Album Covers of the Year 2021: Sculpture & Object
The Allegorist – Hybrid Dimension II. (Awaken Chronicles)
Anna Jordan Project / The Allegorist (Visual Artist & Musician):
The Hybrid Dimension collections are neo-futuristic concept albums, complete with invented language for the lyrics (“Mondoneoh”) and the music is exquisitely composed 21st-century cinematic electronics. The music is endlessly cinematic, cool and reserved but with a confident forward drive, pulsing like a cybernetic city. It’s a different synthesis than the cyberpunk narrative we’ve seen of late – instead of faux Japanese dystopia, you get a utopian fusion of paganism and machine beats, but where the two naturally blur together.
The cover depicts the main protagonist on both Hybrid Dimension series, in different times. All cover artworks I’ve designed myself, using the moniker Anna Jordan Project. I’ve created the head ornament in 2016 from artificial flowers, wooden sticks, cardboard and a hair band… Here is a really cool video of how I have edited the covers in Photoshop.
Blessed – iii (Flemish Eye)
From the press release:
The cover art for iii, the upcoming EP from Canadian art-rock band Blessed, depicts a wall of wooden blocks, all different shapes, jumbled messily and precariously high against a softly-coloured background. It’s an image that captures Blessed at their most essential: experimental, asymmetrical, and interdependent, all the more remarkable for their marriage of those three qualities.
“Fragility and foundation, the correlation suggests alarm and worry. A set of precariously stacked blocks on the verge of certain collapse could easily serve as fuel for panic. But is the source of trouble in the actual structure itself or in our relationship to the state of being strong.” – Nathan Levasseur on iii
The remix album features a related illustration by Renée Campbell.
Cots – Disturbing Body (Boiled Records)
Steph Yates (Cots):
The record title, Disturbing Body, refers to a planet that influences another planet’s course. In the song of the same name, I liken this behaviour to human attraction. I had been making sculptures at the time of the shoot, and seeing that they had both human and alien qualities — in some cases organ-like in form, in others, a presence suggestive of the planetary — I thought they might work as a visual that could obliquely point to the link between human and celestial bodies that Disturbing Body explores. Brainstorming with JG + Shi, they had the idea to use a black backdrop and to dress me in black to further conjure a celestial atmosphere. I think it was effective, too, in depicting aloneness.
Healion – In Light, It Undoes Nothing... EP (NAFF Recordings)
From the press release:
Droplets gather in clinging mist,
Multitudes within multitudes.
The world has a body that spares everything;
In light, it undoes nothing.
Javier Areal Vélez – rrrrrrrrrr tKtK (Nefarious Industries)
Javier Areal Vélez (Musician):
The cover of the album are my own hand drawings of guitar preparations: objects I put between the guitar strings to modify its sound. These are really simple pen drawings made in black ink over white paper, that I usually draw when planning a concert, just as a way to remember what things I need to pack… I feel they work as an introduction to the materials used in the process of making the music, but I also like that they are quite naive-looking, which may go against what one expects for a noise album.
The album comes with a “metal box of nine hand-selected objects that one can use to expand the sound of the electric guitar,” based on some of the preparations the musician used in the making of rrrrrrrrrr tKtK. Here’s a video of the unboxing of one of the kits (though they are all a little different!).
Sounds & Artwork: Javier Areal Vélez
KK Junker – Ka-Tet (Opal Tapes)
A mysterious sculptural object made by Marntarnk — an artist who seems difficult to find on the internet — graves the cover of KK Junker’s Ka-Tet. It seems to straddle the line real and fictional realities, and that plays nicely with the intent.. As Ka-Tet‘s press release seems to describe in equally elusive abstraction, “The album sets up and mixes itself into itself, a mirage of the maker and final thing. The particles shifting always before finding form.”
Sounds: KK Junker
Album Artwork: Marntarnk
Ice, Jewels and Metals: Collected from 4th Angel Xo
Little Snake – A Fragmented Love Story, Written By The Infinite Helix Architect (Brainfeeder)
Dizzying and psychedelic on all aesthetic fronts, including name, solo electronic artist Little Snake’s full-length album, A Fragmented Love Story, Written By The Infinite Helix Architect, was also released in a limited edition pill USB in a holographic ziplock envelope housed in a rainbow holographic prescription box. Created by Little Snake, the box also contains an artworked package insert (250mm x 150mm) and a 75mm circular sticker.
Sounds: Little Snake
Lucy Dacus – Home Video (Matador Records)
Created by Marin Leong, the cover art and related campaign for Lucy Dacus’ full-length, Home Video, truly thrives on being self-referential. Among other playful considerations, VHS tapes were sent to 100 fans one week before the unannounced release of the single “Thumbs.” The tapes contained only the audio for the track playing to an animated loop of the VHS symbol seen on the album’s cover art. Learn and see more about the campaign.
