Whether we acknowledge it or not, the presentation of an LP makes a great impression and subtly affects our approach to music. Lets consider some of the highlights in this field. No one did gimmick sleeves quite the like Germans in the 1970’s. Take for example, the first Annexus Quam LP ‘Osmose’. It’s hard to describe, but four triangular flaps fold out to form this slightly rickety spire. When folded flat, the flaps can be folded in all sorts of combinations such that if you desire you can basically form a different front cover every time you pull the LP out. Oh it’s an excellent LP as well. Reissued on Wah-Wah it’s well worth picking up (though this is an original I got many years at a very reasonable price). The music is a playful amalgamation of jazzy/progressive Krautrock styles and the packaging reflects this well
The next approach is rather different. Zoviet France is the group that feature a more handmade artisan approach to their LP packaging. They’ve been pushing the packaging envelope since their earliest releases back in the 1980’s. I’ve been meaning to pick up more, but Monohnomishe is one of their finest and the packaging is typically superb. Two masonite boards are silk screened (I guess) and then tied around the LPs with crimson string. The packaging is perfectly appropriate for the music, low-tech but sublime. Care must be taken with the LPs, willy nilly ripping out the LPS will cause them great damage (this is especially true of some of their other releases, Gris being the most notorious example. While Zoviet France is frequently lumped in post-industrial music, the packaging seems as if it could almost be out of pre-industrial craft shop. This folds back into the music giving a kind of quality that exists out of time or categories.
Finally a brief look at the finest outfit going in terms of packaging CDs and LPs. That would be Andrew Chalk and his Faraway Press Imprint. All releases appear to hand made with the kind of detail that is due to the extremely high degree of craftsmanship employed. Probably the pinnacle of this approach is the recent “夜のバイオリン ” LP. The LP is housed in a handmade card slipcase sleev with an embossed inner sleeve, and a dowel on the spine to remove and insert the LP. The cover artwork is quizzical, but playful and the left hand of spine, covered in felt tepa, has perfectly placed on the edge, to give the package a rather book like feel. While an overwhelming display could overwhelm the music it doesn’t, rather it is a muted invitation to explore the welcoming and intimate music within. I’ve always had the sense when listening to Chalk’s music that I’m engaged in a close conversation with the artist. Like le son de l’os engagement is critical here; listeners looking to be bludgeoned over the head with sonic revelations are likely to be somewhat disappointed. You will get what you put in, but at the very least close attention is an absolute requirement.