Announcing: The Superceded Sounds of… The New Obsolescents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The Superceded Sounds of… The New Obsolescents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.

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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.

XX book US edition and Celestial Mechanic EP release

XX US edition

The US release of Rian Hughes’ debut novel, ‘XX’ happened yesterday, the book, as mentioned before, is a sci-fi epic coupled with graphic design elements throughout. To mark the occasion we have a new 30 minute Celestial Mechanic EP out via Bandcamp with a 17 minute remix of ‘The Signal’ and several piano pieces created for the album but unused in the final mix.
Check it out here https://celestialmechanic.bandcamp.com/album/the-signal-retransmission and if you like it there’s a whole album too, made by myself and Saron Hughes with contributions from Robin The Fog on tapes and Saron’s husband, Peter Harris on guitar.
Rian’s book is out on Overlook Press with a different cover, if you’re in the US you can order it here.
Also, Thursday night, Nov 12th, Rian is doing another web chat with writer Grant Morrison online and it’s free! Log on at 7pm Eastern Time, more details here

US DUSTJACKET AS EP COVER (Black)

New Celestial Mechanic EP

US DUSTJACKET AS EP COVER (Black)To celebrate the US publication of Rian Hughes book, ‘XX, A Novel, Graphic’ on Nov 10, we have a new 30 minute Celestial Mechanic EP out today, including a 17 minute remix of ‘The Signal’ alongside satellite piano variations made during the ‘Citizen Void’ LP.
https://celestialmechanic.bandcamp.com/album/the-signal-retransmission

Celestial Mechanic is a new project I’m part of, directed by Rian Hughes and in collaboration with his sister, pianist Saron Hughes. Rian put us together and commissioned a soundtrack for his book earlier this year. In his novel “XX” he includes a review of a fictional album based on a mysterious signal of extraterrestrial origin. I and Saron were tasked with the job of taking this review and making the album a reality. In what may be a first, the review actually preceded the music.

“XX” is published by Picador (UK) August 20 2020, Overlook Press (US) November 10 2020.

 

Old Ninja line art

WEB ZEN copy
Searching through old discs for something else I ran across these line-based designs for what became the Ninjatune.net website identity in the 00’s. Old heads will immediately recognise the Ninja Tune forum layout and colours. For a few years, after the mass Warp forum exodus had settled, it became a buzzing hive of creativity and connections in the pre-Myspace and Facebook era of social media. I still have good friends that I made through the forum and much fun was had on it over the years. Sadly, like anything, times change, people come and go and the largely unmoderated board eventually became overrun with trolls and any new blood attempting to join was faced with a barrage of abuse or an inpenetrable wall of in-jokes that would test even the hardened fan.
Anyway – here’s some of the design work, made so that it would be quick and easy to see at different sizes and pixel ratios I seem to remember – at least that’s what I was told to do by the web designer at the time. It all looks a little blurred because it’s been upscaled from Index-colour pngs to RGB jpegs. The bottom image is a flyer for a forum party, something that occasionally happened, self-initiated by users who wanted to meet the faces behind the names.

Ninjatune.netNinja typeLine alphabetlined ninjatype_bigkneesup_flyer

Forgotten Graphics Instagram takeover

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All this week I’ll be doing guest posts on the Forgotten Graphics Instagram account with the contents of the cupboards in a chalet I used to holiday in in the Swiss Alps. One year we were rained in all day so I photographed some of the many games, books and toys stuffed in the packed cupboards there. Most had been in the family for decades and were French, German or Swiss in origin from the 60s and 70s so had a period charm I’d never seen before. Take a look over at forgottengraphics and give them a follow as they post beautiful images all the time.

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Rian Hughes’ XX book featured in Electronic Sound

ES XX spread

Very pleased to see Rian Hughes’ new book ‘XX – A Novel, Graphic’ featured so prominently in the new issue of Electronic Sound magazine with a double page of layouts.If you want an idea of what the book’s about then Sci-Fi Now has a very good review.

ES XX Right

The Celestial Mechanic album that I created with Saron Hughes and Robin the Fog soundtrack’s the novel and also gets a mention – you can hear that here https://celestialmechanic.bandcamp.com

Print

 

The Life of Barney Bubbles podcast

IMG_6460 I’ve highlighted The Bureau of Lost Culture podcasts before and in the latest instalment Stephen Coates interviews writer and biographer Paul Gorman about the life of designer Barney Bubbles. Paul wrote the definitive (and only) book about Barney’s work, Reasons To Be Cheerful and recounts his fascinating but ultimately tragic story.

Paul has also recently set up a Barney Bubbles Estate Instagram account where he’s posting examples and rarities from his collection. Even if you’re not familiar with his name, you may well be familiar with his work.
There have recently been a slew of great interviews from The Bureau, focussing on Hawkwind, the history of Goth, Biba, groupies, The UFO club and more. The easiest way to listen to them is via their Soundcloud page

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BT Sport Champions League zoetrope commission


I was commissioned by BT Sport to make a zoetrope for use in a video for the Champions League football final on August 23rd. The video is for a new song from Doves‘ forthcoming album and the zoetrope would be intercut with footage of them performing in front of an old carousel with footage from clips on the discs zooming into full frame. I worked closely with Creative Lead Andrew Maddox to pull together clips and make sure the discs best represented what they needed (I know absolutely nothing about football!).


During the August heatwave weekend I literally sweated over a hot computer and emerged Monday morning with not one but four zoetropes from the footage they’d given me. These were then refined over the next two days and then printed 12″ size before being stuck down to vinyl discs and filmed on a turntable with digital versions animated in After Effects. Sadly they didn’t make the final cut in the end. Gutting, but here they are for you anyway.

I think I’m cursed with zoetropes this year. Despite being asked to do more than ever, the lot I did back in January for an unnamed artist went unused after he wouldn’t pay me. A second (very exciting) one should be happening but stalled when lockdown hit, a third design for Pendulum was passed over as they decided to go with their original design and now this. Two that I did for the group Peninsula‘s album got stalled by the Covid shutdown but are now happening thankfully.


BT Sport did a great job on the final video though

Here are the discs before they spin and animate

BT Zoetrope 4 for print BT Zoetrope 2 for print BT Zoetrope 3 for print BT Zoetrope 1 for print