This May

The cover art for the Affan “Origin I” single conceived, created and produced by David Armes of Red Plate Press.

I prepared for the Lonely Swallow label’s first release.

May was dedicated to the final preparations for the first release on Lonely Swallow, my experimental label: Origins by Affan. The event is particularly special because it is also his debut. Affan is a young self-taught pianist from London. When I first heard his compositions, I was captured by their illusive simplicity. He weaves together melodies and tempos in improvised pieces that move from theme to theme with elegance and ease. When the label was ready to induct its first artist, Affan was a natural choice. His work embodies the ethos of the label: a minimalist celebration of melody, emotion and atmospheric beauty.

Red Plate Press impressed yet again.

Letterpress artist David Armes of Red Plate Press created the cover art for the album (Origins) and single (“Origin I”). Part of his task was to establish an aesthetic for the label’s releases. Minimalism was an important consideration when commissioning the artwork, and David’s solution is excellently so. It combines a simple visual concept with an elegant model for future releases. For this album and single, he used the Roman numerals from the track titles (“Origin I”, “Origin II”, “Origin III”, et cetera) and scattered them in the format to suggest the spontaneousness of improvisation. They are rendered in textured low-ink prints to represent the low-fidelity recordings, one “I” on the single cover, six on the album.

I felt grateful.

A novice in the music business, I am guided by my devotion to Beauty and Virtue, and rely on the knowledge and skill of others for everything else. I was fortunate in the creation of Lonely Swallow to work with artists and experts who are committed to excellence. It has made the process of establishing the label and coordinating its first release a rewarding experience. Thanks to everyone at Wolfe-Coote Incorporated for guiding me through the process of incorporating my first company. Thank you Affan for entrusting me with your first album, Taylor Deupree for mastering the label’s first release, Garreth Broke for transcribing “Origin I”, David Armes for capturing the music in visuals, and you dear reader for your faith and interest in my endeavours, your generosity is my inspiration.

Mentioned in this post:

Lonely Swallow (Official Website)
Red Plate Press (Official Website)
Garreth Broke (Official Website)
12k Mastering (Official Website)
Wolfe-Coote Incorporated (South Africa) +27 (0) 21 851 4357

A New Album, Part Three: The Artwork

This is part three of a three-part series about the new self-titled album. Read “Part One: The Poem” here and “Part Two: The Music” here.

Drying Letterpress Compact Disc Sleeves
The album sleeves on the drying rack in the studio of Red Plate Press.

Creating the Album Experience

For this album, I am doing my first physical release, a decision informed by the concept behind the music. Poetry is an integral part of the album and since poetic works are traditionally presented in print, a physical release was the perfect format in which to do so. Another factor was the sheer enjoyment of having something tangible connected to the music. I chose compact discs because they are easily accessible, and with the format decided, started looking at the album experience. Here, my main objective was to bring all its ideas together in a simple but meaningful way.

The use of letterpress packaging appealed to me early on. One of its advantages is that the sleeves themselves become works of art: the artist conceptualises the visuals and produces the packaging by hand on the letterpress machine. Moreover, the letterpress process is such that every print is unique: as the paper passes through the press, the ink is never applied in the same way, ensuring that no two sleeves are identical. I spoke to letterpress artist David Armes of Red Plate Press about the album at the very beginning of the project; design began whilst the music was still a work in progress.

Forgotten Fields Compact Disc Sleeve Detail
A detail from the inside of the compact disc sleeve.
Handmade Letterpress Sleeves
Designed, printed and assembled by Red Plate Press.

An Abstract Poem

David responded to my brief with breathtaking minimalism and clarity. He distilled the themes of the album into a succinct visual summary, capturing the very essence of the project in an abstract poem of his own. The process was particularly interesting because there was no digital component; everything was done manually from start to finish. During the conceptualisation phase, each new variation of the design involved setting up the press anew with different or adjusted inks and elements to make a version for us to review. David would expertly assemble the new mockup by hand, every time.

For the final artwork, he used hand-set metal type and geometric shapes to create a truly evocative work. Illustrating a scene from the poem, the cover shows a flight of swallows, conceived as a group of triangles suspended above a field of green. On the back, a swallow rushes through the sky, separated from the others by the spine. This swallow appears in the poem. Inside, the bird motif is repeated, offset by the text of the poem. David used different ink densities—opaque for the swallows, textured for the field—to add depth to the two-dimensional design.

The Release

This release is in many respects a defining one. I have found the focus of my creative work in the poetic and musical exploration of pastoral themes and consider this album (and the EP that preceded it) the touchstone of future works. I am pleased to share this release with the world and hope it will be well received. To everyone who supports my work: thank you.

Forgotten Fields will be released tomorrow, 17 November 2017.