Mas Aya – Máscaras (Telephone Explosion Records)
Via Mas Aya’s Instagram:
This work came from many places emotionally, technically, spiritually and politically and reflects internal and external struggles at home in Canadá, and Nicaragua. The first piece I wrote in this collection of songs was written in the beautiful town in Colombia called Villanueva. I would wake up early and spend an hour basking in the gorgeous mornings before the hot sun was shining strong and wrote the first song.
Later I was given the opportunity to do music for the @agakhanmuseum in 2019 and spent every night for two weeks constructing, jamming and experimenting with instruments and came up with these worlds which ask questions and prod and poke at inner discoveries and outer observations. I was aiming to make the listener question themselves but at the same time affirming themselves; understanding that the mystery and vastness of which we live our lives in the universe is something that unites us all.
Sounds: Mas Aya
Son Lux – Tomorrows Series (City Slang)
In the album covers for Son Lux’s expansive Tomorrows series, the band explores volatile principles of imbalance, disruption, collision, and redefinition, “ultimately in service of something rewarding and necessary: the act of questioning, challenging, tearing down and actively rebuilding one’s own identity.”
Son Lux (Musician):
We’re a blip on the cosmic charting of geological time, yet our impact on the planet is indelible. Our manipulation of earth has created a tumultuous present and precarious future. But it’s against this backdrop that we live out our lives in small fragile moments of intimacy, longing, hope, fear, and heartbreak. It is simultaneously an existence torn between permanence and impermanence.
Mareo Rodriguez (Cover Artist):
All my artwork is a tribute to nature, expressed in the abstraction and synthesis of the landscape; there is also a spiritual search, constant aspects like “Matter,” related to this material and physical plane and “Light,” related to the ethereal and search for the sacred. Concepts such as expansion, frequencies, gravity, the movements of the mantles and waves, all this is part of my understanding of the mineral kingdom and the connection with the cosmos. My installations complete my body of work and were born as a necessity to express and potentiate concepts and thoughts beyond the pictorial, of immersing the spectator in an experience spatial and sensory where they prevail volume insertion, geometry clearly defined in contrast with organic forms; the concepts of balance and duality between light and matter, contrasts of different materials and scales as well as recurring concepts throughout the work. Some of these installations are physically made, others remain in the conceptual project phase waiting to be materialized and experienced. I conceive my work as a laboratory in constant exploration, in which the different languages and techniques seek to communicate the strength, energy and vitality of the natural territory.
Yuanyuan Su (Graphic Designer):
Even though musicians and designers are not thinking in the same way, we found the same language through music — that’s the most attractive thing I gained in this project. After we decided to use rocks as the main elements for the album covers, I extracted a lot of keywords from the lyrics, which played a key role in shaping the details of the rocks and in designing their motion. For example, in the song “Embrace,” I let the two same rocks move towards each other slowly and embrace each other at the end. The song evokes a feeling and I tried to tell the story through the rocks. (Editor’s note: See animations of the rocks here.)
Hannah Houser (Project Manager):
It was a lot of fun to dream up what the special Tomorrows box set could entail. We wanted the experience to not only be about the individual pieces but the tactile act of exploring the work as a whole, just as the music should be experienced as a whole. So we put a lot of thought into the order of the pieces within the box when you open it, how you move through the booklet as a reader/listener, and how the “bonus” pieces could enhance the experience without being kitschy. It’s also been lovely to watch how fans respond and react to the rock formations, sometimes ascribing or uncovering meanings we hadn’t thought about previously.
Son Lux (Musician):
I hope our audience can begin to see a throughline in all of our album covers. In the same way we carry musical themes forward in our music, there are recurring visual components and elements. This relationship between the elemental forces of existence… air, wind, smoke, fire, flesh, bone, blood, dirt, oil, gold, stone… these actively shape and record our stories.
This is the Deep – The Best if Yet to Come, Pt. I (B3SCI Records)
This is the Deep (Musician):
Popcorn was chosen as the main material as it holds two key symbolic meanings for Ranald [Macdonald] from the band (who made it), which are relevant to the themes in the record. The first is spectating, or the spectacle, which comes from popcorn’s main associative link which is cinema, but can mean spectating in a more general sense too . Guy Debord’s [book] The Society Of The Spectacle was quite important in making this link between different types of spectating present in everything from the media, advertising, cinema, celebrity culture, social media, to how we see ourselves, our desires etc. The second is consumption. Popcorn, in its original context, to us also represents consumption as it’s food that’s sold not as something to eat but as something to do, as a pastime [or] leisure activity. Which is weird when you think about it. Its unique position of being lightweight, or full of air makes this all the more apparent and brings into question it’s true value. Or maybe lack of it. It also made the visual link with clouds quite neatly which is also a big part of Ranald’s ideas and artwork.
It was made during the first lockdown and worked on and off over a period of about two weeks. The popcorn was coloured by hand using pigment and linseed oil. The text was drawn out and then modelled in wire and the popcorn was glued onto the armature in layers.
We were lucky to be in the countryside for the first lockdown and wanted to take advantage of the landscape around us.
This sculpture was photographed with the sky behind it and then edited on Photoshop.
Sounds & Artwork: This is the Deep