Ghost Box Study Series 7″s

Coming next month from Ghost Box is the start of a run of 7″ singles under the banner the ‘Study Series’. The first up feature Belbury Poly, The Advisory Circle and, one of my favourites, Moon Wiring Club. Gorgeous artwork as always by Julian House, hopefully this will build into a lovely little set over the coming months. Pre-order at the ghostbox shop and I can heartily recommend just about everything else if you’re a newcomer as it’s one of my favourite labels.

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New Qemists LP cover by Glenn Fabry

Herbaliser - Wall Crawling..

Ninja Tune artists seem to have a love of comic art and one particular comic in particular has played host to various artists who have also graced Ninja Tune sleeves – 2000AD. The first was The Herbaliser’s ‘Wall Crawling Giant Insect Breaks’ 12″ back in 1998 with a cover painting by Jason Brashill -aka graffiti artist Jase – who used to paint with Req and She One in Brighton. His design of a robotic bug perched on a pair of decks and a mixer is one of my favourites of that era.

DJ Food - ...Weird...World EP 12"cover (72 dpi)My own DJ Food EPs from last year featured new work from Henry Flint who has been a regular on both the weekly comic and monthly Judge Dredd Megazine for over 10 years. He kindly gave me some of his personal work, highly detailed abstract ‘doodles’, to colour for my sleeves (you can see one to the left of this post) and there will be more for the third EP and album.

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qemists_hurtslessFInally we have the latest addition: The Qemists have enlisted none other than Glenn Fabry to paint their new ‘Spirit In The System’ LP cover in what looks like a homage to Stanley Mouse’s Grateful Dead work. If you’ve been paying attention to the recent Qemists releases you’ll notice that the first two are sections of a large ‘logo-ified’ version of the painting, I hope Ninja press a vinyl LP of the album too.

Moog T-shirt from Chalk Brighton

This has been in the pipeline a while, I think I did the design last autumn but had been collecting the contents for longer. Chalk Brighton, the brainchild of old friends Dean Ricca-Smith and Simon Skevington, is a new company specialising in limited edition T-shirt prints with a difference. One of their debut designs spelt out SOUL in bold letters entirely made up of titles of their favourite soul records and was a big hit. They plan to continue the series and I submitted my entry in the form of Moog. Not an obvious follow up but Chalk isn’t an obvious kind of company.

Moog shirtMoog designThe tracks within my design either refer to records with Moog in the title or famous songs which feature the Moog somewhere in the kit list (did you know that the bassline to Donna Summer‘s ‘I Feel Love’ was played on a Moog?). Anyway, the shirt is big on design but minimal of contrast so it blends together nicely when printed and is actually a lot more subtle than these photos suggest. Also you have to love the attention to detail with the names on the neck tag :)  Get them while they’re hot…

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Moog covers

Diplo – Florida (limited screenprint edition) (Big Dada)

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An oldie but goody for the last entry in this week-long vinyl series – Diplo’s debut (and only solo) record, the classic ‘Florida’. I’ve been pulling out all manner of releases from the Big Dada, Ninja and Ntone catalogues over the last few months as material for the on-going Ninja Tune book I’m working on and this is the very rare screen printed cover edition.
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As I recall, Diplo actually wanted to have an old Frazetta image of dinosaurs on the cover but it was decided that would be too expensive to license and he found an artist to do the illustration in a similar style. Only 500 were made with hand-stamped labels and a sticker on the reverse stating the number of the edition (you can see mine is 045).

Posted in Art, Design, Music, Records. | 3 Comments |

It’s Time For – Tristram Cary (Trunk)

Tris Cary cover
Possibly one of the covers of the year – how beautiful is that? The usual high stand of Trunk is in full force, unearthing still more treasure from the seemingly endless supply of forgotten British composers. Tristram Cary’s name was familiar to me but I didn’t have any of his work until this record and it’s a mixed bag of music concrete, electronics and found sound.
Tris Cary back cover detailTris Cary cover detail
His repertoire spanned music for Expo fairs, public service films, soundtrack work and even commissions for Olivetti. The LP has just been repressed on clear vinyl due to popular demand – be quick! The CD also contains many more tracks, damn you Jonny Trunk! I had to buy two copies of the vinyl AND the CD on top. More info from Trunk here and the Quietus did a great piece the other day too.

