Woman's Hour - Conversations LP
Listeners first encounter Conversations, the debut record by United Kingdom musicians Woman's Hour, through striking monochrome visual imagery. Black and white can be seen in everything from their album artwork and press photos to their music videos, serving not only to unify the band's music, but to incorporate their underlying interests and philosophies as well. Responsible for their visual branding is Frank and Jane, a collaboration between Woman's Hour frontwoman Fiona Jane Burgess and artist Oliver Chanarin. This article features a Q&A with Burgess and all-encompassing look at the visual collateral connected to the record, to demonstrate how the experience Woman's Hour is crafting is truly an interdisciplinary and thoughtful one.
Woman's Hour - Conversations Music Video

 

Folklorists like to romanticize blues music as being a pure expression of culture, but recorded blues music was carefully marketed to its intended audience from its very beginning. As early as the 1920s, music aimed at African-Americans was labeled as "race music", and the best way to advertise it was in the pages of African-American newspapers. These newspapers had a wide circulation among urban African-Americans and even in parts of the South, where they were treated as contraband and discretely shared. While living in Arkansas, the singer Big Bill Broonzy recalled furtively reading the most famous of these newspapers, The Chicago Defender, and he made the move to Chicago in part because of what he had learned in the newspaper. Broonzy said that Black readers of the Defender were seen as brave, as it was a newspaper that promoted Black migration to the North, criticized racism in the South, and pushed for social change.1

Every year, we interview a number of musicians and artists about the intimate details and philosophical underpinnings of their album cover artwork. It's an ever-massive undertaking, but we make sure to include every genre, from doom metal to disco, minimal electronic to mainstream pop, with the intention of highlighting the best visual art, regardless of why or who created it. You can see entries from previous years here, and browse 2013's entries by either scrolling down or selecting a category below. > Narrative & Mythological Album Covers > Photographic Album Covers > Illustrative Album Covers > Mixed Media & Collage-Based Album Covers

This audio-visual collaboration between Portland-based avant-garde metal outfit, The Body, and NYC mixed media artist Alexander Barton has been a long time coming, a homage to an enduring friendship. Combining their mutual shared interest in intensity, abstraction, and religious themes, the music video for "To Attempt Oneness" pits The Body's guttural, distorted screams and noisy, rumbling guitars against Barton's bleeding ink painting -- an extension of his earlier performance which used real pig's blood. The final product holds a viewer's fascination with its impressively slow and minimal unfolding, the most entertaining way possible to watch paint dry. To celebrate the very recent release of The Body's Christs, Redeemers on Thrill Jockey Records, we offer you a side-by-side interview with artist Alexander Barton and The Body's drummer Lee Buford, as they speak of music, aesthetics, and the world. The Body are currently on a nation-wide tour; dates at the bottom of this post.

V V Brown has released three albums since 2009 -- but it is only now that she is making a foray into the independent music world. Freshly divorced from her former major label home, Capitol Records, V V Brown has recently found renewed strength in herself as an artist with her latest record, Samson & Delilah. Themed around the Biblical tale, which mirrors the themes of vulnerability, slavery, and freedom that led to her massive career change, Samson & Delilah also presents a sonic change into moodier and darker territories, where hints of The Knife echo through, replacing previous tendencies towards mainstream pop appeal. A bold new audio-visual approach accompanies the record as well, in the form of a dramatic, carefully-plotted fifteen-minute short film directed by Jessica Hughes. Comprised into three separate music videos, the film bears similarity to mesmerizing black and white Japanese classics by Akira Kurosawa or Masaki Kobayashi, while catching a mood not unlike that of Ingmar Bergman films. They're transportive from part to part, leaving viewers wondering about the terrains to be crossed next. In this Q&A interview about the creative process of the short film, V V Brown speaks of being inspired by geishas and noir, Biblical stories and archetypal characters -- and the feeling of finding one's own artistic voice.
"Samson and Delilah is a story about strength and weakness. It's about the pendulum between the two. The story for me conjured up the idea of empowerment and fragility. When Samson was deceived by his love and was in the wilderness discovering and finding himself, waiting for his hair to grow back, this represents times in my life I have felt lost creatively. Hair clipped and [with] a sense of vulnerability. Delilah was the deceiver. Samson represents the artist and Delilah represents the cooperation. The Artist can often loose the strength of their messages in the corporate arena, and my own record label exercises my freedom and new strength." - V V Brown

There is no romance as elusive and magnetic as that between body and space. The pursuit of distinctive identity, formulaic functions and ideal wholeness between the human self and environment (naturally encountered or human-created) has impressed upon every aesthetic expression. Vedas, a collaborative photographic project between Nicholas Alan Cope and Dustin Edward Arnold, continues this dialogue in a language of human anonymity and geometric presence. Chambers, hallways and corners resonate with sensuality; architectural elements take on a humanized significance within their space. Textures are explored in fine detail -- but it is really light that has the most mass in Cope’s photography. We are challenged with the spectacle of geometry and light as identities within space, not as places or unintentional frameworks.
“Thanks to the mutual enlivening of body and landscape, a place constantly overflows its own boundaries. Uncontainable on its near edge, it flows back into the body that subtends it; uncontainable on its far side, it flows outward into the circumambient world.” – Edward S. Casey

