Best Record Sleeves: January

Records from Endangered Species, In Paradisum, Opal Tapes, Cómeme and, yes, FXHE, feature in our first Best Record Sleeves column of 2015.

Where to start other than with Omar S, who despite previous statements to the contrary, may well have delivered one of the best record sleeves this year in the artwork adorning his collaboration with vocalist James Garcia. The fact the sleeve for I Wanna Know is an homage to André Cymone’s 1982 album Livin’ in the New Wave is already established, it shouldn’t take anything away from the end result. There is just a personal tinge of regret that the FXHE boss didn’t fully replicate Cymone’s design, such as the reverse depiction of the artist standing atop the strange 3D grid floating over Minneapolis.

The fold out poster as part of a record release has generally been a gimmick not employed in the realm of underground electronic music, though the Berceuse Heroique label has, to some success with those designed by Will Bankhead, included them in their reissues last year. A more recent successful example of implementing posters came with the surprise release of CVE 2011, an album of live recordings made during the 2011 Caribou Vibration Ensemble tour. At first glance, what looks like a very-Caribou record cover smarlty turns out to be 1/6th of a poster with the overall design from Matthew Cooper really bringing out the best in Jason Evans art direction and photography.

January saw Lyon artist Amédée De Murcia return to the In Paradisum label he’s most associated with, but not under the Somaticae name he is most recognised for, instead as the strange Anglicised alter-ego Roger West. The four tracks on Wasted House were described quite fancifully by the label as a “twisted uchronia of dance music” and the smudged nature was quite at odds with the hi-resolution artwork from In Paradisum’s go-to designer Jules Esteves. Of course art can sometimes be about creating contradictions and the sleeve was the most striking submission from Esteves for In Paradisum since the Saåad/Insiden split cassette in 2013.

At the time it was first announced, the Nothing Matters When We’re Dancing compilation from Berlin collective Cocktail D’Amore looked set to be accompanied by some artwork that was consistent with their previous output but not especially memorable. It’s not clear why founders DJ Boris and Discodromo went back to the design drawing board but it was a decision well made as the final triple gatefold sleeve is truly memorable. Quite reserved from the outside, as soon as you unfold those record gates you’re are treated to the most flamboyant of illustrations from Benedikt Rugar, a highly respected artist from Berlin whose work was once described quite aptly as “psychedelic constructivism” by Felix Kubin.

In addition to the batch of spools issued by north east hub Opal Tapes last month were several vinyl releases, and amongst those was the debut release from Gondwana, a new project of Lumisokea’s Andrea Taggi. The music on AUM has been described as a “highly textural, physical & sculptural quasi-psychedelic experience,” and this was fully conveyed in the strikingly detailed pencil and biro illustration from Darren Brian Adcock adorning the cover. Equally distinctive looking was the second release on the Endangered Species label from Oliver Vereker under his Restraint alias. Rising NYC-based artist Darja Bajagić is responsible for the imagery, an extension of her provocative work themed around merging pornography with painting.

There has been much online talk about Phantom Delia, Lena Willikens debut release on Cologne label Cómeme, though not enough attention has been paid to how wonderfully it’s been presented. Cómeme’s inhouse clairvoyant and artworker Sarah Szczesny was responsible for a design that subtly incorporated the label’s logo on the suitably dark sleeve which was complemented by a fine ‘moon burned silver paper’ insert. Seguing nicely, the Huntleys & Palmers label Willikens is also closely affiliated issued perhaps their finest looking record to date in a various artist EP Chapter 2, adopting a minimalist approach to design where a bold, gothic image was the focal point. We have Glasgow illustrator Anna Kraay to thank for this one.

All selections by Tony Poland 

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