The further we travel into the digital era, the fewer physical releases we see. A year ago, the digital market was bypassed by streaming. Most people are content to hear rather than to own. It takes a special presentation to entice a person to buy a physical product (and to pay the postage). Sometimes it’s a professional box, other times a charming DIY project, other times an enclosure. The following artists and labels have gone the extra mile to make their releases appealing. These are show-and-tell objects, the type of albums we take out to impress visitors and to remind them that yes, records and tapes and CDs are still being made. We salute them for their vision, their hard work and their final results. And now A Closer Listen presents The Year’s Best Packaging!
CoH ~ CoH Plays Everall (Hallow Ground)
Wow, look at that vinyl. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. CoH Plays Everall is a last gift to a departed friend, an explosion of color and sound that brings the best of each artist to light. Keep it in the sleeve, spin it on your turntable or mount it on your wall, but this objet d’art deserves to be seen.
Enrico Coniglio & Matteo Uggeri ~ Open to the Sea (Dronarivm)
The puzzle is the draw, and assembling it is more difficult than it seems, due to the similarity of the shapes. Put it together, flip it over, and you’ll find a download code for bonus material. The idea is fun, and the mystery extends to the cover art and the music. Whatever’s going on here, we want in.
Gavin Miller ~ Illuminate (This Is It Forever)
A brilliant idea, pun intended: Illuminate is an EP about light, hidden in a USB stick connected to a small working lightbulb. The basic response when people see it: “That’s so cool!” The concept is concise and communicates the contents in an instant. The first two editions have already sold out; we have high hopes for a third.
Gilroy Mere ~ The Green Line (Clay Pipe Music)
A record about London’s old green bus line, pressed on green vinyl and accompanied by a cardboard replica of the bus; what’s not to like? Avid collectors will need to decide if they prefer to assemble the bus or enjoy the photo; the pleasure is in the having.
Jeff Hassey ~ Beach Boy House: Dirt Sounds (Small World)
It’s a crazy idea, possibly literally, but it works: taking dirt from Brian Wilson’s yard and pressing it into clear vinyl, along with field recordings taken at the site. The record offers a unique form of hauntology, inviting the recipient to share in the seance. It’s likely no one else will even think of such a thing and carry it through. For best results, hold the record up to the light.
Jon Mueller ~ dHrAaNwDn (Rhythmplex)
The wooden box reflects its genesis: a drum session within the wooden walls of the Shaker Historical Society’s meeting house. Add copious notes, a candle, art prints and the music, and one has the complete package. Every aspect of this release was carefully planned; even the regular edition is a marvel.
Minco Eggersman ~ KAVKASIA (Volkoren)
If you like the scent and feel of old books, this one’s for you. KAVKASIA is an audio-visual representation of the Georgian mountain range, and includes a set of pristine photographs (loose in the limited edition, bound in the regular). The books are held tight with a cord to keep everything safe. Everything old is new again; look, listen and wonder.
MYMK ~ The Memory Fog (SØVN)
There are at least two ways to open a package: carefully, so that one saves the original box, wrapping or enclosure; and haphazardly, with the destructive glee of a child. The Memory Fog can only be opened by breaking it. The need to break something in order to enjoy it serves as a bittersweet metaphor. LE KUTSCH’s design challenges the owner to remember a time when music came in hard forms ~ perhaps not as hard as cement, but tactile nonetheless. The release also presents a quandary akin to “you can’t have your cake and eat it too.” Fortunately, a digital copy is included for those in search of a loophole.
Various Artists ~ 15th Anniversary Compilation (Project: Mooncircle)
Now this is how to celebrate an anniversary! A red five-record box set (with additional digital content), two CDs, a t-shirt and a documentary, with cover design by Dave McKean. The music here is all original, and the project is dedicated to a loved one. This audio-visual overload is a treat to the eyes and ears, and takes a long time to play from start to finish, but it’s worth it on every level. This was our first taste of many of 2017’s projects; a Happy Anniversary to Project: Mooncircle and many more!
Wester Ross Folklore Tapes Vol. I ~ Sacred Island: The Legend and Magic of Isle Maree (Folklore Tapes)
We hardly ever receive flexi-discs, but Folklore Tapes has become known for them in recent years. The real attraction is the distressed coin that is included in the package, along with a historical booklet describing the wish tree of Isle Maree. One can fondle the coin while reading about and listening to the sounds of the island: a trifecta of edification and enjoyment. Also worth the purchase: Fred Helliwell’s Industrial Folklore Tapes Vol. II ~ Springs, which includes a smartly centered booklet and a tiny spring in a plastic bag.