HARDHOUND

Demdike Stare – Tryptych

Author: Colin | Published: 11/12/10

Demdike Stare - Tryptych

Demdike Stare - Tryptych

Demdike Stare - Tryptych

Demdike Stare - Tryptych

Demdike Stare - Tryptych

Demdike Stare - Tryptych

Artist Demdike Stare
Title Tryptych
Label Modern Love
Year 2010
Design Artwork by Andy Votel; layout by Rada Prepeleac
Music darktechnobassheadabstracthauntingfilmic
Desktop Download image
Notes The inside front cover portrays a ouija board, sometimes referred to as a spirit or talking board. The cover could itself be used as a tool to communicate with the spirit world. Indeed, the planchette has already spelt out a name: Demdike Stare. The woman’s slender hand is in the process of withdrawing or perhaps returning to the scene to trace out further words.

Is it the same woman, face cropped and sporting elbow-length kid gloves, who points towards the runes carved into smooth wooden chips? Are they a form of tarot? Perhaps the table she leans on is covered in green baize (the dimly lit black and white image makes it impossible to be certain) and the game is one of chance not unlike Borges’ The Lottery In Babylon.

There are three more images. In one a cross section of the trunk of a tree reveals its rings, three leaves point away north westwards. The next, enclosed in a circle, gathers together a woman’s penetrating stare, what may be an all-seeing eye on the prow of a small boat and a dead man made doubly sightless by pennies placed upon his eyelids; a blindfolded couple bob for an apple, a wishbone about to snap and a tree is outlined against the sky.

The front cover mixes all these elements and a few more together to create something new – an apt reflection of their musical working methodology. Tryptych compiles Demdike Stare’s three most recent vinyl-only releases (Forest of Evil, Liberation Through Hearing and Voices of Dust) and adds a number of new tracks to each. The sleeve is almost square in proportion and the thick card stock is a tactile pleasure.

The duo take their name from Demdike, née Elizabeth Southerns, said to be the leader of the Pendle Witches. The group was accused of the murder of 17 men and women. Demdike died in prison in 1612 before being brought to trial.

Read more about The Pendle Witches.

Listen Demdike Stare – Voices of Dust album preview

Steampunk Sex Pistols

Author: Colin | Published: 9/12/10
Previous Peter Gabriel – 1 Next Demdike Stare – Tryptych

Although I recently began to publish more frequent news articles, I’ve decided to change tack again. The Saturday post will be devoted to a new design while the recently instituted Wednesday post will cover something archival, either from the recent or more distant past. I’ll have to see whether I can manage two posts a week given other calls on my time, but there’s so much wonderful work to cover that I want to give it a try. It does mean that I’m going to cut back the news posts to a minimum though.

Having said that, I can’t resist sharing this contraption which makes a beautiful, woozy art performance of the Sex Pistols classic:

Seen on Retro Thing.

Peter Gabriel – 1

Author: Colin | Published: 8/12/10
Previous Brian Eno – Small Craft On A Milk Sea Next Steampunk Sex Pistols

Peter Gabriel - 1

Peter Gabriel - 1

Peter Gabriel - 1

Peter Gabriel - 1

Artist Peter Gabriel
Title Untitled (Peter Gabriel)
Label Charisma
Year 1977
Design Update: Likely to be Storm Thorgerson rather than the previously stated Peter Christopherson, Hipgnosis
Music Popular
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Notes This is Peter Gabriel’s first solo album after his departure from Genesis. The image on the front cover, which is inevitably most widely known, communicates an almost overpowering sense of isolation, alienation and unhappiness. The reason for this may be technology, fame or something as yet undisclosed. What’s certain is that this impression is achieved with remarkable economy.

A skeletal narrative unfolds over the four images that each span the outer and inner sleeves from edge to edge. Read chronologically, the viewer begins by approaching the scene, draws alongside the vehicle, waits for the window to open and finally meets the gaze of the figure inside the car. The subject remains remote, his gaze downcast until the final frame in which he engages the viewer with a direct stare that reveals his otherness. Are those cogs or flowers that illuminate his eyes? His expression is blank, unapologetic. He leans toward the viewer a little.

The car is almost unidentifiable, it’s an any car, a stand-in for all cars. Similarly, although the subject is Gabriel himself, there’s little to distinguish him, he’s an everyman, removed, unreadable. Even his posture is unclear: has he slumped forward, is he asleep or catatonic? He’s a passenger, seated in the passenger seat, another clue to his lack of agency. The desaturated grey of the windows and the barely-spied interior suggests the colourlessness of despair. The car is a prison that has drained all life from its inhabitant. It’s the antithesis of Gary Numan’s “Here in my car, I feel safest of all”. Nothing of nature is visible except the stormy sky reflected in the windscreen. Rain has gathered in tiny puddles on the vehicle’s metal body. The rain’s lack of absorption conveys a sense of the inorganic, unyielding nature of the scene. The framing of each image is close and claustrophobic.

I’ve only seen the inner sleeve for the first time recently and much as I like its development, I find myself a little disappointed by the final image. It seems superfluous: the trope of the pop star as alien was most famously explored by David Bowie on Space Oddity and then in Nic Roeg’s film The Man Who Fell To Earth released a year before this album. There’s something chilling and fascinatingly static about the other three images that is (self-) sufficient, more powerful without the narrative. They’re frames of an unmade film scripted by J.G. Ballard. As with the vast majority of Hipgnosis covers, there’s a strong sense of art direction over design, the textual elements ultimately incidental to the strength of the images.

