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Well my idea of posting more has gone nowhere this year so here’s something I’ve been collecting in recent years. Most of us probably browse past these records thinking ‘oh it’s a cheesy 60’s Latin take on Bond themes, probably won’t play it more than once’, but we’ve missed out on some great arrangements, playing and production! At least 80% of the compilations have been hugely entertaining to my ears, not sure what the rest of the tenants in my building think ha ha.

Not to mention the usually glorious covers! The rule seems to be to include as many as the art department can afford scantily clad ‘Bond-type’ women striking action poses in imaginary spy or crime films and TV shows. I think this ‘imaginary’ aspect actually allows for more interesting visual interpretations of the tunes than the usual screen shots used from productions. The Basie Meets Bond, Thunderball and Senor 007 covers are particularly striking, or ridiculous, depending on your point of view. Others like the Al Caiola and Bang Bang Bang records feature more imaginative design work.  I have found roughly half of these so far, which means the hunt shall continue!

Now it has to be said that in reality the covers were exploiting a current trend and one gets the sense that they were pumped out at the same rate as the movies themselves. Some have a distinct sense of something brazen and even illegal going on, much like the many Bond spin-offs and spoof films themselves. But again, some of the films and soundtracks are totally worth finding.

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While the film genre generally known as ‘Euro-Spy’ was largely a low budget spin-off of the James Bond franchise, much of it goes well beyond the spy theme and European borders. This also includes other trilogies, franchises and the like such as ‘Agent OSS 117’, ‘Fantomas’ and the ‘Harry Palmer’ films starring Michael Caine. There are films focusing on assassins, cat burglars, master criminals (some made in the U.S.A., Brazil and Japan for example) and anything else the writers or directors could throw in! One often gets the impression that they could get away with more sex, bizarre subject matter, political in-correctness (ha ha ha some of it is truly cringe worthy!) and violence than most mainstream films. Some are really awful while others such as ‘Danger: Diabolik’, ‘Our Man Flint’, ‘Tokyo Drifter’, ‘The Ipcress File’ and ‘Girl From Rio’ are definitely worth your time!

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I’m posting on this subject matter because a lot of the sets, graphic design, fashions as well as the soundtracks from this era (roughly spanning the 60’s) are a wonder to behold. The poster designs usually offer that uniquely 60’s mix of cheese, style and danger in equal measure that I don’t think has been replicated since. There is also a cartoon like quality to some of it and its not surprising since Modesty Blaise and Diabolik were well know comic book characters. I’ve spent a bit of time searching out a few good examples of posters to include here, and who knows, you might even seek out a few of these films!

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Featuring surely one of the most famous literary creations, these two sets of Ian Fleming novels published by Pan Books are great examples of one style evolving into another. The illustrated covers are from 1960 to 1963, and were created by Sam Peffer, a commercial artist whose work also includes film poster and home video covers. I think these covers are holdovers from the pulp novel era of the 40’s and 50’s, and he was apparently paid about £40 for each one! Wow.

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The later more minimal, harder edged, photographic work dates from 1963 to 1969, mostly featuring graphic design work by Raymond Hawkey (his editions lasted until 1965). He was already known for his groundbreaking cover design of the ‘The IPCRESS File’ novel. He insisted that the name ‘James Bond’ should be above the title and double the size. This was partly due to the fact that the novels were by this stage tied to a film franchise. Good examples of the different approaches are the two editions of Goldfinger.

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Well here’s a quick one, a documentary on graphic design team 23 Envelope, responsible for some of those wonderful 4AD Records covers. It’s a time capsule of one of the 80’s ‘indie’ underground’s shining lights, and I’m talking about the process not the sound. It’s a world where art rules over commerce and encompasses production, graphic design, packaging, photography, video, literature and the music of groups such as the Pixies, Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins. I’ve always loved a unique or interesting doco and this one is no different. It’s amazing to see the massive amount of video material people keep rescuing from old VHS tapes because not everything makes it onto DVD for various reasons. I’ve already posted about this subject matter so I’ll keep it brief:

4AD Record Cover Design: Vaughan Oliver

Here’s a link to the feature length youtube video:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=chmn0hjXSzw

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“Founded by Jim Jupp and Julian House, initially as a CDr label, Ghost Box is an independent music label for artists who find inspiration in library music albums, folklore, vintage electronics, and the school music room. Inspired by spooky vintage electronics of the 1970s, the label soon found itself described as part of an emerging ‘hauntology’ scene. ” (Discogs)

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And what a parallel universe it is! It’s a very British audio/visual past recycled, dissected, cut-up, reassembled, filtered until a post modern brew emerges. It’s 60’s pop melodies mingling with ‘The Wicker Man’ soundtrack, its Brian Eno sound-tracking Dr Who, its..you see where I’m going with this. And visually the same retroactive tricks are applied, although within a stricter frame work, of say, a label such as ECM of World Record Club. The typography and consistent layout reminds me more of a catalog or brochure, and the dynamic graphics and clean lines recall mid-century pop art and graphic design. It’s visually and musically arresting, a complete package which always wins me over. There are those who bemoan the ironic post everything cut and paste world of today but if it yields interesting results its an experiment worth undertaking I say.

