|Title||1-2: Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops; 3-7: Aikea-Guinea|
|Year||1-2: 1984; 3-7: 1985|
|Design||1-2: 23 Envelope. From a photograph by Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934); 3-7: 23 Envelope|
|Notes||23 Envelope was the nom-de-plume for the partnership of designer Vaughan Oliver and photographer Nigel Grierson between 1983 and 1988.
Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops and Aikea-Guinea are a pair of 12″ singles that date from fairly early in both the Cocteau Twins’ and Oliver’s career. They share a formal elegance, a strong eye for pattern and texture, clear, graceful use of type and an approach to framing embodied in the 4AD logo itself. They’re also quite distinct from other designs for the group, with the exception to some extent of Lullabies.
Each design draws inspiration from the past: one Victorian and the other prehistoric. In subject, they convey a sense of mystery that provides an intuitive visual analogue to the group’s music and, in particular, Elizabeth Fraser’s enigmatic vocals. Gertrude Käsebier’s 1904 photograph, entitled ‘The Magic Crystal’, is a curious combination of swirling movement and silent concentration. The fossil on the reverse of Aikea-Guinea looks a little like a hedgehog curled in upon itself, seeking privacy and/or protection.
The minimalism of Aikea-Guinea’s design is particularly impressive. The front presents a nameplate bearing five unfamiliar words in gold caps against a silvery-black, rock-like texture. The effect is blankly empty. It acts like a closed door which when opened reveals something fascinating within, in this case the imprint of the fossil. The design puts the two sides of the sleeve to subtle, but powerful effect: it first excludes the viewer and then discloses something to her (though that thing, deep history, remains ultimately out of reach). Front or rear viewed in isolation are much less impressive – the design only comes alive when the viewer is aware of both sides.
Finally, the distressed type of the group’s logo is laid with care over the lower part of the fossil at the same time as it floats about the rigid sides of the flattened rectangle which contains the design credit and catalogue release number.
|Listen||Cocteau Twins – Aikea-Guinea