As you may have noticed I haven’t been very active on the blog over the past year. This is because I had decided to focus solely on my music project, Tycho for a while. I spent the last 9 months or so working with the band on a new record which is now complete. Of course, Tycho is very much an audio / visual project so I’m still working consistently on design whether it be album covers, show posters, or online assets. I was working on the cover art and developing the packaging in parallel with the recording process this time around. We recently shared the final artwork for this LP, entitled Awake (listen to the title track here). I’ll go more into the reasoning behind and making of the artwork later, but for now here is a quote from this Reddit discussion of the cover art that I commented on:
This design was mean to be a flag; more of a symbol than what I would think of as traditional album art. I felt that, with physical mediums disappearing, album art didn’t necessarily have to fit a given format and I wanted something that could be readily transported.
If you look at earlier artwork you’ll see that I was pursuing a more maximalist / photographic direction for Tycho (e.g. http://imgur.com/a/kk93f ). But this album has a more stripped down, visceral thing going on and I wanted that reflected in the artwork. Really this is meant to be an inconized form of the sun / circle motif present in a lot of the Tycho cover art to date. Kind of like a unifying symbol for all the output that preceded this release. I see this, for various reasons, as the first true Tycho album and so wanted to focus everything into a simple form that encapsulated that idea. On a side note, there are eight color bands in the circle, each one representing a track.
The beauty of creating the artwork for the music over all these years is that I am free to develop a cohesive lineage with the imagery. From what I have seen of my peers over these past 13 or so years as a designer, we generally tend towards simplification as we go along and I think that is an important part of design: efficiency of communication. Whether this particular design is effective in that respect obviously isn’t something I have the objectivity to comment on, but that was the goal at least.
The album will be released on March 18th, 2014. Here is the track listing:
Tycho – Awake (2014)
And those who were following along on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter know that we released the artwork first via a 9×9 grid. I printed the artwork, cut it up, and photographed it using various pieces of musical equipment as backdrops. Here’s the grid in one image:
Makeshift lighting setup. All my camera gear was stolen recently so limping along with a point and shoot setup for now.
You can listen to the title track from Awake now on the Tycho Soundcloud page
More to come soon, thanks for the support!
We’ve got about a month to go until the full release of the new Tycho full length, Dive (out digital Oct. 25 / physical Nov. 15), but iTunes has the pre-order up now at a discount. I’m putting together a preview track with snippets from all the songs on the album, should be posting that in the coming weeks.
Pre-Order Tycho Dive on iTunes
You can also score the official release of Hours / Cascade here
Dusty Brown - This City is Killing Me - Artwork by S.Hansen/ISO50
I’m very pleased to announce that the new Dusty Brown EP, This City is Killing Me, is now available. I’m even more pleased to announce that Dusty was generous enough to give it to us for free. If you like it (which I am sure you will, just have one listen to “Back to Back” and you’ll be hooked), please consider supporting his music by making a donation.
For the uninitiated, Dusty Brown is an insanely talented Sacramento-based producer and musician who, along with his eponymous band, creates a sort of beat-centric clash between raw ambient-electronic and synth-driven indie rock. Dusty got me into the live music scene when I was starting out in Sacramento and over the years we’ve collaborated on all sorts of projects. I’ve learned more about music from Dusty than anyone else; his production style and methods are truly awe inspiring. People who have been following along for a while might also remember that Dusty did all the flash work for both the original versions of the ISO50 portfolio.
I’ve really been anticipating this EP so it was great to also be able to create the album artwork for the release. The artwork is based on the photography of another incredible talent from Sacramento, photographer Raoul Ortega. The front and back covers feature various images from this set which Raoul shot with the Canon 5D at Dusty’s Harlow’s show last week. It’s so inspiring as a designer to work with talented photographers; images like this are just begging to be treated and make the whole process such a pleasure. The EP download includes print sized versions of the front and back covers.
Enjoy! And please thank Dusty for hooking us up in the comments!
