Photo Credit: Designs by DG
This September marks an important milestone – a year age Pitchfork published its exposé of tape labels that get their graphic design right. Here’s a sorely needed update of that article with our own picks of 5 more labels that got their design/art right.
Eggs in Aspic
In last year’s interview with Echoes and Dust Andrew Fenwick, head honcho of this young UK label, explained how his approach to design is radically different from others
There are some great labels out their that have a definite design aesthetic running through their catalog (Astral Spirits, A Giant Fern, Never Anything etc.) and I’m a big fan of that, but I actually tend to treat each release as a unique entity so the concept for the artwork is essentially a separate creative process for each. The artwork for Grotto was created by Belgium’s mighty Robin Van Oyen and we’re working with some other great graphic designers on the upcoming releases. The plan is to build a collective of like-minded contributors.
Its been nearly a year since the interview and the label clearly kept its word – it now boasts more than 10 releases from bands spanning the globe and the artwork is as unique as the music contained within. Some of the recent contributors/artists include Rhys Bloodjoy associate Rogue Bear and Graeme “Grassy” Hopper, musician and visual artist who worked with Field Music and Mogwai/Rock Action Records.
Many of the labels releases come with special inserts inside including pin badges, printouts of lyrics and candy of different flavors (licorice, Bubs Swedish raspberry, pink and white mice).
Joe McKay is one busy man – not only he’s a sound artist (recording under the nom de plume Monte Burrows), but also a visual one (his artwork graced releases by Arts & Crafts / Geweih Ritual Documents). Joe started Spring Break Tapes in 2011 and DA was born as an offshoot of that label in 2016.
Dinzu Artefacts motto is “Sound as an art form” and on his website Joe describes the process of tape artwork creation as “always a fun and challenging process trying to find the right imagery to fit the artist’s music”.
Art on DA releases is mostly done by Joe, although the label also employed help of contributing artists including Paulina Okninska (who also worked with Wounded Knife, Jasien and Bolt labels) Simon Christoph Krenn and Eirik Steinsrud.
Cabin Floor Esoterica
Established in 2009, this small Ohio label run by Jordan Spencer is still running strong as of 2017. CFE is known as much for its devotion to strange sounds, obscure artists and (occasionally extremely) limited edition tape runs as it is for its visual identity.
To wit – Melted Morton tape from 2011 features no case, while countless other tapes come with all inserts ranging from dry fern to feather tassels to rusted screws. There’s also a heavy emphasis on photography and abstract collages – a subtle reminder of Painted Door Press, Joe’s other venture dedicated to poetry and written stories.
“Clay Mahn did the artwork and decided on the template for the first batch. He’s the engineer of our aesthetic. We talked a lot about the look of the tapes, and from the beginning, we knew we wanted a strong, fairly minimal design that continued from batch to batch and also allowed for variation while still remaining within our established visual context.”
Where other labels employ photography or collage NA’s visual focus is pure minimalism and abstract patterns/shapes with design direction being influenced by a German label Wergo Records.
Already Dead Tapes and Records
With a whopping 264 releases since their inception in 2009, AD have honed a unique design standard simply by, in the words of label founder Josh Tabbia, “avoiding routine. I do this as much for the design aspect as the community and music, and I love coming up with new ways to house cassettes and interpret the format. If I design several ‘non-traditional’ packages in a row I get just as board with that as if I were doing j-cards all the time. Design wise, I want the label to embody diversity and variety from release to release.”
Some of the more interesting design choices have included stamped brown paper bags (for Anybody But The Cops’ “The Shape of Punk To-Go”) to a totally see-through tape and O-card printing (for Matthew Dotson’s Revolution/Circumvention”). The ‘standard’ AD design is also of note, with a unique spine indicator a la library cataloging, and non-uniform tape color and labeling work.