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Can an Art Book Make Music Physical Again?

Sydney-based electronic artist Marco Vella and visual artist Kyle Jorgensen discuss their hybrid art book-album.

by DJ Pangburn
Jul 16 2015, 8:34pm

The Shadow Mountain album and artbook. All images courtest the artists.

Rare are the records on which sounds and visuals achieve multimedia unity. This is what Sydney-based electronic artist Marco Vella and visual artist Kyle Jorgensen attempt with Shadow Mountain, a work that is part art book, part album. Vella’s music, which recalls Joy Division and New Order on the one hand, and more recent acts like I Am The Cosmos on the other, gets visuals that call to mind a colorful sampling of graphic desinger Peter Saville’s legendary Unknown Pleasures sleeve design.

Vella tells The Creators Project that Shadow Mountain grew into a hybrid album-art book after Average Negative, a curator of multimedia projects, got in touch. They envisioned a collaborative piece between a recording and visual artist. So Jorgensen and Vella initially toyed with ideas like 3D objects and “other weird packaging” designs.

“After a thoughtful process of elimination, we decided an art book would showcase Kyle’s art perfectly with the record and the songs would relate back to the art book quite well, too,” Vella says.

Vella named the album after coming across one of Jorgensen’s pieces online. He found Jorgensen’s use of texture and color fascinating and inspiring, but also moody. The art in turn inspired the album’s electronic textures and rhythms.

For the art book, Jorgensen sought to visually capture the mood and feeling of Vella’s record, track-by-track. Ideally, the listener could follow the art book with their eyes as their ears experienced Vella’s recorded sounds.

“Shadow Mountain is cinematic in my mind and I felt like I was seeing strange but natural forms emerging as I traveled through the music,” Jorgensen says. “I'm super aware of how album art can enhance a record or detract from it, so I made efforts to adapt the visuals to what I felt most truly fit Marco's music.”

Artwork by Kyle Jorgensen for Shadow Mountain

Jorgensen used a lot of paintings for Shadow Mountain, most of which were acrylic on panel, which he then photographed and isolated in Photoshop. This process allowed Jorgensen to create what he calls “icons” for each chapter or track.

For Vella and Jorgensen, the project is ultimately about giving listeners and viewers, as well as themselves as artists, a sense of synesthesia — the blurring of the senses. The project is also about giving those who purchase it something tangible to possess.

“I guess in a way consumerism [intersects] this project not only to promote the artists, but the record label behind the project,” Vella says. “I think [this] is extremely important not only for the sales or profits, but for the longevity and sustainability of a record label with great ideas and passions.”

Marco and Kyle

“Packaging costs money, pressing records costs money and distributing those records costs money,” Jorgensen adds. “There are a lot of artists and musicians that are okay just making art and music for themselves and I totally respect that. But I'm also not naive in saying that I don't want to do it for a living.”

Jorgensen also likes the idea of marketing a record as a collaboration between a musician and visual artist. “[It’s] a brilliant idea,” he says. “There are a lot of amazing artists and designers that don’t even get a mention when a record comes out; so, from the visual art side of things, I think it's rad what Average Negative is trying to do.”

Though Shadow Mountain is a hybrid, Jorgensen has no illusions about how it will be received. Most people will see it as a record first. This, he believes, has to do with how people are programmed to think about records and album art.

“Hopefully that can change, especially if the art is good enough to compliment the record,” Jorgensen says.

You can download wallpaper from Shadow Mountain here.  

Artwork by Kyle Jorgensen for Shadow Mountain

Marco Vella’s vinyl pressing from Shadow Mountain

Artwork by Kyle Jorgensen for Shadow Mountain

The Shadow Mountain album-art book can be pre-ordered on Average Negative’s Bandcamp page.

Related:

The Story Behind Joy Division's Iconic Unknown Pleasures Album Cover

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