Article courtesy of Creative Review
After teasing fans for weeks with blimps, online snapshots and mysterious street art, Warp Records has finally released the full artwork for Aphex Twin’s forthcoming album, Syro. Created by The Designers Republic, the packaging lists every cost involved in the making and promotion of the album…
Released on 22 September, Syro is Aphex Twin’s (Richard James) first new album since 2001. The release of the artwork follows the appearance of a blimp featuring the Aphex Twin logo in the skies over London, and graffiti on the streets of New York last weekend.
A collaboration between James and The Designers Republic, which has worked on campaigns and sleeves for Warp since the label’s inception, the artwork lists the costs involved in making and promoting the album, from courier charges to photoshoot expenses, and is tailored for both vinyl and CD versions.
Ian Anderson, founder of The Designers Republic, says the concept is based on ideas suggested by James in early discussions about the album’s packaging. “At the beginning of the process we discussed a few ideas Richard wanted to explore – one was the idea of pressing the album or a single track into the fabric of the cover, effectively as a deboss; a second was to use shots of the raw vinyl pucks albums are pressed from; and the third was to document in some way every cost involved in the production of the specific album format the purchaser had in their hands,” he explains.
“The intense, and ultimately pointless detail of the list really appealed to me … it was good working with James Burton and the team at Warp to stretch out this mantra that tells the reader everything and nothing about the creation of what I hear was an intensely personal album in the making reduced to the numbers of an album in the marketplace,” he adds.
The debossed bonus track appears in a limited edition perspex vinyl version, while puck shots are used on vinyl labels. TDR has also created ‘a disinfographic’, listing all of the equipment used to make the album.
The album is the third release that TDR has designed artwork for – the studio also worked on Windowlicker and Come to Daddy, which featured unsettling imagery shot by video artist Chris Cunningham (referenced in the deluxe slip case for the deluxe vinyl). While the new release has a notably different look, Anderson says all three are united by “a sense of non-design – of playing with formats and the preconceptions the audience may have of both what music packaging should be, and specifically what Aphex Twin’s packaging design should look like.”
“For Windowlicker, the video and images were so strong that really all we had to do was frame them. The skill here was to let the images do the work while creating space and something typographic which were recognisable in themselves in parallel with Chris’s work,” he says.
“For Come To Daddy, there was a thicker plot involving a series of TDR™ generated text based promos as well as a remix CD featuring the music from an Orange mobile TV ad. There were issues about using an image from the ad so we resorted creating an orange cover with text describing the action from the ad. The typography was designed to appear neutral which is again a key factor in the non-design idea behind Syro.”
Anderson also says the design is intended to challenge consumers and question notions of value: “The stripped down intentional un-typography, reducing the legibility of the bigger picture in its super detail, clashing with the inherent obsolescence of the pumped up format packaging, asks questions of the consumer that the content can’t alone,” he says.
“It’s interesting that some people regard the design in terms of what they can see, designers judging it on craft and typography and fans seeing it in terms of value for money (ironically), for example, when the real message lies in the deconstructive absence of either.”
Syro is released by Warp Records on 22 September.