The design and visual imagery for Peter Gabriel’s first three solo albums has been attributed to Peter Christopherson during his tenure with Hipgnosis, although no reference is made to this on Storm Thorgerson’s website. This post is dedicated to Christopherson, the designer, artist and musician who died last week.

See also:

- Hipgnosis

Listen Peter Gabriel – Here Comes The Flood

Brian Eno – Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Author: Colin | Published: 4/12/10
Previous Pop Will Eat Itself – X Y & Zee Next Peter Gabriel – 1

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Artist Brian Eno
Title Small Craft On A Milk Sea
Label Warp Records
Year 2010
Design “ography (typ lith phot ge)”: Nick Robertson; design: Wordsalad
Music Small group improvisation/ambient
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Notes If one of Brian Eno’s aims for his new album was to reawaken interest in his music and expand his audience, his decision to release Small Craft On A Milk Sea on Warp was a brilliant decision. The label, now in its twenty-first year, has been home to a strikingly wide range of forward-thinking musicians, many of whom have been deeply influenced by Eno’s work. The association makes intuitive sense. Factor in the seven live sessions hosted by different publications around the globe, the humorous Dick Flash interview and the sharing of tracks prior to release and both artist and label have managed to make quite an impression. All this notwithstanding, Small Craft On A Milk Sea is presented as an extravagant piece of design, a challenging indulgence.

The 48 minute album is presented in a diverse range of formats: an expensive and already sold-out Collector’s Edition complete with “A real copper plate, etched with the title and unique edition number embedded in the spine of the slipcase”, the Limited Edition Box Set covered here, standard CD digipak and multiple digital download formats.

The box houses the album on two 12″ records and two CDs, one containing the album, the other the bonus tracks. The outside is an attractive blend of sepia and beige tones. The cover photograph, underscored by a gold, foil-blocked strip, renders the sea as something that might equally be a stormy desert caught at dusk. Nary a single word is outwardly visible on the cover, reverse or spines. All the text is presented on one 12″ square sheet of card, encased within the folder that also contains the two CDs. Each of the three folders consists of rigid card leaves, on the front of which are abstract images that may or may not be photographic in origin. On each of their backs is a treated photograph: a lighthouse haunted by the Northern Lights, another ocean scene possibly marked by the wake of a boat and a seascape lit through stormy clouds.

The images convey a sense of the sea’s uncanniness while the shipping forecast, traced in gloss between the album credits, suggests a fragile skein of hopeful/fearful predictions that might succumb at any moment to nature’s whim. Can parallels be drawn between Eno’s working methods and the patterns spelt out on the record labels, their sleeves and the blurred images on the fronts of the folders? I can’t tell. I do know, however, that the composite impression gradually assembled by images, scale and colours serve to widen and deepen my experience of the music itself.

See also:

- Warp20
- Autechre – Quaristice
- Autechre – LP5

Buy from the Brian Eno online shop

Listen Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins & Leo Abrahams – Emerald and Stone:

Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins & Leo Abrahams – Small Craft on a Milk Sea:

Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins & Leo Abrahams – 2 Forms of Anger:

Pop Will Eat Itself – X Y & Zee

Author: Colin | Published: 1/12/10
Previous Klima – Serenades and Serinettes Next Brian Eno – Small Craft On A Milk Sea

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Pop Will Eat Itself - X Y & Zee

Artist Pop Will Eat Itself
Title X Y & Zee
Label BMG Records (UK) Ltd
Year 1991
Design “American Expressionism from The Designers Republic”
Music Popular dance music
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Notes The all too perfectly moniker’ed Pop Will Eat Itself lasted from 1986 to 1995. Unfamiliar with their music at the time, I’m listening now and I hear a baggy dance groove, northern accents, pre-echoes of Underworld and heaps of attitude. All those elements make them a great subject for Sheffield’s The Designers Republic (the lack of apostrophe was deliberate on the company’s part).

This record is a special edition 12″ single which contains three mixes of the title track and another song, Psychosexual that bizarrely applies a sample of an orchestrated version of Satie’s Trois Gymnopedies to a whispering dance groove. It came in a box that the previous owner strengthened with masking tape on the corners. The ‘exclusive Robo-Head Sample It… 10″ sticker’ is long gone, but the record is only a little crackly. The lovely red vinyl positively glows on the black background of the record player. The poster is still in good condition and bears traces of Blu-tack in the corners. This record was owned by a fan who surely stuck it up on her bedroom wall. The band are portrayed as moody and watchful like caged animals.

TDR’s design is a relatively restrained example of the firm’s signature style. The whole thing is rendered in neon colours: green, yellow and red. If the meaning of the central symbol isn’t ultimately decipherable, that’s all to the good. There’s certainly a distinct buzz, replete with sci-fi connotations, to it – blade-like figures extend aggressively out of the central hive/sphere. The record’s title is laid over the base of the motif, the letters abstracted to suggest figures dancing, arrows indicating lines of energy thrusting outwards. Details like the info-box in the upper left corner are delightful, particularly ‘Product status: current’.

Finally, the run-out groove carries the messages ‘Copymaster Miles’, ‘Ssshhh… Don’t Wake Milky.’ and ‘Take your pants off’ – the latter perhaps a punning reference to the group’s collective writing alias, Veston Pance. I’d like to set up a plain website devoted to collecting all the enigmatic messages etched into records.

The group’s lead singer, Clint Mansell, began a new career as a well-regarded composer in the late ’90s with his soundtracks for Darren Oronofsky’s π and Requiem for a Dream while Richard March and Robert Townsend formed Bentley Rhythm Ace.

See also:
- Pop Will Eat Itself, Wikipedia

Listen Pop Will Eat Itself – X Y & Zee (Intergalactic mix)
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