The music video for "Crescent" is a bizarre piece of work, minimal and almost Lynchian in feel, without much going on save for slow movements and small textural or geometric changes. Directed by Nick Criscuolo, it opens with what look like paintings roaring, like unbridled fires, to be followed by the slow morphing between some unusually magnetic characters (a Frankenstein-like mortician and a space cadet?). The entire music video is largely in greyscale, tinged only by carefully-placed red accents -- but such a color scheme seems appropriate for the melancholy sense of mystery that ERAAS seem to prefer (they'd rather not speak about their music videos, for example). In the full post, you can view the music video for "Crescent", along with the band's previous video for "Ghost". Both live in a similar dreary universe of beautiful confusion, but "Ghost" incorporates some more traditional music video shots of musical performance, well-timed to rhythms, and some fluttering cloaked figures. Directed by Major Jass, a husband and wife duo.
 

Lansè Kòd (The Rope Throwers) 1996
Every year, Carnaval comes and goes across the entire world, tantalizing everyone with its fanciful costuming and celebratory antics. But beyond the tourist circuit of Carnival lies another Carnival, in locales with a connection closer to the festival's origins. Haiti is one of many countries that celebrates Carnival at their own pace, and over the course of many years, photographer Leah Gordon was able to capture the beauty of those festivities in Jacmel, a coastal town in the south. Kanaval is a black and white photographic series, true -- but it is, more importantly, a series on awareness, about culture, and inclusive of mythology. After this series was taken, Haiti suffered its devastating earthquake and Jacmel was completely decimated. Gordon's photographs, along with her heart-felt introduction to the series and the many oral mythologies passed down to her from carnival participants, can be viewed in the full post. Together, they forever capture a wonderful space in time and call attention to Haiti's creative and spiritual existence. We begin with a tale from Madanm Lasiren, which is just the first of many.
Madanm Lasirèn (Madame Mermaid) 2003

Madanm Lasiren Andre Ferner, 59 years

Lasiren is a spirit that lives under the sea and does mystical work there, she is a Vodou spirit, I dream of Lasiren all the time. That is the reason I do Lasiren for Mardi Gras. I chose Lasiren because my grandmother, father and mother all served the spirits, I love her & honour her. The baby that I carry in my arms is the child of Lasiren who is called Marie Rose. When I walk the streets I sing her song which goes ' I am Lasiren and I cry for Lasiren, when I work mystically in the night bad luck can come my way'. I prepare for Lasiren by putting on a hat, a mask and carrying an umbrella. I put on a necklace and gloves. This necklace is called Mambo Welcome, it is a fetish. Because Lasiren is a fish she has to disguise herself as a woman to be at Mardi Gras. My mask and hat cover her fish's head. And the dress she wears covers her fish's tail. The chain I wear is a sacred chain. Each year I change the disguise and fashion a new baby. In order to get inspiration I go to the place where the big beasts live and they instruct me how to do Mardi Gras. I have been doing this for 18 years. Before that I did another Mardi Gras call Patoko. This was a group of men who were dressed as women, with a nice dresses and high heeled shoes. We did a marriage between men and woman on the street. After that we had a group called the duck who carried brushes in their hands wearing blue trousers, white t-shirts, new sandles and a scarf around our waists. We swept the streets of Jacmel. I have always found a way of doing a Mardi Gras.
Kanaval will be on display for free at PHI Centre in Montreal (407, rue Saint-Pierre), from February 25th to April 27th, 2013. Opening night happens at 7:30pm on February 23rd, and its $175 ticket price (or a $400 VIP ticket) includes Haitian food, giveaways, and performances by Haitian dance groups, Haitian band Doody and Kami, and The Arcade Fire, who have a blog dedicated to their own trip to Haiti. All proceeds will go towards KANPE, a non-profit "born of a desire to play an integral part in the fight to help Haiti break free from a vicious cycle of poverty", through programs in health, education, agriculture, counseling, and other community services. Full event details can be seen at PopMontreal.
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Scottish illustrators Kyle Noble and Jamie Irvine travel the world individually but remain tethered together through the constant exchange of twisted, fantastical comics. Emerging from their psychedelic landscapes -- some of which hardly resemble landscapes at all -- come floating heads with third eyes, praying mantises with Madonna streaming out of the top of their heads, fungal universes, and possible tractor beams. Noble and Irvine's collaborations are inspired by Exquisite Corpse, a Surrealist invention that serves as a mode of artistic interplay between individuals. Drawings are exchanged back and forth to evolve an image spontaneously and to create an organic, ever-unstable narrative. In the case of Noble and Irvine, this results in works that they describe as "unutterably absurd, sexually graphic and loaded with scientific as well as 'new age' theories" -- a natural output considering their respective influences. Noble cites interest in themes such as "the origins of man, Megalithic monuments, ancient civilizations, shamanism, psychedelia, cultural truth, skepticism, and spiritualism", and Irvine finds equal interest in "the exploration of the subconscious and the relationship with mind, sold, and body." Madness unfolds from there, to be seen in the batch images below. Some of Noble and Irvine's solo works to follow. (9 IMAGES TOTAL)