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“I do think that now that everybody has access to everything at all times, it means nothing is unique or quite as affecting. When you base things – music, imagery, whatever – on vague memory, it invariably makes it slightly wrong. If you go back and study the actual thing before creating a piece of art, it’s always going to be a pastiche. I think what we do is about trying to get a vague sense of what the memory of that thing was rather than copying things.” Julian House

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The designs are by Julian House, whose work as a member of design firm Intro also adorns records by The Chemical Brothers, Primal Scream, Broadcast and Luke Slater among others. Here I’m only focusing on the Ghost Box releases for continuity’s sake and the fact that they’re a relatively new entity for me (where have I been??). And lets face it, it’s hard to beat a new discovery of any kind!

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More info below:

Julian House Interview

www.ghostbox.co.uk

Belbury Parish Magazine

www.intro-uk.com

So I’ve been trying to collect David Stone Martin cover artwork for a few years now, and it’s been slow! I mean, I look for these records in the $1 bin, it’s just the covers I’m usually after unless its Billie Holiday or Charlie Parker in decent condition. The idea is to some day have enough for a large mural or mosaic of his wonderful drawings on my wall. I’ve written about the artist elsewhere if anyone wants some background info:

Birth of the Cool No.2: David Stone Martin

Bonis was cover designer for the U.K. based ‘Obscure’ record label which was founded, run and produced by Brian Eno from 1975 until 1978. With regards to the actual music, only ten records were issued in the original series and showcased avant-garde or experimental composers such as John Cage, Michael Nyman, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, David Toop, Gavin Bryars and Harold Budd to a wider audience thanks to Eno’s fame as the ‘non-musician’ in the group Roxy Music.

 

What caught my eye here is the fact that all the albums used variations of the same collage, overprinted in black ink. The picture is still visible in a strong light, though some covers do vary on later pressings. And each volume except the seventh has one small window in the black overprint to reveal a different portion of each cover. It’s as if each artist is showcased in a different part of the same building by some spotlight in the night. There is a sense of unity, a shared abstract landscape ready to be explored by the adventurous.

Wow it’s been too long between posts! I’ll try to work on this blog more regularly, life has gotten in the way ha ha.

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And once again my partner Julia comes through with more amazing design by an artist I’ve never heard of before. And I use the word artist because initially at least, it is artwork, and then it is combined with other information to convey a message. Kazumasa Nagai, who was born in 1929 in Osaka, Japan, is an multiple poster award-winner, whose works are exhibited in many museums of modern art, among others: at MoMa in New York and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo. Some designs appeared in LIFE Magazine’s Science Library during the 1960s.

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At the age of 85, the graphic designer continues to shun technology and still works entirely by hand. His work has been commemorated in a new book out titled “Nagai Kazumasa Poster Life: 1957-2014.” The style evolved from presenting abstract forms to organic ones, animals and plants with a strong use of negative space and bold colors in his designs.

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More information and examples of his work below:

http://www.idesirevintageposters.com/nagai.html

http://www.robotspacebrain.com/posters-by-kazumasa-nagai/

http://gurafiku.tumblr.com/tagged/kazumasa_nagai

Based in San Francisco, Scott Hansen has spent time working as a freelance designer (most notably for Adobe) over the years but has like many others chosen to focus on his own music (as Tycho) and art/design (as ISO50). Conveniently, he is able to design his own merchandise and record covers and it’s these which drew my attention. After the initial digital revolution I believe it has taken artists and designers (and software developers too) some time to introduce a little bit of warmth and humanity into their work and this is further proof. A series of beutifully resolved covers, posters and merchandise based on his album ‘Awake’.

blog.iso50.com

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Another update on my World Record Club collection, and there seems be no end to this adventure ha ha. The visual variety and inventiveness is what keeps me interested, you never know what’s next 🙂

World Record Club 1 World Record Club 2 World Record Club 3 World Record Club 4 World Record Club 5 World Record Club 6 World Record Club 7 World Record Club 8

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