Apollo Sunshine – Shall Noise Upon

I’m not very familiar with Apollo Sunshine, but after seeing the cover of their album, Shall Noise Upon, in artist Cody Hoyt’s portfolio I became interested. Apollo Sunshine is a band out of Boston, Massachusetts (explaining why MC/producer Edan is in their top MySpace friends), which Allmusic.com describes as “neo-psychadelic/indie rock”.

Cody Hoyt, responsible for the album packaging, is an artist/designer in Sarasota, Florida. I found his work through BOOOOOOOM! and I’m hooked on his abstract drawings and paintings. Judging by his resume he’s had quite a few group exhibitions in Boston. Be sure to check out his site for more of his personal work and other album packaging. Above is the cover for an Apollo Sunshine/Mickey Moonlight remix EP.

Below is an interesting music video for Apollo Sunshine’s “Singing To Earth” created by the group’s guitarist Sam Cohen and his girlfriend Sarah Graves.

Cody Hoyt
Apollo Sunshine

J.Period & Q-Tip – The [Abstract] Best Vol. 1

I meant to post this a long time ago when it was released but never got around to it. The mix is a tribute to Q-Tip, mixed by J.Period. It features a long list of artists from De La Soul, The Beastie Boys, The Jungle Brothers to Blu, Amaanda Diva and Talib Kweli. Great music, all available for free on J.Period’s website.

Fuse Green, designer of the album cover, contacted me and passed along his portfolio site. Fuse works out of Brooklyn, NY, at one point working as a creative director/designer for Ecko Unlimited and as a senior graphic designer for Rocawear. There’s a lot more work and info on his website. I really like the collage work he did on the Q-Tip mix, especially the use of that strange object from Ramp’s album Come Into Knowlege. Above is another cover he did for J.Period, this time for a Roots mix. Below is one of my favorite tracks from the Q-Tip mix, De La Soul’s version of Tribe’s “Excursions”.

Fuse Green
De La Soul

The [Abstract] Best Vol. 1

Reefer – Reefer

This is a great illustration by Kozyndan for Reefer, a collaboration between Alpha Pup artist Daddy Kev and The Unicorns member Nicholas Thorburn. After becoming close friends, the two isolated themselves in Maui, Hawaii and conceived this mini-album. The music sounds like something you’d hear sitting on a tropical island, but contrasted with Thorburn’s darker-than-expected lyrics.

Kozyndan are an artist couple in California who I’ve mentioned before. I’ve enjoyed their work ever since seeing an illustration (above) for their good friend (and one of my favorite electronic music artists) Daedelus’ EP The Household, released on Eastern Developments. The highlight of their portfolio site seems to be their panoramic pieces, always filled with millions details. They also have a very entertaining Flickr account.

Alpha Pup

Ras G & The Afrikan Space Program – Ghetto Sci-Fi

Finally got my hands on Brainfeeder/Flying Lotus-associate Ras G’s album, Ghetto Sci-Fi, a collection of spaced-out electronic hip-hop beats. The cover features an equally spaced-out collage of three African men and a space vehicle sitting beneath the stars on what I assume is a moon, designed done by Steve Serrato, who’s work I’ve been seeing a few times lately. Unfortunately, it looks like his website is under construction. Or something.

Here’s a clip of Ras G and Mr. Dibiase rocking SP-303s and a MicroKORG.

Ras G
Steve Serrato

The Beatles – Abbey Road

Caught this weird time-lapse video on Boing Boing of tourists mimicking the cover of The Beatles’ album Abbey Road. Designed by Kosh, shot by Iain Macmillan in the 60’s, after being given only 10 minutes to shoot the image, which then became one of the most imitated in history. Tourists aren’t the only ones copying it…

Even Kanye got in on it. I personally like George Benson and Booker T. & The M.G.’s versions the most. There’s also a webcam, if you really want to know what’s happening on Abbey road.

The Beatles
Iain Macmillan
Boing Boing

J Dilla – Donuts

February’s been officially declared “Dilla Month”; a time to celebrate one of the most influential producers in hip-hop and ‘neo-soul’, James Yancey, who sadly died on February 10th, 2006, three days after his birthday. I thought this would be a good time to take a look at his album released at that time, Donuts.

