Another year of our favorites in Top Album Cover Artwork, and once again, we interview musicians and artists on the often-underappreciated work that goes into creating a product that not only tickles your ears, but speaks to your eyes and hearts. Album artwork, though often only viewed on tiny screens...

An imposing wall of rotary dials, turreted by oscilloscopes, draped in spaghettied cables, emitting a series of creaks, groans, and unearthly bubbles, is one of the most iconic images of electronic music. These monolithic machines -- known as modular synthesizers -- have had an enormous impact on how we visualize...

Circuit des Yeux's performances are like a guided tour through several decades of psychedelia; cherry-picked moments of visionary art rock, viewed through a classy romantic noir cabaret lens. The band is in full tilt as my girlfriend and I enter the Doug Fir's rough hewn wooden basement venue, which is...

Jan St. Werner - Miscontinuum Album Review
Miscontinuum is a surreal, subjective sound opera; an abstract tone poem; a stream-of-consciousness dream monologue on the nature of time and memory.
"Every memory is just a loop. Returning again to places I once was, before, things are never as I remember them. Every home is also a burning house. Loop... and if one could draw this loop differently, then what? Different lengths? Four different lengths? Changes history's courses - places, people, and events; all of them never were. Could they be made anew with this loop? I doubt it. Is this really happening?" - Intro to Miscontinuum
Miscontinuum, from Mouse On Mars member Jan St. Werner, is the third installment in his Fiepblatter Catalogue series, was originally conceived as an operatic performance and radio play, with a very surreal, stream-of-consciousness libretti written by Oval's Marcus Popp, and recited, wonderfully, by Earth's Dylan Carlson, in his reedy voice. The text revolves around the misconceptions of time and memory, inspired by unique acoustic phenomena derived through digital phasing and musical time-stretching techniques, which is punctuated with St. Werner's tapestry of hypnotic electrical pulsing. Imagine, if you will, if Philip Glass had written an opera based on a text by Haruki Murakami, rather than illustrating Einstein standing on a beach; with Terry Riley on the keys, if it had been recorded thirty years later, and you're getting close to imagining Miscontinuum's minimalist electronics.

 

