Miles Davis – Agharta

Author: Colin | Published: 11/7/09

Miles Davis - Agharta

Miles Davis - Agharta

Miles Davis - Agharta

Miles Davis - Agharta

Miles Davis - Agharta

Miles Davis - Agharta

Miles Davis - Agharta

Artist Miles Davis
Title Agharta
Label CBS/Sony Inc Japan
Year 1975
Designer Artwork: Tadanori Yokoo, photographers: Tadayuki Naitoh, Shigeo Anzai
Music Acid funk and then some
Notes One of my absolute favourites in terms of music and design.

Agharta was Miles’ penultimate release before retirement from performance and public view for more than five years. Agharta and its sister Pangaea are concert performances recorded on the same day, afternoon and evening. Davis had assimilated the radical, jump-cut editing his long-time producer Teo Macero had wrought in the studio and imposed structural change in the moment on his band with coded musical signals and hand gestures. Each performance begins with incredible vigour (attributable in no small part to Pete Cosey’s scorched earth guitar), navigates switch-back turns of extemporised funk and acid melody before ultimately descending into silence via passages of Sun Ra-like hand percussion. Both double albums are fantastic voyages into the unknown, sounding as alien and bewitching today as the day they were recorded.

Tadanori Yokoo’s artwork perfectly encapsulates Miles’ music: technicolour trips through sub-aquatic cities peopled by divers, spaceships, coral and beautiful women on the outside cover while inside angels are picked off by huge birds. I particularly love the artist/title text as spaceship taking off against the red dawn. Would the cover be as great without the amazing music? Of course, not, but nor would the music without this cover… The American version of the cover is also interesting, but more mundane than this fantastical creature.

Tadanori Yokoo’s work is fantastic and well worth checking out:

A Journey Round My Skull post
Pink Tentacle: Music and film posters
Wikipedia entry


  1. great pics of japan only issue artwork.
    why sony issued this in the UK with lame artwork, i’ll
    never know. looking forward to box set out in uk next week,
    when all original artwork will adorn the 70 discs

    Comment by bill — November 21, 2009 @ 10:05 am
  2. I’d vaguely heard of this, but it’s a scary project. Then again, I have many more Miles discs than that when I include the bootlegs!

    Comment by Colin — November 22, 2009 @ 12:23 pm
  3. Oh bugger! I did not know the European CD release’s atwork was not the original! This one is million times better!

    Besides, I am still waiting for some fine remastered edition…

    Comment by MAD — January 31, 2010 @ 7:35 pm
  4. Sorry! And yes it is! The mix quality is also pretty different.

    Comment by Colin — February 8, 2010 @ 1:28 pm
  5. […] drew 40,000 people; you might recognize his work from Santana’s Lotus or Miles Davis’s Agharta. You can see more of his work at MoMA, or his Web site, which is in enough English to get around. […]

  6. First Miles record I ever bought (in 1990) my introduction to his work. I was into psychedelia at the time and collected original vinyl pressings so was attracted by the cover! The gatefold vinyl album artwork perfectly reflects the music. I had this issue (£15!) and Pangaea (£25!!) which has a booklet – in Japanese – with discography on rear cover. The discography guided me to all the 1968-75 recordings which then were easier to get on Japanese CD issues than on an original pressing. On the inside cover of Agharta around the edge where all the credits are given it says something like “We Strongly Suggest You Play this Album At the Highest Possible Listening Volume In Order to Fully Appreciate the Sound of Miles Davis”. I’d never bought a record that TOLD you to turn it up! Not even Electric Ladyland did that! I am hoping Sony CBS have material to reissue these albums and Dark Magus in the Complete box sets series…

    Comment by R Keith — April 20, 2010 @ 11:30 am
  7. Hello R. Keith, agreed, it’s one of my favourite covers. Sadly I don’t think they’ll be reissuing the live albums in a box set format. I don’t think they’ve got additional material from this period.

    Comment by Colin — April 24, 2010 @ 5:47 pm
  8. ” angels are picked off by huge birds”

    Look at it again. It’s a person/soul being rescued from Hell by a giant dove.

    > I’d never bought a record that TOLD you to turn it up!

    Davis alumnus Tony Williams did that on Turn It Over. “Play it very very loud.”

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