I’m a compulsive tinkerer, which means that my projects tend to go through a lot of permutations, and I sometimes perseverate on something when wiser folks would just let it go. Which is what happened with the cover art I created for the trio of albums in the series Another Place.
The final designs had a distinctly retro feel . In an era of increasingly atomized music, sold by the individual track, I miss the heyday of the album–not just sonically, but also conceptually and structurally.
As Howard Goodall has argued fairly cogently, in the period leading up to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but in particular after it dropped, the album became something far greater than a mere collection of recorded songs that more or less reproduced the sound of a band playing a concert.
Increasingly, the studio itself became the instrument, with songs composed of sounds and effects that were often impossible to recreate live. And the album, rather than the single, became the musical unit, with songs thematically connected across the span of the whole album.
The albums of Another Place revisit this approach, from their conceptual framework, to the compositions themselves, to the design. For instance, each one has a theme related to place:
- A City is a Sound deals with the the city, and in particular the great American cities of the 1970s. These are places I got to know intimately–the smells of them and the feeling of their surfaces–as I walked around them, hitchhiking the length and breadth of North America for months on end.
- Alone in a Big Place is meant to capture the experience of being alone in a desert, or on the sea, or on an island, or in a deserted building–or any other place where there is no one else around. Sometimes even in a crowd.
- Out of Place is intended to convey the feeling that comes with being somewhere you usually aren’t. There’s a different perspective that comes with that situation, and often it’s surprisingly pleasant or instructive.
The design of the three albums was meant to have a vintage feel as well, with the top banner and its graphic.
To get completely into the spirit of things, I did some mockups of gatefold covers, a physical design that became popular just around that time. These were never going to be used to house vinyl albums, but creating them put me in the right mood as I was writing the music. Here’s one for A City is a Sound.
And here’s one for Alone in a Big Place.
But after spending a lot of time creating designs that were meant to evoke the albums of the 1970s, I found that I wanted a palate cleanser. Something slicker. Something that was extreme in the opposite direction.
Just as the simplicity, and often minimalism, of punk and new wave followed the baroque richness of 1970s rock, I wanted something other. So I created an alternate cover for each of the three albums, spare and clean and graphic.
Creating a design this simple as these seems like it should be easy, but in fact it took about as much planning as the 70s covers, though the execution was less time consuming. I wanted each cover to contain the least possible information that would still convey a sense of what the album was about.
Coming up with the right avatar for the theme of each album, without letting it get too detailed or complex, took some doing.
So here they are.
They scratched the itch they were meant to satisfy, even if they have no practical reason to exist. If you own one of these albums and prefer the minimalist design to the original, or just want some variety, feel free to download them.