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2econd Class Citizen – Divided Reality (Equinox)

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This is the most gorgeous smelling record I own. i don’t know what they put in the ink they printed this with but it smells like sickly sweets to me. This is a (very) limited repress – only 30 copies – of Aaron Thomason, aka 2econd Class Citizen‘s first release, a four track white label made back in 2005. Half the EP bears the sort of style you’d expect from him today albeit in a more primitive form, the song ‘Wishing Well’ was later reworked for his ‘Wyred Folk’ EP. The other half of the EP is more of a surprise, a couple of tracks that definitely sound of their time and show a different path that Aaron could have taken.

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The sleeve is a wrapround piece of heavy card, screenprinted and designed to look like a private press release with minimal layout by Gunter, the label head at ever excellent Equinox records. Each one has been signed and numbered by Aaron and it’s all housed in a plastic sleeve. I think there are a few copies left if you contact Aaron or Gunter at Equinox but if not then you can still buy the mp3s.

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The Advisory Circle – Mind How You Go (Revised Edition)

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A lovely record from an excellent label and, surprisingly, their first ever issued on vinyl after 12 CD releases. This is a revised and expanded version of GBX05, a 3″ CD originally, and contains two new tracks and two remixes. Nice as the 3″ CD is, the whole ethos of Ghost Box is so suited to vinyl that it’s a surprise it took them this long to get round to it.

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Julian House’s beautiful artwork translates perfectly to the bigger format and I can only hope they do more revised releases, especially their only other 3″ release – GBX01, Belbury Poly‘s ‘Farmer’s Angle’. The music is excellent too – obvious jumping off points are Boards of Canada, Radiophonic Workshop, Library music and Public Service films of the Seventies. All very UK-centric and full of nostalgia for a childhood past.

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Edan – Echo Party (Stones Throw)

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This record was all over the net at the end of last year and Edan should need no introduction. This is basically a mix tape on vinyl and the legend has it that Edan was given access to the Traffic Entertainment Group back catalogue to do what he could with. Two years passed and it’s finally here, barely 30 minutes but who’s complaining when it sounds as good as this? There’s a sample with video here to start you off.

The beautiful thing about the covers for this vinyl release is that, much like the ‘Secondhand Sureshots‘ record I posted about earlier, they are all different. Instead of screen printing though you get variations of a rubber stamp and I picked up what I think is a particularly nice version with multiple women on it. Only two pictures here as the sleeve is super minimal, the only other mark on it is a tiny ‘A’ stamped on one of the labels.

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See a little video of Edan customising the covers here.

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The Simonsound – Reverse Engineering (First Word)

Simonsound cover

I’ve been waiting for a finished copy of this to arrive for a while now and it doesn’t disappoint. The Simonsound are Simon James and Matt Ford (aka DJ Format) and I’ve been loving this record since they kindly sent me mp3s months back. Out on May 10th on Brighton’s First Word label this is the perfect marriage of the analogue stylings of the Radiophonic Workshop or Dick Hymen and the funk and jazz sample fodder that served Hip Hop so well in its early years. Imagine Kool Herc spinning the soundtrack to one of the World Expo’s and you’ll be partway there.

Simonsound labelSimonsound credits

Again the music is perfectly suited to the vinyl format and they’ve gone for a Julian House-esque mixture of collage with a sci-fi theme. We have a very special Simonsound Solid Steel Transmission coming up on the radio show on May 14th complete with a 1 hour long video podcast too – a first for a guest mix on Solid Steel. I got a thanks on the back cover too :)

Simonsound back

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Record Store Day / Secondhand Sureshots (Dublab)

The thrill of the hunt, the race from shop to shop, trying to seize a copy of that limited edition release you know everyone else has been patiently waiting for. All that returned today as I ventured out for the third annual Record Store Day and, for the first time ever, had to queue to get into a record shop! Unheard of! Rough Trade East was packed with a line of about 50 people outside when I arrived. It was great to see so many people turning up to snap up the goodies and see bands and RT has the juice and coffee bar to add to the experience.

Weller AA remix Unfortunately, it was such a success that the record I went out specifically to get – the Amorphous Androgynous remixes of Paul Weller on a 500 copy 12″ – was nowhere to be found, sold out everywhere! I went from brick Lane to Soho to Ladbroke Grove – none left. This is obviously good but maybe Island could press a few more copies next time please? I’d been waiting for this since it was announced and they did a remarkable job of keeping it offline so I’ve still not heard it although the cover did get posted the other day and now they’re going on eBay for upwards of £99!.

That buggers up my first post as well as I was going to kick off a week-long series of beautiful records with that, but never mind, I have many waiting in the wings… First up is ‘Secondhand Surehots’ – the deluxe version from Dublab, containing tracks by Daedelus, J Rocc, Ras G and Nobody. In case you didn’t catch this excellent short film a month or so ago as it did the rounds on the net, please check this out for the story.

dublab presents…SECONDHAND SURESHOTS (preview) from dublab on Vimeo.

