- Top 100
February 11th, 2012
Welcome to Strobe – this space will be taking a look at the visual aspect of dance music culture, examining album and poster art, videos, and the like. Check back on Wednesdays and Saturdays for new analysis of dance music visuals, and please email me at strobe (at) djmag (dot) ca if you know of any interesting dance music visuals that should be featured in Strobe.
Zomby, the dubstep-not-dubstep badboy, has been in the news of late due to authorship disputes over his single “Natalia’s Song”. This latest mini-controversy could actually boost his career, which has been getting huger and huger, especially since last year’s Dedication full-length, a critical favorite. The producer’s follow-up and second release for 4AD was Nothing (either a long EP or a mini-album). Even on my ipod, the design for Nothing jumps out; the simplest image – just type and color -seem to glow. The cover is at once stark and playful, the release information being barely visible from the wrong angle. This white text on off-white background scheme is one-upped for the vinyl version, which features slate-on-slate embossing (hint: bottom right), surely drawing cues from New Order’s Perfect Kiss design by Peter Saville (1985).
It’s no accident that Zomby has achieved a unifying visual identity since signing with 4AD. The overprint-loving Vaughan Oliver, a design hero in some circles, has been closely involved in the look of a majority of 4AD’s releases since the mid Eighties. He’s responsible for countless splashy sleeves for everyone from GusGus to M/A/R/R/S to the Pixies. So you know the visual element will be well thought-out with this label’s artists. The word ZOMBY now appears in an Impact-like font on even his more obscure singles.
As is par for the course in underground dance music, Zomby had recorded for a variety of imprints prior to 4AD, including Werk, Ramp and Hyperdub. As a result, his graphics were similarly all over the place. While throwback rave/hardcore cues like day-glo and space alien fonts were certainly applicable to his tunes (and yes the geometric Hyperdub logo is classic), there was little consistency, which could benefit an artist whose sound is so chameleonic.
Indie techster Matthew Dear’s lastest LP, Headcage (Ghostly), meanwhile, is a dead-ringer for a famed album from another old Vaughan Oliver band, Cocteau Twins. White grid, super loose tracking, swirly and abstract photo? – check, check, check!
The Vinyl Factory has long been more than just a record plant. Their special editions often end up in galleries or winning design awards. Now Norway’s do-no-wrong disco don Todd Terje gets the VF deluxe treatment via a Roxy Music remix 12”, out this month. Terje reworks “Love is the Drug” while Lindstrom and Prins Thomas take on “Avalon”. The sleeve is based on an alternate version of the original 7”, and like its parent album Siren, features Jerry Hall. The cover bears a creasy, pre-distressed look, which may be a bit silly, but it suits the producer’s retro outlook well enough!
If you’re like me and have spent more than a few minutes Youtube-ing classic Chemical Brothers festival sets, you may have already heard the Manchester legends have a concert film which will be in wide release very soon. I don’t think too many acts do visuals better! Check the trailer for Don’t Think below.
See you on Wednesday!