“Language is the quintessential blueprint that can bridge between the senses. The more I attempt to describe music in visual terms, and the visual in musical terms, the more I’m training toward synesthesia. It’s not an ability that I naturally have, but I’ve developed it...

Album Covers of the Year 2014
In contrast to modern patterns in music consumption comes our annual Album Covers of the Year feature, where, instead of forgetting album artwork even exists, we hyperextend ourselves to assert that it is an artform that is vitally connected to the spirit of the music. This feature, which is divided at times into thematic elements and at times into artistic medium, incorporates interviews with not only musicians, but also artists involved throughout the artistic process. We pride this list in being diverse and multi-faceted, as well as philosophically exploratory. See all of our entries from previous years or get started by choosing a category below. Happy travels through the artistic universe we've crafted for you.

The origins of Craig Leon's Nommos/Visiting lie in the ancient art of the Dogon tribe from Mali, who worshipped a race of amphibious extraterrestrials, known as the “Nommos”, who were said to come from the distant star supposedly known as Sirius B. The strange thing about Sirius B is that it is invisible to the naked eye, and science only verified its existence in the 20th century, long after the Dogon tribe had already established a deep mythology around it. This intersection of science and spirituality, of the ancient and the modern, lies at the heart of this stunning collection from RVNG Intl., packaged with the usual lavish care and attention to detail, in which Craig Leon simulates a soundtrack for interstellar travel for the Nommos, using a battalion of cutting-edge-at-the-time synthesizers and drum machines. Craig Leon - Nommos/Visiting Album Review Craig Leon is not some undiscovered private press new age genius. Rather, he is best known for production duties on some of the '70s most adventurous records, from some of New York's arthouse elite, including Suicide, Television, The Ramones, and Blondie, which places "Nommos/Visiting" at the intersection of punk rock and new wave, industrial music, early hip-hop, and world music. This is no slice of musical soma; this is a transmission from the crossroads.

 

Metronomy - I'm Aquarius Music Video
We've coincidentally been featuring a string of sci-fi and space-related music videos as of late, but Metronomy's music video for "I'm Aquarius", directed by French director Edoud Salier, is definitely the most polished of the bunch. Rolling with the punches of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joseph Mount's use of astrological references galore, this music video is like a sci-fi book cover turned motion picture style. Retro spaceships float over spacescapes painted in bold strokes, until they finally touch down in a new land, not unlike a modern ancient Egypt, and timed perfectly for the song's ending half, which worms out into ethereal spaces.
Metronomy - I'm Aquarius Music VideoMetronomy - I'm Aquarius Music Video

Lumerians Band Interview - The High FrontierIt's an early afternoon the day after Lumerians have played their last show of the year, headlining on a Friday in late November at The Chapel in San Francisco. The night was something of a hometown multi-generational happening, as local turn-of-the-'80s industrial pioneers Factrix, sometimes described as "gothadelic" and definitely ahead of their time back in the day, made an uncommon live appearance. Such a lineup is a reminder that to be a band from the Bay Area and play anything approaching psychedelic rock is both a natural choice and one that surely comes with a keener sense of history and expectation than it would in almost any other region. Able heirs with omnivorous musical appetites, Lumerians seem aware of – but certainly not burdened by – any weight of legacy, instead infusing it into their experimental approach. Lumerians' second album, The High Frontier, is about different manifestations of exploration. The record is named after a somewhat obscure book from 1977 about mankind moving into outer space, written by Gerard K. O'Neill. I speak to bassist/vocalist Marc Melzer and drummer Chris Musgrave one afternoon, and as Melzer explains, O'Neill's book isn't really science fiction, but a thoughtful manifesto about the colonization of deep space by human beings – perhaps as a means of preserving a unique life form. The band -- which also includes guitarist/keyboardist Tyler Green, multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jason Miller, and percussionist Tony Peluso – was drawn to the idea of moving toward uncharted internal and external territories.
"For us, music is about exploration. We may start down a traveled path, but our real objective is to discover what is beyond. We're no retro-fetishists, but it seems like the future used to be more boundless and inspired," explains Melzer. The High FrontierThe band was initially inspired by seeing some of the artwork that was created for O'Neill's book, and were subsequently drawn in by its forward-thinking perspective, as it wasn't really about the destruction or abandonment of Earth, but about "taking what was cool about humanity and moving into other places." Given the innumerable times and ways people have been inspired by that boundless realm above our heads, I ask Melzer what he thinks it is about mankind's relationship to outer space that makes it such a creative influence. "It's all about exploration... and just wondering what else is out there. Also, on top of that," he continues, "... just sort of seeing what other peoples' visions of other worlds and other states of being really is, because there's an infinite amount of different worlds out there, whether it's internal or external."