Now, that’s the trailer, the full film is more like 30 minutes and it’s included in the deluxe vinyl package on a DVD with bonus audio as well. Also within the pack you get a 12″ picture disc, 2 full colour slipmats, stickers and here’s the winner – each sleeve is a unique screen print, utilising old gatefold LP covers as the canvas. Mine was a Dan Fogelburg LP, you can still read the original credits through the ink and one of the sleeves even still has the original LP insert in it!. All in all, a great concept, well executed and lovingly put together, a must for all diggers and vinyl lovers out there.
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Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck Cookbook

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It was my better half’s birthday yesterday and a friend of ours got her this lovely Heston Blumenthal cooklbook. The big difference between this and any cookbook I can think of it that it’s illustrated by Dave McKean, he of Arkum Asylum, Signal To Noise, Cages and the Sandman comic covers amongst many others. This has to be a first surely? The book is gorgeous both in content and quality and very heavy too! Check the gallery for some of the spreads, there are many more although I’m not sure how much my wife will actually be attempting to serve up.

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Starting tomorrow, because it’s Record Store Day, a week long, series of daily posts on vinyl worth buying for both the cover and content.

Posted in Art, Books, Design, Oddities. | 2 Comments |

One November Monday

Back in the winter of 2009, on a bleak, windy Monday, I died and went to heaven.

two-tribes-poster.jpgActually, I tell a lie, it was Slough.
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When I think of Slough I see the opening credits to the UK comedy The Office which was supposedly based there. It’s all industrial buildings, dull office blocks and council estates, absolutely nothing to write home about (sorry any Slough dwellers reading this). I’d been invited by my friend Ian Peel to visit him at an address owned by the record label ZTT – home of Trevor Horn, his associated productions as well as the back catalogue of Stiff records, which they acquired in the mid 80’s. Arriving at the address revealed a nondescript ‘premises’ – it wasn’t a house or office in the conventional sense and – while searching for an entrance round the back – Ian popped his head out and beckoned me inside.

I’ve known Ian for a few years now, initially through a shared love for the Zang Tuum Tumb (ZTT) label and it’s golden period in the 80’s, but also for our fondness of the music of that decade. He regularly writes for the Guardian, Record Collector and the like as well as co-ordinating reissues and releases for ZTT, Stiff and occasionally his own label Karvavena. On occasion he picks my brains for something and disappears back into the ether although this time I’d provided him with much more than a soundbite for a magazine feature. An email arrived one day from Philip Marshall who was helping Ian with the reissue of a deluxe 2 CD edition of Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s Welcome To The Pleasuredome album for ZTT. Could I help with sourcing images for the release?

For those unaware, (probably most of you) Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and more importantly the whole aesthetic of the ZTT label in the 80’s, had a huge effect on me in my formative years. Most people have one or two bands that they ‘grew up’ with, moments where a bands rise to fame and the mania that surrounded them dovetailed with your own musical tastes and that group becomes forever linked with your memories of the period. For most of ’84 and ’85 I bought little else than the bands on the ZTT roster, Frankie, Art of Noise, Propaganda, Grace Jones‘ incredible Slave To The Rhythm LP, even venturing into contemporary classical waters with Andrew Poppy, and of course, the Frankie Say… T-shirts.

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Jumping 20 years forward in time I was perusing a ZTT fan forum when I chanced upon someone selling the original artwork for the ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ album. To cut another digression short, I ended up buying the paintings of the front, inner gatefold and back from the original artist Lo Cole and they now hang proudly in my studio. Another jump, 5 years to the present, and Ian is trying to source unique images for the 28 page booklet that will accompany the reissue. The ZTT archive is incomplete, a lot of it having either been binned over time or destroyed in a fire at an Island records warehouse over a decade ago and this was where I fitted in.

Being a fan, over the years I’ve been trawling eBay and used magazine shops for copies of the music press from the 80’s and collecting the ads for all the releases – mini graphic masterpieces in themselves that had influenced my design tastes greatly. Ian had seen this collection and asked if I had any more including the scans of the Pleasuredome preliminary sketches and paintings Lo had sent me when I’d been discussing the purchase of his work. I did and photographed various promo and fly posters too big to include in the folders as well as details from the cover paintings. Then he dropped the bombshell. He was spending a couple of days a week in a property owned by ZTT, sorting out all the master tapes from their archive – the fabled ‘ZTT cupboard’ as it’s known to collectors. Because the artwork required from my collection was so valuable, we agreed I should should drop it off in person to Ian whilst he was working there.
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The thought that I would be in a room with boxes of master tapes all connected directly to the label and music I loved was thrilling but nothing prepared me for the sight I saw upon stepping into the room. It was the whole downstairs floor of the building, the size of a small office or a very large living room. Boxes covered nearly every inch of floor space and were piled up to chest height, Ian had started to sort them into stacks relating to each artist and there was a small warren of footpaths between the piles. Half of the room was barely touched and the sheer volume of boxes was overwhelming.