Donuts was an important album for me. Although I wouldn’t fully understand who Dilla was until the release of Champion Sound, I always looked for music with the “Soulquarian” and “Ummah” names attached. I played Common’s Like Water For Chocolate and Badu’s Mama’s Gun endlessly. I remember picking up Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 and loving it. But I still didn’t know exactly who this Jay Dee guy was, back before I had music blogs to dig through and my only resource was Allmusic.com.

I was excited to get my copy of Donuts in the mail, finally getting a proper portrait of the man behind this music I had been connecting with for years. While listening to the album for the first time I jumped online only to find out that he had passed away that day. It was a surreal experience that made Donuts more than just a beat tape. Since then it has become one of those pivotal albums that changed my views on music and influenced my own art.

I had a few questions about the packaging for the album, so I went straight to the source, exchanging some emails with Jeff Jank, art director of Stones Throw Records. He shared some great insight with me along with the images to go along with this post. Here’s a summary of what he told me.

Donuts is the album Jeff Jank has been most involved with on the label, through inception, editing and mastering, as well as the work he is proudest of. The process started as he and others would visit Dilla in the medical center. At one point he brought the handmade work he had done for Madlib’s The Furhter Adventures of Lord Quas. Dilla was currently working on his album, The Shining, and asked Jeff if he could create some similar “bugged out” art for it.

Jeff had planned to do a panoramic illustration that followed the insert of The Further Adventures (shown above), along with Dilla’s idea of taking photos in the strange medical masks they had him wear at the center. Donuts (title inspired by Dilla’s obsession with junk food) came along and focus switched. At one point Jeff threw in the idea of placing the CD inside of a doughnut, having people eat their way to the music.

Soon after Dilla was out of the hospital, feeling better. He flew to Brazil with Madlib, Eric Coleman and Brian Cross from Mochilla, with plans to shoot some photos for the album. Unfortunately, he became too ill and had to fly back to Los Angeles. Stones Throw began to question the cartoon images they had planned for the cover and decided a photo was needed. This ended up being the image pulled from M.E.D’s “Push” (produced by Dilla) video, directed by Andrew Gura (below). The resolution of the image was too low to use for the vinyl release, which is why it features an alternative cover.

While the album was in production, Dilla was on tour in Europe and his health was wavering. Soon after the tour was finished, Jeff had visited Dilla in December ’05, during the time he was living with Common. He was excited for the release of Donuts and was playing tracks from The Shining. This would be one of the last times Jeff would see him.

Jeff Jank was never completely satisfied with using a low-res image for the cover, but it still lead to a few imitators. He mentioned that there were several, mostly tributes. I only know of a few. Not that it was an imitation, but Jeff also noted the similarities between Donuts and the cover of Common’s album Be, as it also used a low-resolution image of Common smiling which had to be cleaned up in Photoshop.

I personally feel the album, art and music, was an appropriate way to say goodbye to a great artist. Dilla’s posthumous releases The Shining, the re-issue of Ruff Draft and Jay Love Japan are all amazing albums, but Donuts is special. The cover has become an iconic image of Dilla in my mind and I’m sure for other people. I also can’t look at a pink iced doughnut without hearing his music in my head.

Thanks to Jeff Jank for the help. Thank you Jay Dee for the music!

J Dilla
J Dilla @ Wikipedia
Jeff Jank
Stones Throw
Andrew Gura

Clue To Kalo – Lily Perdida

Another album from Mush Records that I heard nothing about. “Clue to Kalo” was originally the pseudonym of Australia-based singer & producer Mark Mitchell. This expanded into a 3-piece live band later on. The music would fall under the “folktronica” label, if you like labels. The songs on the album are meant to be songs written by fictional characters about the also fictional character Lily Perdida.

The album cover was created by the interestingly-named Australia-based design team Webuyyourkids, who got their start making screen-printed concert posters. Their portfolio is deep had has a nice collection of posters, album packaging, animation, illustration and web design they’ve done. Originally I was led to think the album cover was done by someone named “Overeaten Duck” who was responsible for the work on their album One Way, It’s Every Way. Thanks to the magic of MySpace, I was corrected. I still don’t know who Overeaten Duck is.

Clue to Kalo
Mush Records