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.
Dustin Wong Takako Minekawa - She He See Feel Music Video
Building on his tendency of taking music video creation into his own hands, Dustin Wong has, quite appropriately, collaborated with musical co-conspirator Takako Minekawa on making the "She He See Feel" music video. The track is taken from the duo's latest record on Thrill Jockey, entitled Savage Imagination, and the imagination here is savage, indeed. Chroma-keyed imagery is overlaid upon warped, pulsing backgrounds, heightening the manic video game-inspired nature of the music -- and beneath the bedazzling and head-scratching effects of the videos lies pun-filled lyrical content about "flying over a desert via feeling, consciousness, and physics." No shit. In the Q&A interview below, both musicians speak to collaborating together, the relationship between gender roles and cutesiness in Japanese society, and concepts way more profound than one might expect from the music video.__ JAPANESE TRANSLATION BY MORGAN HARKNESS
Dustin Wong Takako Minekawa - She He See Feel Music Video
"... When we express our feelings with visual things (using emoticons and text to dissect them) instead of spoken words and letters, everything and lots of things become heavier coming out. It's all the same water. Discrimination, wars, gender issues... girlfriends, boyfriends, looking, feeling. A prism collects light, and then diffuses light. We are the same light, and we all shine in different ways." - Takako Minekawa
The harp, as an instrument, seems to inherently conjure medieval, Celtic, or angelic imagery. When it is joined by swirling synthesizers and bilious clouds of delayed guitars, the brain is left with all manner of interesting juxtapositions, like a tea room melting into sea foam, or some fictitious movie with moonbeams, meteor showers, and unicorns. Mary Lattimore Jeff Zeigler - Slant of Light Album ReviewSlant of Light is the first recorded collaboration between Mary Lattimore and Jeff Zeigler, who first began collaborating in 2013, with a live score for Philippe Garrel's 1968 film, La Revelateur. And while some performers spend decades honing their musical bond, Lattimore and Ziegler seem to immediately comprehend one another, like a pair of musical Gemini twins. Both Lattimore and Ziegler are in-demand session musicians, with the former lending harp plucks to Kurt Vile, Jarvis Cocker, and going on tour with Thurston Moore for years, while Zeigler has slung axe for Chris Forsyth, A Sunny Day In Glasgow, and The War On Drugs. What is first, and most immediately striking about Slant of Light, is how this indie rock lineage has given way to this celestial head trip of a record. It is like a microcosm of the descent into obscure, mind-altering music from the mainstream -- in which every music lover whose parents don't have a hip record collection, has partaken.
Seer could be seen as a New World Symphony of a vast, prehistoric continent that exists only in your mind. Or in a galaxy far, far away. Music has been attempting to describe nature for as long as there's been music -- attempting to evoke a babbling brook or the spring rain, through a keyboard or the beating of stones. The story of music could be seen as man's attempt to get closer to nature, to describe what it is to be human and what it will be, in ever-increasing detail and complexity. It could be because of this drive that many would-be world-builders took to the emerging field of electronic music, where it became possible to work with the building blocks of sound and with recordings of the natural world, to construct abstract movies of the is as well as the never-was. This was the dream and the vision of the tape-manipulators and the inventors of singing electric machines -- to create a new musical language, unfettered from musical prisons; the imagination set free. The lovers and writers of science fiction recognized this pioneering, visionary quality of early electronic music, and, very soon, the sound of old synths quickly became synonymous with classic sci-fi cinema. And because of this, it becomes almost impossible to listen to a record like Seer and not hear it as a film score. The question is: What kind of movie is it?
A lot of the problem with viewing the universe as being comprised of matter comes with the idea that it's devoid of conscious experience somehow. More and more, little by little, we're starting to wake up to the insane limitations of this philosophy. Renders people humorless if you ask me. Nothing adds up, which creates profound existential desperation resonating throughout the collective psi-grid of humanity. There is no explanation for why anything happens, so we instead focus on how things go down in obsessive detail. Not to knock this approach, as it creates order by combining with the mystical chaos of internal infinity. Too much mystic psychic sizzle and you'll get torn to shreds, but when you look at only shared perceptual experience, you're editing out the vast majority of reality. It's all dark matter through those eyes. Endless blacked out pages on a declassified UFO report. What I've found is that by shifting models of reality interpretation just slightly from conceiving the world as being made of matter to one comprised from conscious experience, coherent macro concepts of conjoined narratives learning lessons throughout cycles of shifting lifetimes starts to take shape (which I talk about all the time on Facebook; friend me). When you start looking at things through the neo-Occult lens regarding the meaning of our existence as participants in a small cog of a much larger 5th dimensional art creation device, things begin to click into place on an even deeper level. Try it; it's fun. What works about this model is the fact that art is getting more plentiful and expansive by the day. Whether or not that was the purpose, that's what's happening. The average person now spends their time lost in a greater collective imagination in a way that wasn't even possible a decade ago. We've entered the era of the information addict. We're turning ourselves increasingly inward and tying together disparate narratives without asking why we're so unconsciously compelled to veer in that direction. I'm more helplessly entrenched than anyone, spending my time existent in my own celestial enclave of sonic enchantment. Fact of the matter is, more people are taking psychedelic drugs at this point in history than ever before. The loosening of the pot laws is just going to ensure that trend continues to spike upward. Unsurprisingly, this has created a congruent upsurge in fantastically brain-altering tunage. I can't even begin to keep up with it all, and I'm an obsessive music weirdo. For all intents and purposes, there are an infinite number of great albums being made every single year, but I'd say Joe Sixpack isn't truly aware of that fact. I can't imagine any of the records on this list sold a ton, which is sort of the problem and why you need geeks like me. Next time you want to trip out on the weekend rather than getting blitzed drunk, go pick up any of thesem and they'll serve to lift you on high rather than binding you to the lower dimensions. Now, I almost apologize, because there really should be more trip-hop and electronic freak outs on here in general -- that's where drug music is heading and has been since I was a kid. But I've listened to a lot of the higher profile releases this year and most of it was decent, and little of it struck me as sufficiently psyche-warping. I've got to dig deeper next year. I will say that Seattle's Debacle Records consistently brings the strange vibes (Editor's Note: See the mixtape they made for us earlier this year) -- and as if intentionally living up to our newly minted west coast weed city status, more great psychedelic albums came out of Seattle this year than ever, so this list is also a bit heavy on that because no one else is really talking about it. You've been warned.
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.