Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No Covers* - an art post (with music)

Above: the original photograph for my cover of Regulator Watt's New Low Moline 7"

(* a Mclusky reference. You can never have too many; and if you can't kill Kenny, you can't do anything right)

Following on from this dodgy artwork, thankfully authenticated as a fair copy, I humbly present some more artwork I've had to dream up myself. I like to have even the smallest release that I download and like in its own paper sleeve, which can be a problem when the only pictures of the cover art are tiny little gif files. Generally, even a 300x300 jpeg doesn't produce a very good CD cover (which is why the album artwork on this site is a standard 400-pixel width). Hence, I've made a few covers of my own, using my own photographs and a little bit of basic Photoshop editing.

I guess the idea was to follow the 'emo' style of artwork, which supposedly "tends toward abstract black-and-white photographs of rusted/broken things (especially machinery), drawings of flowers, and pictures of old men, little boys, and little girls" (fourfa.com), but not to follow it too slavishly.

Click to see larger.


Current/Indian Summer - split 7", Homemade Records No. 6, July 1993

1. Key

2. Orchard

The photo: a statue, by water, in Altamont gardens, Co. Carlow, Ireland. For the past few years I've been doing the majority of my photography through black-and-white (very easy on a digital camera!) just so I can concentrate on form and lines, contrasts etc. The addition of the text didn't go quite so well, trying to place it not too obtrusively but still legibly. It's Current with a 'u' and Indian Summer with a 'Ind', by the way, in case you can't make it out. Not sure why I chose yellow, either.

The record: I don't rate Current quite as high as some other emo bands, but this song is really good. It's relatively simple, and not particularly long by Moss Icon or Indian Summer stands, but it has the 'emo' rhythm and emotional release down pat. Check out these lyrics:

"I cut my key from wood

for inexpensiveness

I cut my key from stone

for everlastness

but now I have found a way

to make it all better...

Indian Summer's 'Orchard' was, along with Moss Icon's 'Guatemala', one of the songs that got me into emo. I know that a lot of people from around the time, and probably still now, disliked the echoey sound of the track, and admittedly, it is quite strong (as well as the vinyl crackles). But it also makes for one hell of a powerful song, and probably one of the band's best. When I heard it first, I had just been listening to Envy's A Dead Sinking Story for about a year or so, and to hear something else as uniquely dynamic and proto-'screamo' was pretty mindblowing. Where I first heard that song, along with 'Guatemala', Swing Kids' '43 Seconds', Mohinder's 'Numb', etc., was on the 'mesa verde' list of mp3s, via fourfa again (it now seems to be gone).


Rye Coalition/Maximillian Colby - split 7", irony recordings 002/rent-a-records 552.002, 1998

1. Dover

2. One Gallon Alda

The photo: a straw field in the countryside of Morbihan (Brittany), France. Clearly this was taken in the summer, when the straw had already been baled. Using a red filter to convert to b&w (or noir et blanc as they say in those parts) turned the strewn straw snow white, and then I later turned the whole thing dark sepia for effect. The trees aren't the most interesting backdrop in the world, but the curves of the field and focal point of the telegraph pole work quite well. It was a hot July day, which I think comes across somewhat in the brightness of the picture. Finally, the characters of the title were jiggled around with, to appear typewritten or labelled on, and coloured brown to blend into the photograph.

The record: Rye Coalition, like Current, aren't a huge favourite of mine, and this record is mostly for the Max Colby song. But Rye Co (Max Co and Rye Co... ha!) have a pretty good mathy, angsty song here. It's surprisingly Slinty at the start, and has an emo-ish rhythm in parts not too dissimilar from the songs on the split above. If you want to hear more early Rye Coalition, check out rgratzer's post here, and my link in the first comment there.

The Rye Coalition and Maximillian Colby sides complement each other nicely, in a similarly slinty/mathy style. 'One Gallon Alda' is a pretty aggressive track at times, and at times very heavy for an emo band. Listening to this should make you want to thrash, as well as stare in awe at your stereo speakers (which is why there are alternately quiet and loud parts). Almost as good as 'New Jello', which is the first track on their epic discography CD ('One Gallon Alda' is one of the last few tracks) and probably the one single Max Colby songs that everyone needs to hear.

