Formatology / Getting Closer to the Artist

A Japanese album swathed in gauze and secured with string, or an Israeli album wrapped in coarse sandpaper; A CD fastened to a wooden plank with a wing nut or placed in a paper envelope sealed in wax: in a time when playing music hardly involves opening jewelboxes, artists have claimed back the CD package as a means to assert the individuality of their music.

At the height of the vinyl age, album sleeves were an intricate affair – artists used the 12 inch cardboard square as a canvas for their vision, gatefolds were opened to reveal elaborate diptychs (or even triptychs, in double albums) and the pockets were loaded with lyric sheets, stickers and any flat gimmick you could think of, all to make the listening experience more whole.

The introduction of Compact Discs made album designers scramble for a new way to make their art noticeable in the diminished format. They couldn’t replicate the detailed artwork, but they could make the CD fancy – cushion it and wrap it in blue velveteen forMadonna or place AC/DC in a fancy tin box and charge accordingly. Nowadays, most of our music comes in shapeless form – to wit, designers have yet to invent the standard icon to represent an mp3 file. Uploading and downloading and clicking and amplifying areall done flatly and have no tactile quality.

The underground artists whose works are exhibited here create truly limited editions. The fact they are not mass-distributed enables them to give every unit the treatment it deserves. The result is a package that slightly differs every time, and creates a work you can see and feel while listening to the music. Some acts even go so far as to include locks of hair.

Intimidating? Maybe, but you can’t get much closer to the artist than this.

Ayelet Yagil
Music journalist, Israel.

 

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