Up their sleeves

Creatives in the music industry are producing increasingly elaborate designs for CD covers.

Jar compilation album cover,designed by James Green

Lex Records continues to lead the field with illustration, foils and debossed titles, created by the Manchester design collective, Ehquestionmark. For Blue Eyed in the Red Room, the new album by Boom Bip – purveyor of languorous electronica that’s one part hip-hop to another part Sonic Youth, Ehquestionmark chose what it describes as ‘sophisticated, slender, flowing red foiled calligraphy, set against raw cigarette burns on an aged paper sleeve. The aim was to reflect the relaxing qualities of inhaling smoke.’ The burns go right through as if a cigarette has been laid on the sleeve. Typography is based on handwritten music on manuscript paper.

Ultimately, higher artistic ideals may help in the record industry’s fight against downloading. On Plat du Jour, the current project of sampling auteur Matthew Herbert, kaleidoscopic patterns were produced laboriously in a chemistry experiment in artist Stanley Donwood’s kitchen. Using chromatographic paper, Donwood, creator of the Radiohead sleeves, says, ‘The idea was to make the artwork like a supermarket, to capture that feeling of wonder as you walk into the foyer, all the light, the scent, the cornucopia spread before you; then the foul disillusion that sets in as you read ingredients lists, countries of origin…’ For Roisin Murphy’s (ex-Moloko) debut solo album, artist Simon Henwood says, ‘Roisin had this idea of creating a character in Ruby Blue, a sort of disco electro pop diva with a 1940s look.’ Three vinyl EPs, CDs and 100 copies of a special edition in a lenticular sequin glass box bear Henwood’s non diva-esque portraits. Unlike your average pin-up pop cover, these bravely capture a more raw side of beauty.

Regardless of the shockwaves the music industry is experiencing, music still relies heavily upon having a visual presence. And record sleeves, on present form, continue to be an intoxicating, subversive, vigorous medium.

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