Various – SMACK! Sampler

It’s not often that I hold onto free sampler CD packaging, but this is different. Back in 2006 I picked this up at the local music store and immediately recognized the artist, Yuko Shimizu. She’s been one of my favorite current illustrators for several years thanks to her surreal, textured, often ukiyo-e print inspired style. She is a graduate from and instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and I highly regret not being able to attend her lecture at my alma mater a few months ago. Oh well.

While visiting her portfolio site a few days ago I noticed a ton of sampler CD covers she’s done for The Word Magazine’s Now Hear This! series. (below), all of which are pretty amazing. You can see the rest of them and more of her music related work here.

Yuko Shimizu
The Word Magazine

The Whitefield Brothers – In The Raw

At one time I was obsessed with The Poets of Rhythm, the Munich-based funk group that released their amazing album, Discern/Define, on Quannum Records in 2001. Still one of my favorite modern funk albums, it introduced me to similar groups such as Antibalas, The Daptones, El Michels Affair and others. So of course I try to pick up everything the group is involved with, including Now Again’s reissue of The Whitefield Brothers’ In The Raw and Karl Hector & The Malcoun’s Saraha Swing.

These side-projects focus on the more African-influenced aspects of The Poets and includes album packaging which appropriately shares that influence. The minimalistic, limited-color designs were created by Toronto-based Way Shape Form, a team between Matthew Boyd and River Jukes-Hudson. What I like most about In The Raw’s packaging is the insert that includes minimal information and several pages of abstract designs (two shown above). It also carries over the use of the African mask motif from the original Soul Fire release.

Saraha Swing’s shares a few similarities in its approach, using only two colors throughout, along with some interesting photographic elements. Below I’ve included the first music video for the album which has a matching two-color aesthetic.

Way Shape Form
The Poets of Rhythm
Now Again

The Cover Down Returns

Last year I set up a companion blog to The Cover Up called “The Cover Down”, meant to be a constant stream of good album covers. Eventually it got boring and I stopped updating it. A few days ago I decided to bring it back, but this time restricting it to scans of album covers straight from my record collection.

I won’t be able to update it for the next week or two as I’ll be away from my scanner. But after that I hope to add to it pretty steadily. I’ve also got another new blog on my Bone Burnisher site, focusing on music, art, culture, video games and whatever else inspires me. Too many blogs?

The Cover Down

Bone Burnisher

Jazz Covers

Vince the Slapchop guy was right. The Germans do make great stuff. For a few years I’ve been a big fan of German publisher Taschen’s selection of books. “Illustration Now!”, “The Golden Age of Advertising – The 70’s” and their large but cheap books on artists like Egon Schiele being a few of my favorites. I ran across this book, “Jazz Covers”, a few months ago and finally decided to pick it up.

I’m glad I did. This book is enormous, with almost 500 pages. Covers are organized alphabetically by artist, with selections dating back to the 40’s up to the 90’s. All covers have information provided next to them, some with brief descriptions and information on the artist. While I love my Blue Note Records album cover book, this is a nice reminder that jazz covers are more than Reid Miles and Francis Wolff (although they are well represented here and still awesome).

The book also includes interviews with people like Rudy Van Gelder and Creed Taylor, along with top 10 lists by DJs like King Britt and Gilles Peterson. You can actually take a look at the entire book on Taschen’s website, if you feel like flipping through 500 pages of a digital Flash-based simulation.

Jazz Covers

Santana – Abraxas

It was difficult for me to pick what Mati Klarwein album cover to feature in this post. I chose Santana’s second album, Abraxas, because it seems to be the most recognizable. Ever since I bought this on vinyl, the cover has boggled my mind. It’s a surreal collage of goddesses, elephants, Wodaabe men, a dude with sun glasses and a host of other things, chosen by Santana after seeing the painting printed in a magazine.

Mati Karwein was a painter born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1932, emigrating with his family to Palestine (Israel) two years later. His father, Yusef Ben Menachem, was an architect associated with the Bauhaus movement. His mother was an opera singer. At 17 he moved to Paris and studied with artists such as Fernand Leger, later meeting one of his major influences, Ernst Fuchs, as well as making friends with Salvador Dalí.

In the 60’s and 70’s he became well known for his complex, visionary paintings that would soon find their way onto a wealth of album covers, the most popular being Abraxas and Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew. I hesitate to call them “psychedelic” as Mati himself said that he was not directly influenced by psychedelic drugs as he was unable to paint while using them. He strongly aligned himself with the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism (partly founded by Fuchs) which focused on techniques of the Old Masters, grounded in realism, and combining that with “religious and esoteric symbolism”.

His work has been used on albums by Santana, Miles Davis, Buddy Miles, Jackie McLean, The Last Poets, George Duke and others. Wikipedia has a full list. I think the first cover I owned by him was Earth, Wind & Fire’s Last Days & Time, which I got from my parents’ collection. The image directly above is a portrait of Jimi Hendrix, meant for a collaborative album by Hendrix and arranger Gil Evans. Unfortunately Hendrix died before it could be recorded. Mati Klarwein died in 2002 after contracting cancer, leaving behind at least 600 paintings.

The Life & Art of Adbul Mati Klarwein
Mati Klarwein @ Wikipedia
Carlos Santana
Miles Davis
Earth, Wind & Fire
Jimi Hendrix

Alastair Graham – Impressions

Several years ago, when I was still in high school, I came across some drawings of jazz musicians in JAZZIZ (I think) Magazine at my grandparent’s house. I remember being pretty stunned by them. After that, I had forgotten the artist’s name and had trouble finding the work anywhere. For all these years I’ve had these drawing in the back of my mind. Fast forward to two days ago and I run across one of the pieces, an illustration of Herbie Hancock, and learn that they were done by UK-based animator and illustrator Alastair Graham.

According to Jazz::Animated, Graham was a producer at TVC London, the studio that created The Beatles’ animated film “The Yellow Submarine”. Being a passionate jazz enthusiast, at one point he pitched an animated video to the late Joe Zawinul of Weather Report. Unfortunately the label turned it down due to budget issues. He’s also done a variety of animation, books and album covers, shown in his portfolio.

The work I had seen was his Jazzfolio collection, a collection of 71 illustrated portraits of popular jazz musicians that took him 12 years to complete. I love them for how surreal and detailed they are, and how he was able to capture so well the personality of each musician. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’d say I love Herbie Hancock, Bill Evans, Airto Moreira (top) and Marcus Miller (below). You can view the entire collection on his Jazzfolio website. You can also order the book through the store, which I’m hoping will arrive in my mail box soon.

Alastair Graham
Impressions: The Story of a Collection

Kanye West – Robocop (1988 Import Version)

My buddy Mykola, a Ukraine-based artist and designer who I mentioned before for his DJ I-Dee and DJ Shadow videos, put together an amazing pixel-based unofficial music video for Kanye’s “Robocop” off of his last album, 808s & Heartbreaks, inspired by 8-bit era side-scroller video games. He put a lot of work into this so I hope it does well! A few screen captures below.

Mykola Dosenko
Kanye West
Cat Playing Keyboard