Sunday, January 31, 2010

Touch Music (2008)

Given the mountain image from yesterday's post, I figured I'd drop in another landscape. This time from a Fennesz album. The photograph is by Jon Wozencroft, a graphic designer who founded Touch, of which the Touch Music label is part of. The label is a hazy, desolate affair, but I enjoy the dirt in the foreground and the overall gray palette. The horizontal lines grow slightly as they move off to the right, offering a contrast to the wave shapes. Are those warehouses or factories off in the distance? The album is called Black Sea and perhaps this is a beach, but it's not immediately clear. I also like how the small ring around the spindle hole looks like an imprint here. More and more I'm becoming a fan of labels with only images and no text.

If you've never listened to Fennesz you really should. He's a guitar player, but it took me a couple years to come to that full realization. So much of his work incorporates a blissful electronic hiss and fuzz that grows and fades in and out of the background. There's the occasional full on guitar line that's never inconsequential, but instead flows perfectly in and out of the haze. Much like this label what with its roads or paths that compliment the seemingly more natural textures. Quite lovely.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sonet (1976)

A couple years ago I came into possession of the collection of a jazz guitarist down in Florida. The bulk of the haul ended up split between two locations, i.e. my parents' house/basement. During my infrequent family visits I usually end up sifting through stacks of dusty boxes with the aim of clearing out some of my holdings, mainly at the behest of my old man who likes to half joke that the foundation under the room I grew up in is starting to sink with the weight of thousands of LPs. On my initial runs I immediately pulled all the Blue Note, Impulse, Strata East and Prestige heavy-hitters. With subsequent trips I've been parsing through stuff on a lot of labels that I didn't initially recognize -- but am now really glad I can say I own (Folkways, Polish Jazz, Nessa, Muse, Milestone).

On my latest trip, I stumbled across this Art Farmer LP, which was recorded in '74 with what looks like a Swedish band (with the addition of a couple recognizable names such as Sabu Martinez and Red Mitchell). I can't say what originally compelled me to pull the record out of the sleeve, but damn I'm glad I did. This immediately became one of my favorite labels. I just love the purple of the sky and the way the mountain peaks look. What a great idea to have a river that stretches out of the background and then widens to provide the open space for the artist, title and tracks. This wasn't on my original slate of labels to post, mainly because I hadn't actually found it before I thought about my list. But the minute I slid this baby from the sleeve I knew I had to make room for it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Domino (2009)

I've been buying a lot of white labels (or black labels as many would be more accurately described) lately. This has lead me to ponder how dope the collections of some dance DJs must look -- bookshelves and crates chock full of uniform white cardboard sleeves. But then I realized it must be impossible to find anything without a proper organization.

Given that the sleeves themselves aren't too exciting once you get over the whole minimal thing, the labels pop out, particularly with this Joy Orbison remix of Four Tet's stunna "Love Cry." The concept is simple enough: a handful of multi-colored hole punches. The first time I put this on my deck, right before I hit start - stop I looked down and thought that all of these little circles just might fly up like confetti. But as the platter turns the colors go in and out of focus so it becomes a vibrant petri dish, which correlates more with the track. The original (which also has a pretty cool label) just chugs along, but this remix removes the live drums for a warmer, shimmering haze that straight bumps.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hyperdub (2009)

When Al first asked me to get involved with this, I immediately contemplated an entire run of labels with geometric designs a la Boards of Canada, The Andromeda Strain, anything on Kent. Unfortunately my collection is split up into three locations across the East Coast, so pulling it together was going to be tough. Instead I decided to throw this one in the mix.

This is from Ikonika's 2009 Hyperdub single, "Sahara Michael." The graphics here are just tight as hell, sort of tessellation-like. To me, it matches up nicely with the song, which would work as the soundtrack to a frightening, yet exhilarating 8-bit Gameboy adventure. Say, that damn hard last level of Castlevania. The music is deep and dark with nice synthesizer curves and hard edges. Much like this gem of a label.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Alexander already threw up my favorite Vertigo label. It's one of those labels that can be entrancing to watch twirl on a turntable -- a trippy, optical-illusion-ish visual sensation. So I was like dayum how can I compete with that? But then I remembered the somewhat similar label I had on one of my favorite thrift store finds: Master Performers of Persian Traditional Music. Although looking at it now I guess it's not that similar. But this joint does have a lion with a nasty looking curved sword and a crown to boot. I also like how there are faint black and white marks that have rubbed off from the inside of the sleeve onto the actual label here. Either the company recycled some cool old Persian art prints for the sleeve -- or went so far as to print really elaborate design work on an inside sleeve. Regardless, an added bonus. Like the Vertigo joint, this one also looks really cool spinning on a turntable.

I thought it would be interesting to also throw up the label that's on the flip side. It's mad different in terms of design, but I feel the silver script printed on black -- just love the way the Arabic looks here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

ESP-DISK (1966)

Can't say that I remember what this LP, The Coach With the Six Insides (a musical play by Jean Erdman), sounds like, but I do know that I bought it based simply on the label art. Well, that and it set me back $2. My man in Miami took me to the most hood record store I've ever been to. The spot was in Liberty City, where Trick Daddy represents. Best leave it at that. Anyway. The super nice guy that ran the place had what seemed like every hip-hop LP and single known to man, many of which were stored in old refrigerators and freezer units. I think there was even a microwave that had 45s crammed into it.

