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Best Record Sleeves: June

Design for records from Antinote, Whities, Dark Entries, Proibito, Paralaxe Editions all make the grade this month.

The working relationship between Dark Entries and Eloise Leigh stretches back to 2010 and has seen the Berlin-based designer lend her creative hand to the majority of the label’s releases, Given the archival bent of Dark Entries, Leigh’s role has largely been of a reproductive note, replicating the original artwork whilst adding her own touch via new inserts and printed keepsakes to retain the label’s DIY ethos. Therefore it is interesting when Leigh is given the chance to work from a blank creative canvas as she was for the Third Skin 12″ from Columbian artist Cute Heels. There is more than a hint of Silent Servant’s work to the photography from Corinne Schiavone used here, so its not surprising to find out the pair have previously worked together on art direction for Jealous God releases. Around this striking, alluring photograph from Schiavone, Leigh adopts a simple design process contrasting the velveteen background with gothic fonts and bold lines.

We were given first hand explanation for the artwork from the second Huerco S. album For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) in the round of questions and answers that accompanied the artist’s recent podcast. Sourced from botanical illustrations the producer was scanning through at New York Public Library, the central image builds on his personal connection between ambient music and nature. Complementing this, Proibito’s go to visual man Gabriel Berrios provides some understated type setting and design across the album as a whole.

Presentation seems just as key to the Whities label as the music they have put out so far, with their recently launched website a perfect example of the visual ingenuity they are striving for. Alex McCullough has become a key contributor to the Whities aesthetic, providing the artwork for Avalon Emerson’s widely celebrated release on the label as well as the design for the aforementioned website. McCullough lent a sense of the visual bizarro to the latest Whities offering from Quirke for a sleeve design featuring some nice individual touches. Craftily embossed label stamp (which evade the resolution of the camera used to take the below images), photo credits for the cover printed on the 12″ inner circle, yellow sticker on the sleeve adding a tactile feel.

Describing themselves as a record label and publishing house focused on free form electronica and visual arts, Barcelona-based Paralaxe Editions are another operation that put equal emphasis on visual and musical presentation. Their most recent edition, Two Changes from Beatrice Dillon and Rupert Clervaux, was a classy and understated affair. One side of the sleeve featured simple yet bold typesetting from the label whilst the flip housed a wonderful ocean view from regular Dillon collaborator and respected photographer Anne Tetzlaff. The temptation to lose yourself in that shot whilst Dillon and Clervaux’s extended sonic experiments play out is all too real.

In my formative years I cut my musical teeth on many a label compilation – some of them good, some of them quite bad – and joined plenty of dots from perusing the sleeve notes that invariably featured. It is for this reason I will always be drawn to a contemporary compilation from a label that takes full usage of the format to offer some education, especially if it’s done so in a visually appealing manner. A clearly revitalised On-U Sound offers this with a second volume of Sherwood At The Controls, a sumptuous document of the dub master’s mid-to-late-’80s work whose musical content and sleeve notes are fully matched by the visual attention to detail. Rika Ishii provides a cunning front-cover collage that replicates the smartness of her commission for last year’s inaugural volume of Sherwood At The Controls, with Jaffa from The Unknown also returning to handle the overall design.

An equally weighty proposition from June’s releases was Pink Flamingos, the triple LP offering of the In Aeternam Vale archive from Parisian techno outpost DEMENT3D. In contrast to On U-Sound, DEMENT3D elected to let the music speak for itself with little in the way of extra detail regarding a selection of music spanning some three decades. This was offset however by the delightful photography from IAV man Laurent Prot that spans the entirety of the gatefold sleeve depicting his beloved hometown of Lyon at sunset. You’d like to think it’s indicative of the view Prot has had these past 30 years whilst crafting his singular sound as In Aeternam Vale.

From Lyon to Paris to finish as Check Morris co-founder Nico Motte makes the grade once again for the latest Antinote release, Previsto, from the label’s Italian connection, Leonardo Martelli. I’ve spoken to Motte for a soon-to-be-published feature and he revealed the creative freedom Antinote boss Quentin Vandewalle has given him throughout his tenure as designer for the label. With Martelli, it seems Motte focuses on exploring font conventions; last year’s Menti Singole 12″ saw words subtly spliced and diced. Previsto takes a more visually-direct route with Martelli’s initials portrayed in big, chunky outlined fonts, whilst a thick inner sleeve sees Motte’s imagination run wild.

All selections and words by Tony Poland

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