Winter’s new Zappa documentary is an amazing treasure chest of delights and essential for any fans of the man and his music. Given access to his legendary vault, Winter spent 2 years transferring and restoring films and tapes of every kind to build the visual elements and it’s incredible. Along the way he also came across lots of Frank’s original artwork including flyers and greeting cards he drew as a jobbing artist in the 60s. This is another string to his bow that is rarely acknowledged but always a treat to see. Below are some screen grabs, check out the doc if you can, go here to find it www.thezappamovie.com plus there’s a soundtrack available.

Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.51.31 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.52.03 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.52.25 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.53.13Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.52.50 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.53.58 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.54.34

Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 23.05.21Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 23.05.29 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 23.04.52 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 23.01.57 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.59.00 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.58.49 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.58.36 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.57.43 Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.56.09Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.57.17Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 22.57.30
PS: I know this last one is a Cal Schenkel illustration – for more Zappa art go here and here

The Real Tuesday Weld Xmas card 2020

3 CD template back 2020 webI designed this year’s The Real Tuesday Weld Xmas card for the very patient Stephen Coates :) – very limited 3″ CD in fold out sleeve – link to buy here. I’ve also been hard at work on a trilogy of album sleeves for him this year, the first of which – ‘Blood’ – is at the pressing plant now and should see the light early next year to be followed by ‘Dreams’ and ‘Bone’ later.