Every day this month we're rolling out a new feature on XLR8R's Labels We Love of 2009. Whether it's the eye-catching aesthetics of Type or the model-for-the-future approach of Interdependent Media, these cut-making selections of the best in underground electronic, indie, hip-hop, and experimental imprints punch way above their weight. Feast your eyes on the features and then download many of the labels' related podcasts here.
Cross-pollinating sound and vision with Xela’s U.K.-based experimental outpost.
Since 2003, John Twells’ and Stefan Lewandowski’s Surrey, U.K.-based Type label has been challenging the boundaries of experimental and pop music, ushering the cross-pollination of the two into all kinds of sonic beauty. But just as important as the gorgeous sounds that they have released—from the likes of Khonnor’s critically acclaimed Handwriting to Twells’ own records as Xela—is the label’s visual aesthetic, which combines exquisite illustration and rich photography. Here, Twells tells us about five of his favorite Type album covers.
Deaf Center’s Pale Ravine
Pale Ravine is one of the more iconic early Type covers, I think—it was designed by Erik Skodvin, who’s also in the band. It was the first record Erik designed for us, and I think it really set the scene for the darker, more ominous style he would pioneer. The idea was to create something that summed up both the title and the monochrome, Lynchian sound of the album, and I think these smoky grayscale images did that perfectly. Erik went on to work on a number of other covers for us, not least his own ultra-gloomy Svarte Greiner sleeves.
Grouper’s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
This is a cover we get asked about all the time, usually, “Who’s the creepy girl?” Well, it’s actually Liz Harris (a.k.a. Grouper) herself, and when she sent it over, I literally got shivers down my spine. I think it not only accompanies the music and the deeply nostalgic resonance perfectly, but also works as an incredibly strong image in its own right. Liz told me she was standing outside in the cold for ages waiting for her dad (who enjoyed photography) to get the shot “just right”—she learned early the sacrifices you have to make for art.
City Center’s City Center
When talking to Fred Thomas about the City Center album, the thing that came up again and again was that he didn’t want it to look like an “ambient album.” By that he meant he didn’t want it to look like a usual Type sleeve. We had a “no landscapes, no buildings” agreement, and set about looking for photographs that might fit. Eventually Fred found Mary Manning, who had a great photo blog, and we asked her to come up with some pictures based on a few ideas and a pre-master of the record. The result was better than we could have imagined—playful and aesthetically gorgeous without looking quite like anything else on the label.
Xela’s In Bocca Al Lupo
Matthew Woodson has done a huge amount of sleeves for Type. I think his illustrations have become one of our trademarks in many ways, and we work very closely together. Since this was my album and I know Matthew so well, we decided to take the art as far as possible and bounced some ideas back and forth. We ended up with Jesus being eaten by wolves—wolves being a link to the title (translated: “Into the Mouth of the Wolf”) and Jesus being a link to the religious themes of the music itself. Since Matthew had encouraged me to do the music in the first place (it was for an art installation in Chicago), it felt very collaborative from the start.
For Andreas Tilliander’s latest album, the artwork came directly from the title. When he mentioned it was called Persona, I instantly thought of the Ingmar Bergman film of the same name, and that formed the basis of the sleeve art. I had worked with the photographer Linus Lohoff before (he did Goldmund’s Malady of Elegance) and relayed these thoughts to him—Persona, having strong themes and visuals—and he went away and created a set of images. We decided to run with monochrome as it seemed to go with the whole Bergman homage the sleeve ended up being.
Download Xela's exclusive Type Records podcast here.