Beyond that, I can best refer you to the description from Lovitt Records which I posted in my last post on Shotmaker/Maximillian Colby:

"Neither purely aggressive nor depressingly somber, Maximillian Colby's music creates soundscapes that can rupture the eardrums and soon after lull the mind"


rgratzer says:

"if you really wanted to get an "emo" picture in there, you should crop it terribly, crank up the contrast so that it's basically a stencil, and then situate the picture near a corner while the rest of the cover is blank space ;)"

I say, funny you should say that; because that pretty much describes perfectly this cover:

www.mesaverde.co.uk/mp3 (now defunct; see end of the last paragraph on Current/Indian Summer, above)

The photo: an inset of a larger photograph of an unidentified piece of machinery (rusted/broken, of course) found by railway tracks at Blackrock, on the Dublin coast. I coloured it a deep blue just to make it a bit more interesting than plain black and white; and also, with further similar mp3s, I made '[mesaverde II]' and '[mesaverde III]' compilations with identical covers, but coloured in crimson and gold, respectively. Apart from the general 'emo-ness' of the photograph, I was quite pleased with the placing of the objects, and the lower-case, square-bracketed text (also in deep blue, as you'll notice). From what I remember, the brackets also served the useful purpose of putting the compilation at the top of my iTunes list of albums, instead of down in the middle of all the real albums under 'm'.

The record: Mesa Verde (two words) was/is a 'emo' band from the UK - Scotland I think - and there was posted up on their website a long list of sample mp3 from a variety of key bands from that genre - basically everything from Rites of Spring's 'Drink Deep' to Orchid's 'Aesthetic Dialectic'. Not many surprises for most people on this site, I reckon, but a damn good compilation nonetheless and an excellent introduction to the genre, if it were to be posted up somewhere.


Indian Summer - Discography (link via Burning Down The Dreams of the Forever; entitled 'Science'), 1994

(One of my earliest covers, and probably the one I'm still most proud of; also, one of the most influential records in my listening history)

The photo: a close up of a tree trunk from a forest near the coast of Galicia, extreme north-west Spain. The bark was peeling from the trunk, leaving mostly a smooth surface behind. As you can probably see from the shaow, it was late afternoon so the sun was bright but it still left one side - the rough half - of the trunk in shadow. Using Photoshop I increased the contrast on the scan (I was still using film at the the time) and washed out all the pale surface of the tree trunk, leaving a blank surface for the title - always important. Looking back on it, I'm not sure the combination of the two fonts was best advised - they're just standard MS Word fonts, too - and is in fact maybe a little distracting. However, the curlicued band font I think adds a slightly exotic flavour, while picking up on the curves of the peeling bark; and the block letters for the title pick up on the sombreness and stark contrasts of the picture. Even more so than the Max Colby/Rye Coalition cover, the whiteness exudes heat along with the visual key of the dry, cracked bark; while it isn't technically faithful to the idea of an 'indian summer', it's recognizably connected.

The record: I'm not sure I know where to start... I've begun already with a short discussion of 'Orchard', so I guess I'll work from there. In the broad church of screamo, Envy and Indian Summer are indelibly linked for me, mainly because they were my original introduction to the genre but also they kind of stand as pioneers at both ends of its development - nearly. When I first heard this I was barely aware that people made music that was simultaneoulsy so achingly quiet and sweet, and crushingly loud and fierce. More than that, this discography is a perfect artistic experience, with its long, rambling epic songs, lightly recorded 'emo-peggio', lo-fi Bessie Smith samples to

"emulate the nights in Oakland we spent fucked up/passed out with the needle dragging the end of the slint LP"

and above all, its brash, crushing dynamism: most of which, it must be noted, is even starker than the slow build-up of 'Orchard' - songs like 'Angry Son' or 'Touching the Wings of an Angel' literally erupt from nothingness; or at least mumbling, half-silent near-nothingness.

This release could really do with its own post, but plenty of blogs have got there first. Sweetbabyjaysus sums it up as follows:

"When it comes to beauty in the genre, Indian Summer have found their place well. Coming out of Oakland, they brought a sense of earnestness hardcore was missing. They brought to the table their influences and mixed them with their own ideas and personal politics, creating something that would live past it's physical time. Like many of the greats of the day they too were short lived, only nine songs recorded total, but each a testament to their majesty.

This is the sound of the celebrated summer."


