Earlier this year Rolling Stone described Jack White as “Rock & Roll’s Willy Wonka” and it’s clear to see why. His label, Third Man Records, is undoubtedly a golden ticket for music fans. Its Nashville HQ boasts a record store and a music venue while also releasing some of the most out-there records you’re likely to come across. From a peach-scented LP to records that glow-in-the-dark, White’s label has enough eccentricity to give even Roald Dahl’s imagination a run for its money.
But Third Man Records isn’t just about novel ideas; they’re also passionate about great music. Perhaps that is most apparent in their most recent project; a first of its kind box set that charts the rise and fall of Paramount Records. Spread over two-volumes, the collection is an omnibus of art, words and music… and both volumes look absolutely stunning.
Volume One was released late last year (take a look here) and covers a period between 1917-1927. I now have a whole host of images showing off the second volume of the collection and it’s a beaut! Consisting of 800 tracks released between 1928-1932, this new collection contains six LPs as well as two books filled with bios, art and articles. Not only that, but it also contains a USB drive filled with music and ads from the era. Everything is housed in a beautiful aluminum and stainless steel cabinet that evokes the high art deco styling of the era.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of music I’m sure you’d be impressed by how great this package looks. Taking inspiration from the likes of Walter Dorwin Teague, Norman Bel Geddes and especially John Vassos; the cabinet looks beautiful and the illustrations and design of the books is just superb. Its creators stated that their intention for the project was to create something closer to an interactive museum exhibit than a conventional music collection and I think they’ve definitely pulled that off.
To say that Paramount was an important record label feels like a bit of an understatement. Its output included releases from jazz legends such as Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, as well as blues musicians like Charley Patton and Son House. Their contribution to American music is hugely impressive; bringing about the birth of the Mississippi Delta blues while also influencing the style of Robert Crumb and countless other 20th century artists and illustrators through their series of hand-drawn ads in the pages of the Chicago Defender.
A collection like this is a lot to take in. I’ve spent a small amount of time listening to it and feel like I’ve only just scratched the surface. I love the sound of the era and it’s been a joy to discover some great recordings from that time. Paramount was the first and most comprehensive chronicler of what America sounded like during the 1920s and ’30 so it’s great to see their legacy being preserved in a manner as fitting as this.
The Rise & Fall Of Paramount Records Volume 2, 1928-1932 is released November 18. Volume 1 can be purchased here.
Chaz Bundick of Toro y Moi fame has a new project out called Les Sins, going for a more dance-oriented sound. He was inspired by folks like Mr. Oizo and Daft Punk which clearly comes through on this new track titled “Bother”, the perfect anthem for a hard-working creative. In fact, he was inspired by design luminary Paul Rand while making the album.
“My favorite graphic designer, P. Rand always said, ‘Don’t try to be original, just try to be good,’” Bundick says. “When making this record that was/is my mantra—it was just constantly looping in my mind. I believe ‘good’ is timeless and once you can recognize that you’ll see the world in its fullest.”
Les Sins first album Michael comes out November 4th.
Seemingly out of nowhere Thom Yorke dropped a new album titled Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes this morning, to the delight of Radiohead nerds around the world. In typical Thom Yorke fashion he opted to release the album through a rather unconventional source: BitTorrent. For $6 you receive a BitTorrent bundle that contains eight tracks and an extremely odd music video featuring close-ups of Yorke’s face and him jumping around with boxing gloves. You be you Thom. You also have the option of buying the album on vinyl which looks pretty rad, though it’s £30.00 price tag might be a tougher pill to swallow. Still, I’m sure it was pressed in a very small edition so you may want to snag one while you can.
Electronic music visionary Aphex Twin, aka Richard D. James, is known for his avant garde approach to music, splicing, cutting, and destroying digital sounds for the last 20+ years. Still, it’s been 13 years since his last “studio album” Drukqs was released, leaving a peculiar gap in the electronic music landscape. Since then he’s been DJing across the UK and relocated to Scotland. And now he’s ready to release a new album.
Titled Syro, a word created by his children, the album features 12 tracks and will be released on September 19 (or 22nd depending on your format of choice). I’m not sure what exactly to expect from the album but it sounds like he’s excited for the album and that this is only the beginning. Speaking to Rolling Stones, James said:
Horny. I’m feeling really horny about it. And very smug … I’m in that mode now, so hopefully I’ll stay in it for a while … I’ve got a few more things planned—at least a couple more albums, some EPs, things like that. Some more dance-y things I did about 10 years ago. Experimental things, noise things, weird things. Shitloads of stuff. They’re all pretty much ready to go.
