ACL 2019 ~ The Year’s Best Packaging

Streaming is king.  Fewer physical editions are produced than ever before.  And yet, the tactile experience offers something special to the recipient: a feeling that the experience is real.  Our ten 2019 selections include half a dozen formats, evidence of creative synergy at its best.

Our top award goes to The Caretaker (Leyland Kirby), who celebrated the completion of Everywhere at the end of time in a magnificent manner, releasing a 162-page art book featuring the work of Ivan Seal, along with background on the connection between the music and art, plus a bonus disc featuring short, remarkable works that added to the appreciation of the multi-year project.  This is how to go out with a bang!

“But a book is too heavy!” our readers might say.  Enter Basserk Records, who found a fun way to distribute and advertise the compilation Bleeps, Beats & Bass 2.  The tagline “music you can wear” is explained in the photo below.  Buyers had a choice of sweatshirts in black or white, each with scannable tags.  And yes, this is music you can wash too!

Clay Pipe Music puts extra care into all of its releases, but The Hardy Tree’s Stagdale is something special ~ the first portion of a graphic novel, along with a flexi-disc and badge.  Credit the work of designer Frances Castle, who now has a gallery in East London as well!  We eagerly await the sequel.

Another impressive graphic work comes from Christian Kriegeskotte (LYNXX), who calls on the fantasy images of his youth for artistic inspiration.  The Home of the Headhunter draws readers into a phantasmagorical universe, while the music paints a sonic portrait.  The cassette may be pocket-sized, but the story unfolds to reveal a larger poster from Michael Koehler.

Lucas Norer’s Disposition is presented as a softcover book with a USB flash drive, a convenient format to transport the music.  The text traces the history of the Kufstein Heroes’ Organ, providing valuable context to the field recordings and soundscapes.  In the same genre, we find Seconde Nature, which also includes a flash drive, as well as a flexi-disc, three booklets and various ephemera.  The presenters concentrate on the River Orne, from history to preservation, and the full package makes both learning and conservation fun; recordings come from Thierry Weyd & Jana Winderen.

The Helen Scarsdale Agency gets one of this year’s awards for a simple concept done well: a handcrafted wooden box housing ten cassettes, each addressing different aspects of the theme:  On Corrosion. This is the label’s 50th release, and what a way to celebrate!

Dominik Eulberg presents a completely different sort of box, this containing a lovely card game along with download; one may also purchase the CD or record separately.  Mannigfaltig calls attention to endangered species in a manner that kids of all ages will enjoy.

This year we also have two label awards.  The first goes to Lost Tribe Sound for their CD book series, a subset of the subscription series We Stayed the Path that Fell to Shadow.  This format offers a bit of extra elegance that matches the complexity of its releases.  Pictured below are bound offerings from William Ryan Fritch, The Phonometrican and Gavin Miller (featuring Aaron Martin), along with a series compilation.  The other is the output of Dunk!Records on vinyl, which includes lovely pressings from artists such as We Lost the Sea (pictured right), Pray for Sound and Wander.  Suffice it to say that the site is always worth checking before one decides to make a purchase in any other format!

Richard Allen

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