Or blend77, from one of the very earliest posts on his blog (I've included the comments section, which is kind of weird, but nevertheless it says nearly as much about the importance of the band as the reviews do; and also, the 'real' cover of the discography - or of one of the discographies - which I hadn't seen before making the cover, yet which nevertheless has an interesting similarity with it):

"Seeing as how this is the beginning of a new blog, I will take the opportunity to give you a small idea of what I am up to. This blog is a place for me to give homage to all the things that are amazing and creative in this world, artists that break the boundaries of what is considered music and art. I have a very healthy obsession with music so I plan to offer exposure to bands and musicians I find to have contributed something important to the evolution of music. I also work as an artist in NYC so I would like to introduce artists that I find relevant, or maybe even some classics that have be influential through the years. I may also share other oddities and curiosites that I come across in everyday life. But for now, let's continue with the music.

Indian Summer is an emo band. Oops, I said it, "Emo". The word that has everyone spouting opinions and criticisms. I'm not going to take the time to explain to you what emo is, you either know, or think you know, or you don't care. Its somewhat relative anyway. If you really want to find out, check here. Either way Indian Summer are without a doubt one of the best and shining examples of that form of music; from the quiet-loud dynamics and whispered-screamed lyrics, all the way down to the lo-fi quality and even Bessie Smith records playing in the background. 9 songs of chaotic screamy emo hardcore, the sum total of their recorded career. All of their stuff is out of print, including this discography, so take the opportunity to grab this one for your collection."


Anonymous said...

Amazing band. I'm looking forward to what you are going to be posting in this blog, it's been pretty good already.

3:43 PM

Jake said...

Thanks for posting this. I've been looking for it forever. You're the only other person I've met in years who's even heard of Indian Summer. Judging from what you've posted so far it looks like we came of age around the same time musically.

6:31 PM

blend77 said...

no problem. ^_^ it took me forever to find it in MP3 format.. i have the 7"s but no record player. v_v....

apparently many younger kids searching for the original emo have found all sorts of great stuff and are keeping it alive. and they all talk about it and post all the time. keep in touch, i got some good stuff comin.

7:36 PM

YoYoPunk said...

This is amazing! Thank you so much!

1:18 PM

blend77 said...

nice! ^_^ big smiles...

4:01 PM

Sam said...

I think "Angry Son" on a weird vinyl rip was the key moment in my music listening career. In a certain sense, everything I've done concerning the underground since that point has been to recapture the first time I heard that song.

3:06 AM


The best information and random unreleased tuneage on Indian Summer is probably to be found here:


Who'd a thunk?


rgratzer said...

I try to add crappy jpgs to the zips I post, and I try to keep them around 800 or 1000 pixels in width/height... but the jpg'ing of them reduces the pixel/inch ratio, which I think is the important part when printing...? I rarely print out things, anythings, so I'm uncertain about that. I'm mostly worried about them being readable (especially the lyric pages).

At any rate, I think it's cool that you make your own covers. Your pictures are nice, and they do seem to fit the bands. However, if you really wanted to get an "emo" picture in there, you should crop it terribly, crank up the contrast so that it's basically a stencil, and then situate the picture near a corner while the rest of the cover is blank space ;)

gabbagabbahey said...

you do a very good job with cover art, definitely. I'm loving that Reach Out cover, even if it is a little scary!

I was just checking that - it comes out at roughly 450x450 pixels and when I went to print it out (as a 12cmx12cm CD cover) I had to actually reduce it. There's a limit to how finely a standard printer will print anyway. Not too sure about the technical stuff, but the jpgs, once they're a certain size, always work well enough for me.

As for true 'emo' pictures - funny you should say that. Watch out for the update to this post...

blend77 said...

ragratzer, you are right on the money there with the high contrast-stencil like qualities, bad typesetting, and crooked print jobs that somehow all add up to make really beautiful stark covers..

Gabba, youre covers are cool. I really like the Rye Co/ Max Co one. There is dynamic interplay between the field and the trees, and the telephone pole juts up into it exaggerating the tension. which in reality is a very good theme for both of those bands, the stark white to black and tension all the way.

i hear you about the typesetting on the indian summer / current split. i like the photo and i like the color of the type, but sometimes you reach and impasse where you dont want to add any more elements, but you want people to read it. over all, for the qualities of emo stuff, it works well. any fans of the music should quickly recognize the two names.

great stuff. more please! ^_^

i'll try to remember those records tomorrow.

gabbagabbahey said...

blend - thanks for the comments and the enthusiasm. Hope you like the updates, and the little piece of blogging history!

well done for reading into my Max Colby/Rye Coalition picture... to be honest by actual thought process for choosing that picture was more like rye coalition=rye=cereal=crop=field=cut grass. Sorry to disappoint!