Looking forward to it.
From a design perspective the album features a minimal, slightly cheeky packaging design from The Designers Republic. Long-time Aphex Twin collaborators, the album represents an unseen aspect of producing an album: the cost. TDR founder Ian Anderson explains.
“The intense, and ultimately pointless detail of the list really appealed to me … it was good working with James Burton and the team at Warp to stretch out this mantra that tells the reader everything and nothing about the creation of what I hear was an intensely personal album in the making reduced to the numbers of an album in the marketplace,” he adds.
Quite a conceptual way to go but it makes sense when you think of an artist like Richard James. For me it’s all about the half face screen printed onto the plastic which I’m sure looks crazy on the white sleeves. You can read more about the design of the album and an interview with TDR over on Creative Review.
Finding the intersections between music, technology, and design are often challenging but when it’s done well it can certainly open up new worlds. A perfect example of this is the partnership between James Murphy, of LCD Soundsystem fame, and technologies company IBM who together creating “music” from tennis data supplied by the US Open. The video below does a good job of explaining how they code works and how they created an interface that was familiar to Murphy.
The outcome is quite unique, especially something on this scale. You can visit IBM’s Soundcloud page to get a taste of all the music that’s been created so far based on the data and it’s pretty staggering. It’s like an endless mix of chiptune tracks endlessly looping into one another. This Round of 16 collection is a perfect example as it runs almost 7 hours in total length, non-stop, back-to-back.
Adding to the experience is the fantastic artworks created for round by New York based artist and illustrator Karan Singh. I had been thinking about featuring Singh on the site recently though this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. His work is this mish-mash of hyper-saturated, flat colors which create the illusion of 3D shapes. I imagine this had to be a pretty fun yet exhausting project to work on. I’ve selected some of my favorite images below to give you a sense of the variety he’s created.
You can also see more of Karan’s pieces over on his Behance page.
Though it was a short week for many of us, I’m quite glad it’s already Friday and that the weekend is here. Easing me into the weekend is this incredible DJ set from Tycho, which he recorded while at the Burning Man festival last week. The set, which started at 5:40am, contains many of my favorite artists like Boards of Canada, White Denim, Atoms for Peace, Manitoba and many more. It runs a little over 2 hours so you’ll have plenty of mellow music to keep you going over the next few days.
I usually listen to music while I work, but I tend to put on albums with limited or no words, it’s easier to write that way. A lot of the time my go-to record is Solo Piano II by Chilly Gonzales. Released in 2012 the album is piano filled masterpiece that feels like an old silent film. There’s one track in particular though that stands out each time I hear and it’s called “Rideaux Lunaires”, the fifth track on the album.
There’s something magical about this piece that makes me think of the films of Miyazaki and the sense of wonder he achieves. At about the 1 minute mark there’s a beautiful refrain which makes you feel like you’re being carried away into the night sky.
If you’ve never heard this album before I highly suggest taking a listen, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
“Put it on as the sun goes down.” That’s the way Deru describes his newest mix which contains a number of unique tracks. Overall the mix is really laid back and mysterious feeling. There’s a lot of ambience to it and you’re never sure where it’s headed. My favorite part is The Acid transitioning into Philip Glass’ “Mishima” score. A mellow way to get the week started out.
00:00 – Random record samples #1
00:48 – Holger Czukay – Floatspace
03:46 – The Haxan Cloak – Excavation, Pt. 2
07:15 – Jacaszek – Dare-gale
12:25 – Kyson – You May Have Limited Time
17:18 – Random record samples #2
18:08 – The Acid – Veda
23:00 – Glass & Nyman: Works for Saxophone Quartet – String Quartet No. 3, “Mishima”
24:13 – Drew Gragg – Refraction
26:36 – Julien Neto – Sketch
29:59 – Random record samples #3
31:15 – Alessandro Cortini – Rovine
38:15 – Deru – The Future Never Comes
42:12 – Downliners Sekt – Soul Débris
50:18 – Random record samples #4
53:15 – Alex Banks – All You Could Do (Alternate Version)
57:00 – Mirroring – Fell Sound
1:02:11 – William Basinski – Dlp 1.1