Nik Turner - Space Gypsy Album ReviewNik Turner Space Gypsy Cleopatra Records The fabled saxophonist, flautist and frontman Nik Turner has always sought to defy the epithet "ordinary". His showmanship, sax and flute playing and great songwriting were an essential compound in the chemical reaction that gave birth to some of the most influential albums and live shows of the early- to mid-1970s. Anyone who has been fortunate to see him live with Hawkwind, or his other projects, such as Inner City Unit, Nik Turner's Fantastic All Stars, Space Ritual and Nik Turner (ex Hawkwind), will know that he is one of the most exciting, outrageous and innovative performers ever to take to a stage. Turner's new album, Space Gypsy, appears to have succeeded in working the elusive magic of channelling that extraordinary live energy and capturing it on a studio album. This was always the success of early Hawkwind albums, from 1971's In Search of Space through to 1975's Warrior On The Edge Of Time, which were bursting with power and originality of a kind that has not been replicated by many acts subsequently. There are many other good Hawkwind albums, but that period is regarded by some as being the peak of what was attainable by the group.

While the decommissioning of NASA's space program seems to be an outward indicator of a global lack of interest in the great beyond, one can always look to the arts to realize that the human fascination in space and sci-fi are as strong as they've ever been, if not stronger. This is perhaps most obvious in film: Star Wars and Star Trek are constantly enjoying modern revisions; Gravity recently portrayed space in remarkable new ways; 2001: Space Odyssey is still eternally being cited as influential; the list goes on. In the music world, space's ability to stir the imagination manifests in less obvious ways. Lyrics and band names may pay homage to the stars above, but it is often the wordless feeling between dramatic instrumental music and the final frontier that leads to the most recognizable connection. A recent collaboration between New York's Infinity Shred and director Dean Marcial of the Brooklyn studio Calavera builds off of their mutual interest in the work of Carl Sagan and space, in general. Marcial's 2010 short film, Darkmatter, comprises the grainy first portion of the video and provides its foundation. As the narrative continues, the film's astronauts pass through multiple dimensions, and Marcial uses increasing fidelity and morphing aspect ratios to subtly drive this concept home. The effect of pairing instrumental spaciness with literal images of spaces brings the entire audio-visual experience up to new heights. As the release of films like Gravity lead the world to question whether a film might save NASA, you have to wonder what our fascination will lead us to; for media, that aggregate of collective imaginations, seems to prove that we will never fail to be stirred by space's mysteries. In this dual interview between Infinity Shred's synth master Damon Hardjowirogo and director Dean Marcial, the two sound off on the process behind this music video, the overarching themes, and the scale of it all.

To express questions of context, displacement and fragmented identity, what better medium could there be than the nature of assemblage in collage? Image artifacts are laid bare while hypothetical situations construct parallel universes. The familiar falls in rhythm with the bizarre. Framed in conscious composition, such vivid and dreamlike landscapes are manipulated at the hands of North Carolina-based collage artist Bryan Olson. Bryan Olson Collage Artist InterviewBryan Olson Collage Artist Interview Olson interprets the remains of vintage magazines and other paper paraphernalia to illustrate a recreated mythology. Exaggerated idols can be found in the most unassuming of inanimate objects, as in the towering pink liquids of Delicious Land; humans are translated into curious anomalies within environments never to be encountered. Even the simplest geometric shapes are given new context. The glory that saturates symbolism in his ordered universe recalls, with little effort, the naivety of space exploration and human pursuit of knowledge. Every image by Olson is characterized by the familiar presence of the Earth or objects of earthly origin, yet deliberate fragmentation makes them feel extraterrestrial. In further emphasis to this refrain, overt images of astronomy intensify Olson's dialogues with people, places and structures. Yet, by maintaining a rooted sense of natural flow within his collage, Bryan Olson engages with the absurdity of human behavior and the scope of the massive cosmic entities without, on the most part, seeming psychedelic.

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