Out of all the records I own, this has my favorite labels (both of which are displayed here). There's no identifying text, just cut-up, hallucinatory images taken from the cover art, which was done by Howard Bernstein. I just love the aesthetic -- I think it does a lot in such a small circular space. The play this album documents is "Inspired by James Joyce's Finnegans Wake," a work I'm ashamed to say I've never even looked into. But from the record and its artwork, I can only imagine that Joyce was on to something unusual. There's something really dreamy and joyous going on here, but at the same time, the visuals also seem off-kilter and discordant.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Big Dada (2004)

So maybe I was misleading with my last post. Occasionally digging can payoff with the ladies. Take the case of Wesley "Diplo" Pentz. We both worked at a college radio station in Florida back in '98. One early a.m. I arrived at the studio to find a kinda crazy white dude with the worst-looking starter dreadlocks ever filling in for the death metal show before me. Not only did Wes have seriously deep crates (non-metal related), but he had two gals with him that looked vaguely hippie-ish and hip-hop at the same time, which I was like "aww damn" about.

Since then, guy done did and is doing big things. I still check for his work, but honestly, the Florida LP is my shit. This joint captures so much about the sunshine state: growing up listening to crickets, 808 drum programming, psych samples, marching bands, fast rapping and girls yelling in languages I can't understand.

My guess is there's probably a religious theme park in Florida with dioramas depicting dinosaurs and humans coexisting, but they can't hold a candle to the wind of these Frank Franzetta-esque black and white drawings of dinos and honey babies maxing in a prehistoric swamp on these labels. Did I mention that one of these lovelies also has a gun? Oopski! I just reverted back to being a 10-year-old, comic-book-reading Chinese kid.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Earth (1969)

What many a goober secretly wishes would miraculously result from hours of sifting through smelly thrift stores, flea markets and used record shops: groupies. Alas.

I dig the colors on this label. Love the shades of pink with the mustard. The font of the album title looks great. The look doesn't quite complement how a serious "documentary" project might ordinarily be presented, but it certainly aims for that with the tag line and the dramatic "The girls heard on this LP report..." explainer. I haven't been able to dig up a lot on Alan Lorber, but I like the owl-ish logo for his production company. I do wonder what the hell is going on with the "EARTH" flame that originates in a location that could be New York City if the continents were stretched and redrawn in weird, blocky shapes. That's just where Earth originates in this conception I guess.

There are some great things about this LP -- awesome cover, vocal bits that are fed through echo effects and a "Groupie Glossary" that includes definitions for "piggies," "randy," "freak scene" and "rock-geisha" among other laughables. But this can also be a tough, confusing listen. It's a conversation between four to five women about all the ups and downs of '60s groupie life and damn if some of the downs are outright scary.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Funky Finger (1971)

So, the first step on the road to armageddon... sex. Not to be confused with the Isaac Hayes's classic Shaft soundtrack, yes, this is a pornographic take-off LP. Evidently the Funky Finger company would rework the big film blockbusters of the day into what are actually pretty hardcore spoken word stories, for example, Midnight Cowpoke and Shaft Man.

This is one of my favorite label logos that I have. It's hard to go wrong with such a finely formed bird gettin' flipped. That finger sure is funky. It's a pretty simple design, but I'm also a sucker for the adaptation of the iconic Shaft title and font. I crack up looking at this thing every time.

Quick story: This "hard-hitting stag story" was supposed to come with a genuine french tickler novelty, but someone must have swiped it before the record ended up at the Orlando antiques shop where I discovered it in the back of a box of Disney soundtracks. Surprise!


I have a couple entertaining religious records from the 1970s that rail on the usual suspects: rock music, hallucinogenic drugs, premarital sex, homosexual lifestyles, etc., but with this flimsy platter, Hal Lindsey tries to one-up 'em with full-on apocalyptic predictions. Unfortunately I've never been able to get through more than 30 seconds of this, so I'm not sure when the supposed doom will be unleashed. Guess I'll keep my fingers crossed and the Ghostbusters on speed dial.

Along with all of the other dumb shit that I now associate with the '80s (Ronald Raygun, chicks with bad hairdos and snaggletoofs that I had crushes on, James Brown's "Living in America"), we also get some really dope, cheap-ass-looking design work. I could be wrong, but it looks to me like this was some early computer graphics what with the font and bank of lines under the spindle hole. In some ways, the minimal look is both hokey and surprisingly ominous. I think it also makes for an appropriate record to start the countdown on my 12-day stint of labels -- and perhaps armageddon.

I was going to include a link to Lindsey's Web site, but the dude appears to be a complete nut job. Here's his
Wikipedia page if you're inclined.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Folkways (1967)

Folkways is my favorite label, ever. Amazing in the sheer range of audio content, and the cover designs by Ronald Clyne from the 60's & 70's are just incredible. The simple label design reflects the crisp, budget-conscious utilitarianism of Moe Asch that was responsible for keeping this fantastic label afloat on seemingly no revenue.

This record has some nice electronic compositions from the University of Toronto. One track, Dripsody, is composed out of manipulated sounds of water drips. However, there's one real keeper on this record: Inferno by Victor Grauer. Wow is this a trip. Crazy tape-manipulated voices from what sounds like a cowboy movie. I haven't come across recordings of any other compositions by Grauer, but this track alone makes this Folkways worth looking for. The Clyne cover art is also great.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Research Institute of America (1967)

Check out that Research Institute background patterning!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Library of Congress Recording Laboratory (1960)

I included a bit more than the label on this one to show the red vinyl it's pressed on. From the Library of Congress? What a cool record. I think these are Alan Lomax recordings.