I was so happy when I heard Chris Menist and Maft Sai were compiling another Sound of Siam for Soundway. Not only was the first compilation revelatory, for me it marked the point where the label changed how we produced covers, and gave me complete creative freedom in the process. So continuing the theme, here’s another abstracted portrait, reflecting the period of experimentation and transition that gave rise to this vivacious music.
We’re pleased to announce our return to Thailand with ‘The Sound of Siam 2 - Molam & Luk Thung Isan from North-East Thailand 1970 - 1982’. Released on CD, 2xLP and digital on 26th May the compilation was compiled by Chris Menist and Maft Sai.
Hypnotic phin & khaen riffs, pulsing, electrified country rhythms and heartfelt vocals punctuate another journey into the lesser known reaches of 1970s Thai music.
Pre-order now from the Soundway Store and get an instant free download of ‘Teoy Salap Pamaa’ by Angkanang Kunchai.
Tap the play button above/read on
I was asked by Miles Cleret of Soundway to design a simple sleeve for the label’s next reissue, a mini-album of music from Muyei Power - a powerhouse group from 1970s Sierra Leone. As it turned out, the job was more challenging than at first thought, as we only had one single photo of the band to use - no others exist - and this one had been damaged by the photo album’s mylar sheet that had ‘protected’ it all these years, covered in its entirety with tiny distorting dots caused by the acid of the glue on the plastic. With the faces and details part-obscured by the dots, I wasn’t sure how possible it’d be to restore the detail. It was a restoration problem I’d not yet encountered, but after hours poring over various pieces of advice and techniques I managed to remove them almost completely, and put the sleeve together. Topped off with thanks to some emblematic Avant-Garde type and some strips of colour nodding to the country’s flag, this will be presented on CD and 180g vinyl LP at the end of April.
About the band, over to Soundway:
"Muyei Power or Orchestre Muyei (muyei means ‘our country’) was one of the top dance bands of the1970s in Sierra Leone. Soundway Records’ first collection of music from this West African country (‘Muyei Power: Sierra Leone in 1970s USA’- SNDWCD/LP062) is an album of rock-infused, ‘afro’ music from a group that traveled the world throughout the mid 1970s. Fusing elements of electric Congolese and Nigerian music with fast, syncopated, uptempo, modernised arrangements of traditional songs, Muyei Power produced a series of unique single-only releases that have remained unavailable for 35 years. The recordings featured on this mini-album are a glimpse of a dynamic and powerful band at the very height of its powers.” Read more…
We’re truly delighted to share this month’s colectivo futurist feature and interview with the super talented Lewis Heriz. Mostly known for his visual representations for the Sofrito catalogue, Lewis is currently based in East London after a stint as a DJ and promoter in Nottingham. It was during his time in the East Midlands that he began to experiment with designing posters for the nights he was putting on, which led to requests for record cover designs for bands such as The Whitefield Brothers and served as the foundation for his development of Sofrito’s visual identity. He has also done several covers for some of our favorite labels, including Now Again, Stones Throw, Soundway, and Strut; all the while keeping his eyes peeled for new challenges and opportunities. With no formal training as a graphic designer, Lewis is a clear example of how having the desire and passion for honing one’s craft is more important than anything. Check out a few snaps taken during our visit to his Hackney Wick studio and read our interview for a closer look at the man behind some of the most iconic record covers in recent times.
Visit Colectivo Futuro for the full interview.
Thank you, colectivofuturo!
Poster for short film Le Criquet (‘The Cricket’), a beautifully-observed, intimate snapshot of a couple interrupted by an unwelcome guest.
I’ll update when I know more about the screenings - it’ll be premiered in France, but it may also be shown in the UK and online soon, I hope.
Past, present and future of letterpress in Argentina
I’m very much looking forward to the full doc of this.
In Search of Harry Christmas
Designing Jasper Gibson’s A Bright Moon for Fools
Last year I had the pleasure of being introduced to Harry Christmas - an atrocious bastard, bloated in body and mind, consumed by a compelling and pathetic mix of egocentrism and crippling self-hatred - who was in the process of wheezing ethanol vapour across Venezuela in a doomed bid to scrabble back whatever dusty remains of meaning hid in the cavernous walk-in skeleton cupboard of his existence.
I was an immediate fan. He made me roar with laughter within the first few minutes, impressed by the singular mode of attack he employed to escape legitimate accusations of a personal plot long lost.
Christmas looked at the taxi driver. They both looked at the road.
"Your trousers, Señor - they are on the wrong way round.”
Christmas looked down. “Correct,” he said. A further silence ensued. Night fell.
Ideally, I would be drawing Christmas every inch of the way as he pursued his picaresque and increasingly horrific tryst with fate. He is a gift to the illustrator, arriving uninvited and fully-formed in the mind’s eye looking, sounding and smelling like Henry Rawlinson playing Oliver Reed playing Ignatius J. Reilly. As it was, though, my task was to begin and end solely with the dust jacket encasing him.
The author of A Bright Moon For Fools, Jasper Gibson, and the team at the newly-founded Inside the Dog Press had apparently known of my Sofrito posters for a while, and this formed the basis of the brief: they wanted something that echoed my Night of the Dead poster, specifically. This kind of brief offers the relief of familiarity paired with the panic of requisite originality, and the process becomes the forum for their negotiation.
As soon as I’d read the book, I began scratching out some quick impressions of the man that drives the plot. I wanted to formulate an essence of character without overworking it - something I could bury into the cover to help give it life.
Once I felt acclimatised to Harry, I began drafting some colour sketches to play with hand-drawn type (which needed to feel unrefined and unhinged) and start working the character in the style specified in the brief.
The left character felt like Harry at his most dispondant, but compositionally it wasn’t too strong. The right felt stronger overall but it was a bit… odd. Hiding elements of the story in the image was a fun idea, but I decided we needed more humour and context.
So, for the final stage, we agreed on developing the pencil sketch depicting Harry’s face as the moon, ‘hiding’ conspicuously behind either Caracas’ Cerro El Ávila mountain range, or his moustache. In the foreground, Caracas under Christmas’ gaze became a landscape of bottles, either empty or about to be. On the reverse, we see him at the bar, a dead man drinking…
Once this was approved, Inside the Dog discussed some other aspects of the hardback that they had decided to develop in order to take advantage of the format and make it something really worth treasuring. They wanted to play on the classic use of marbling for the endpapers on the inside panels of the cover, but twist it to reflect the contents of the book somehow. They sourced a selection from a traditional hand-marbling company from which we chose a design that echoed the front cover:
There was something visceral about this one, sightly unsettling, with the added bonus that it used colours that echoed the jacket.
Taking the earlier idea of hiding plot details in the image, I then worked a few of them into it, a kind of visual rendering of this semi-functioning alcoholic’s surreal episodic experience…
…only a couple of which I’ll show here, so you can enjoy looking for the other two if you get your hands on a copy.
Massive thanks to Jasper, Crispin and all involved for recruiting me to fight on this front in the war against The Rot.
Keep up to date with book readings and other movements from Jasper at the book’s Facebook page: facebook.com/abrightmoonforfools
A Bright Moon For Fools by Jasper Gibson is available now from your local bookshop and Amazon.co.uk
Poster for another Brazilian edition of Super Discoteca Tropical, Analog Africa's occasional roaming club night offering music from the tropical regions of the world. Here I depicted a Janganda boat typical to Ceará - the Northeasterly state of which Fortaleza is the capital - in between fishing trips.
Thanks to Samy and the Mambembe guys for getting me on board again, and for another great brief.