GJ Slave master 2GJ Slave diskette GJ Slave master

I looked down and saw a stack marked ‘Grace Jones’, in it were various master tapes for the ‘Slave To The Rhythm’ LP and single, duplicates for different territories but no session tapes, yet. Several boxes of Art of Noise reels revealed 24 track tapes of various ‘Moments In Love’ versions, the ‘Beatbox’ and ‘Into Battle’ 12″s, an early, unreleased version of their first album entitled ‘Worship’, already split into an A and B side for the cutting house. Fairlight discs and studio session sheets where inside the boxes too, containing info on what was recorded when, by whom and, no doubt, the original samples used on the tracks. One had the words “I never want to hear this ever again – A. Dudley” on it, another “Anne in tears” written on the metal reel itself.

AON Beatbox 12" master AON Beatbox diskette AON box 1 AON box 2 AON early tape AON Moments master AON Worship 1 AON Worship 2

“Here’s the Frankie pile”, offered Ian, pointing to about 50 boxes, each stuffed with reels of master tape, cans of film used for videos, VHS, Hi-8, DAT and cassettes. There were session tapes for the ‘Liverpool’ album, I think I saw at least 50+ reels, mixes upon mixes, vocal sessions from actors like Joanna Lumley, Pamela Stephenson and Jeff Palmer. A version of ‘Two Tribes’ finished on my birthday in 1984 marked ‘mix 115’. The reels of an unreleased 7 & 12 inch remix by Paul Morley of their last single, ‘Watching The Wildlife’, ready for the cutting house to master. A ‘Welcome To the Pleasuredome’ ‘continuous wacky jam’ between Trevor Horn Steve Lipson and JJ Jeczalik entitled ‘the shit mix’. This was like entering one of those lost temples in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the ultimate digging in the crates session with the added appeal of teenage nostalgia.

FGTH Pleasedome shit mix FGTH Pleasuredome Palmer vox FGTH Rage Hard Lumley vox FGTH Rage Hard Stephenson vox FGTH Relax 7" master FGTH Relax Sex mix master FGTH Two Tribes mix 115 FGTH Two Tribes Video destructo master FGTH Wildlife Morley 7 & 12" mixes FGTH Wildlife Orchestra mix FGTH Wildlife:Waves 12" mixes

After four hours my hands were black and I had to get back to London but I felt I’d barely scratched the surface. A couple of boxes were filled between the two of us, full of interesting or important tapes that needed to be baked and transferred to DAT for future compilations. Pleasuredomes indeed as an old Paul Morley-penned sleeve note read.

The deluxe reissue of Frankie’s ‘Welcome To The Pleasuredome’ is out April 12th from ZTT / Salvo / Union Square Music. It comes with a second CD of unheard works in progress, rare alternate 12″ and cassette only cuts including a completely unheard extended version of ‘Ballad of 32’ from the original album. Included is a 28 page booklet featuring text by Ian, design and layout in the style of the original releases from Philip and many picture contributions from myself. Ian even let me have a hand in the track selection and order on the bonus CD, running it past me and taking on board suggestions for inclusions and omissions. Last but not least, I get a nice credit inside :)

Buy it here

More design, visuals and tape shots in the gallery below, click to enlarge. I’ve been writing and researching a long piece entitled ‘Who’s Afraid of the Art of ZTT?’ for about 5 years now, it’s nearly finished and will make an appearance someday…

Posted in Design, Event, Music, Records. | 25 Comments |

There was an old lady…


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Max in boat 650

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Bought this book for my boys yesterday (I’m a sucker for beautifully designed childrens books) Such a unique way of presenting the old tale and at the end her eyes close after she eats the horse. We also have another version by Jan Pienkowski (who did Meg & Mog and the classic Haunted House pop up book) in which she turns into a ghost on the last page!

This book though is illustrated by Jeremy Holmes and available from Chronicle Books from San Francisco, presumable available online but I got mine from Tales on Moon Lane in Herne Hill who have re-installed part of my Where the Wild Things Are Window display.

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