I recently wrote here about frustrations I was having with how my iPhone displayed album sleeves on its Music app. Since then I’ve been somewhat forced to sign-up to Apple Music to get over this, (and other), issues with the app. In doing so it feels like I have made a major shift in some of my long-held behaviours; this is not just in regard to how I listen to music, but also to my relationship with music visuals.
In discussing this personal cultural change to how I ‘buy’ and own music over on A Different Kitchen, I pondered whether I had bought my last CD in pre-ordering Wire’s forthcoming release Mind Hive prior to signing up to Apple Music. Since then, I have bought other music physically, but these haven’t been for my usual choices of wanting better sound quality when I listen to certain artists, (a CD on a good stereo is, to my ears, is far superior than a download), but because these recordings were not available via Apple.
I think my iPhone hates me, it has recently been swapping the album artwork of one band for another.
This is very much a first world problem, I know. But it does feel very personal. My phone, for all its ‘smartness’, must know how important graphic design and music are to me. I use the Music app everyday of the week to listen to new and old sounds on my walk to work. I post and read about graphic design on many social media apps and blogs I follow just as often. My phone won’t know that it was album sleeves that got me into graphic design in the first place, but there are obvious clues. So forgive me if I feel aggrieved.
In the above screenshot of the ‘Recently Added’ section of the Music app, you can see the sleeve for the Birdman OST replacing what should be Gaye Su Akyol’s recent release. Likewise, a Peter Perrett album becomes Creep Show’s Mr Dynamite, while Dead Rat Orchestra become David Byrne and Kaddal Merrill becomes Young Fathers.
It is annoying not just because of the misrepresentation, but because I use the images for searching for the albums I want to listen to. I know this as a way of looking for music could be deemed outmoded, but that is how I operate my technology and I’m sure many others do too.
As a sucker for cartography I could not resist buying a new compilation of live folk music with an accompanying map. Titled From Here: English Folk Field Recordings, the record is a modern take on Alan Lomax’s field recordings in the 1930s and ’40s and seeks to look at contemporary English folk music and its reference to place. A project by the band Stick In The Wheel, they say they wanted to make “a snapshot of English folk music right now.”
Despite claiming to be new to the folk scene, Stick In The Wheel have managed to capture a truly authentic and honest picture of modern folk music. Ian Carter and Nicola Kearey from the band travelled the length of the country recording artists where ever they could: kitchens, bedrooms, and even in a garden. As a result, the outcomes sound immediate and fresh.
The map, abstract as it is, is a nice touch to the project and relates well to how folk musicians, still to this day, travel the country from club to pub, literally carrying their instruments with them. More than that though, it also references the transient nature of many of the songs themselves. While the stories sung about and the tunes played may derive from specific locations, they have also travelled these isles, changing as they go and being passed on from one musician to another.
I do like a good stunt, which is why I’m looking forward to Joe Corré burning all of his punk memorabilia in a protest about Punk London in November. Corré, the son of Malcolm McLaren and Vivian Westwood, has amounted a collection of punk atifacts he claims to be worth over 5 million pounds. Despite that this seems like an obvious publicity seeking act, the gesture does at least feel like a true connection to 1976’s nihilistic ‘year zero’ fervour.
I can’t comment on any of the Punk London events having not witnessed any of it first hand, but my one concession to all things punk in 2016 was to read Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming for the first time. The context of the times is detailed with a genuine insight into the revolutionary effect that punk in 1976 had on the lives of its participants. Reading Savage’s account after Corré’s announcement brought home to me that he may have a point about the capital centric ‘celebrations’.
A large corner of my loft is stacked with vinyl records, mostly 12″ LPs, but there is a smaller pile of 7″ singles. They are going to stay there, save for the odd time I want to change the artwork in my three album-art frames that deck our landing. It is fair to say I haven’t jumped on the supposed vinyl revival—there’s already enough nostalgia in the world, I don’t need any more.
You could argue the need for yet another publication about punk. The ‘1976 and all that’ narrative has been told so often now that it reads like a dull pantomime with all original relevance of the story bled dry through over telling. There have been some publications in the last few years that have gone beyond this nostalgic rehash, such as 2012’s excellent Punk: An Aesthetic, but recently published The Truth of Revolution, Brother: An Exploration of Punk Philosophy (Situation Press) focusses, as the title says, on an area of the punk phenomenon that has largely been ignored.
In my teens and early twenties I was a big Clash fan. Then as my music tastes matured, and I started to tire of rock music’s clichés, I started to fall out of love with the band’s early work, which traded so heavily on rock clichés. Half of Black Market Clash, and all of Sandinista and Combat Rock are all I can really listen to by them now. It is almost as if I have divided them into two different bands. The diversity of their later work, post-London Calling, which experimented with different styles and genres of music, bought a breadth to the band that wasn’t previously there. This period of material outshines anything that went before it for its sheer inquisitiveness. Their artistry flourished as their music became conceptually linked to lyrical content and they matured as they became more and more interested in emerging popular cultures from around the globe.
It was very sad news to hear of the death of Storm Thorgerson last month. Without a shadow of a doubt, Thorgerson was one of the greatest album sleeve designers ever and there are probably few record collections that don’t boast some of his work amongst their ranks.
To coincide with the opening private view, curator Johan Kugelberg hosted a panel discussion of some key designers involved in early punk graphics, along with cyberpunk author William Gibson. Apologising for co-curator Jon Savage’s absence—who was very punk by being on holiday with his mum—Kugelberg introduced Gee Vaucher, who created all the graphics that surrounded Crass‘ musical output, Tony Drayton of Ripped & Torn fanzine fame, and John Holmstrom, the man behind the American Punk magazine.
There is much talk about The Lost Tapes by Can at the moment, and with good reason. For those reading this that know nothing about the band, or the context within which they emerged, then there is an excellent essay on Quietus by Taylor Parkes that comes with a Dubdog recommendation. However, the point of this post isn’t to talk about Can, or the fact that these lost tapes were only rediscovered recently, or the importance of the band and their music, but to discuss the artwork and packaging.