Jared Dillon said...

if you don't have Mesa Verde's record 'Amor Fati' you should definitely try and pick that up.

'Excellent blend of clean tones, the euro sound, and some instrumental post rock. Vocals are passionate, lyrics are excellent, and overall just a great screamo record from a little known band.' as per my RYM review of it.

also, i saw Graf Orlock, Dangers, and Ghostlimb along with a few other Seattle regulars tonight. definitely keep an eye out for Dangers and Ghostlimb some great up and comers.

gabbagabbahey said...

mmm... 'the euro sound'. I like the sound of that. I'll definitely search some out. Silly really, not keeping up with stuff like this which is so close to home (relatively speaking). I've also recently started listening to a bit of Bob Tilton, another UK band of that ilk.

I'll try and check out those other bands, too - although maybe a bit heavy for my tastes; I am setting aside some time for those two post-metal records in your top 10 list!


Anonymous said...

I really like your blog and I read it almost daily. I have a quick question, and please don't be offended by it, why do you feel the need to recreate album art for records that already have album art? As a musician, I'm extremely particular about my band's aesthetic. I'm sure these bands also worked hard to create art that best represented them. Anyway - please keep posting. I love the blog!

gabbagabbahey said...

- anonymous. No bother, I can answer that question fairly easily. I explained it a little bit at the start of the post: where I can't find the art on the internet, I on occasion have made my own.

It's not so much 'recreating' in some cases as 'creating' in the first place. Indian Summer there, I had no idea what the cover was until fairly recently (and there are a couple of different covers anyway, for different releases of the discography). Likewise, the Rye Coalition split I was able to find a (small) picture of the cover this week, but none when I first got the songs. I could explain like that for all of them, but I'm sure you get the point...

(Also, this is pretty much all the covers I've done - four or five out of a couple of hundred sleeves. Moreover, it's a personal thing for my own collection - the main reason I'm posting them here is - hubris aside - because readers of the blog might be interested in seeing them)

I totally get what you're saying about the bands' aesthetics. Its something I look for in a band too. If you click the link to the Regulator Watts single New Low Moline you can see the original cover and my version juxtaposed. I hope you'll agree I've tried to follow their aesthetic somewhat.

Other than that, I guess it's a form of 'fan art' or an homage. Like I say, it's a limited thing and mostly done out of necessity.

Hope that answered your question.

Glad you're enjoying the blog... I try to post almost daily (well, every second day), so hopefully that'll work out!

Cheers, Gabba

PS - go to www.t-dt-b.org if you want to find the original cover art for the 7"s and so on, they're usually very good at having a picture for each release.

PPS - nothing excites me more than finding the real cover art, at a high quality, for some otherwise obscure 7" or whatever - case in point, Han Shan.

blend77 said...

hey gabba. i like the new covers too. so i recently (yesterday) got the next 7 days off. is nice!

but i dont have a working scanner here. unless i get my girlfriends to work i will have to scan those later on...

i agree about aesthetics. even when i was first buying records i often picked out things on a visual level. now thats pretty much the only time i buy music, when i love the whole package (or i just absolutely cant live without it.)

i'll try and get that scanner working.

Anonymous said...

Hey, nice job done. Does anyone have more from the Rye Coalition? It seems like it's impossible to find anything on the internet.

gabbagabbahey said...

anononymous - I assume you read the post; there's a link there to rgratzer's post on (mostly) blue skies above us with their demo, and I left a mediafire link in the comments with about four other early releases. Other than that, I don't have anything personally.

blend - sounds great. Does that mean we'll see some new posts on Zen Face? :)
no rush about those covers by the way, whenever suits you...

josephlovesit said...

These are beautiful. The Max Co/Rye Co and Indian Summer specifically are perfectly executed. Way professional. I'm sure you're aware that the bark splitting off the tree looks like a wing (which I would definitely associate with Indian Summer iconography -for whatever reason). Great post.

gabbagabbahey said...

glad you liked them.

the wing thing hadn't occurred to me actually... maybe it fits with 'Aren't You an Angel'. Looking at it now, it also looks kind of like half a heart - which would fit as well...

Personally, I don't tend to associate my pictures with other shapes... like, it's just an abstract curve to me (call that a lack of an imagination if you will!). I accept that might be peculiar to me, but the good thing (sometimes) about making art is the stuff other people see in it, that you would never have considered yourself...