Dusty Brown – This City is Killing Me Download | Donate
Me on the Oberheim Four Voice
Zac Brown on electric guitar
Alex Cornell lending some acoustic takes
Zac Brown in the studio
I’ve sort of had my head down for the past couple months really digging into the recording of my next album so I thought I’d post up some shots from various sessions. Recently, guitarist Zac Brown (of Dusty Brown and DoomBird) has been coming in and contributing parts to some songs. It’s one of the first times I’ve collaborated with another musician and it’s been a great experience. It’s also been fun to wrap my head around recording guitar amps, something I had limited experience with before as most of my songs are written and recorded on my acoustic guitar with the keyboard and drum parts added later. It’s always exciting to find a new sonic texture to work with and it’s definitely an inspiring process to see your vision for a song expanded on by someone else.
If you’ve been following along with the album’s progress, you might have noticed the somewhat protracted nature of the whole thing. It’s been a test to say the least trying to keep on track with music while staying on top of the ISO50 side of things. There was definitely a long period where all I wanted to do was write new songs but not finish them, which is the hardest part for me. The good news is that because of this I now have a few albums of solid material, but the bad news is that it delayed the process of this one getting out. But that’s all behind me now and the past couple months have been the most productive of my musical life. The only problem is that I now have this self-imposed feeling that I’m behind and when I’m feeling that way I can sometimes forget to relax and enjoy the process of creating. It’s funny how much design and music differ in this way for me. While I see the processes of creating both as very similar, I don’t feel I can really sit down and just get music done in the same way as my visual work. It’s easy to say I’m going to devote three nights to a poster and be pretty confident it will get done and I’ll be happy with it. With music it’s always a much longer and drawn out process with more intangible milestones along the way.
The beauty of this entire process and the time devoted to it is that I’ve been allowed the luxury of perspective, something that’s very hard for me when I have to be neck-deep in a project from beginning to end with no breaks. The time has allowed me to continually reevaluate what the work is supposed to be and how best to do the material justice. Most of my songs start out as very small sketches, usually a guitar part and a keyboard part recorded quickly. I then set it aside and move on to something else. When I finally come back to an idea to develop it into a full composition my biggest fear is that I will somehow lose the meaning or the soul of it in the process. The problem is that as I’m adding new parts I start to go on tangents and the song can become something completely different. Sometimes this can be a good thing, but in other cases it takes time to be able to look back and realize that the original idea has been muddled in some way by the initial excitement of discovery. Problems like this tend to disappear when I allow myself to revisit work over time.
Overall, I feel close to wrapping up the production/arrangement phase but then comes mixing and mastering which can be time consuming. My goal is to have things sewn up by, at the very latest, end of summer. But putting time-lines on things doesn’t exactly serve the artistic process, at least not mine anyways, so I’m trying my best to pretend that goal doesn’t exist.
I’ll try to post some more pics / videos as things progress. And on a related note, Yourstru.ly has been filming a piece on the making of the album so there should be some interesting stuff by the time that’s done.
A reader wrote in today asking why I haven’t posted on process or the day-to-day stuff much recently and after reading his email I realized he was right, I haven’t really been on top of that over the past couple months. This is partly due to the fact that most of the stuff I’ve been working on won’t be made public for a while and partly due to things being a bit overwhelming lately. As much as I enjoy it, running this blog has been a challenge for me at times, trying to balance getting work done and also talking about it. But even when I’m in the thick of it, it’s always nice to pop my head up and write an update and perhaps provide a little insight into the daily grind over here at the studio. So from now on I’ll make a better effort to post more often on the stuff that’s going on around here. So here’s the first installment, the studio update for June 2009.
The picture above is of Alex (the one and only ISO50 intern) in the upstairs work area which we use for printing, photography, and any other random tasks that don’t fit into the dungeon below which houses the music studio and main design systems. Alex has been prepping things for the new Epson 9900 which is finally all put together (pictured to the left). It’s scheduled to be commissioned today when the team from Meridian comes out to get it online. Once that’s up and running we’ll be able to do large format stuff so be on the lookout for some very big prints soon. Alex is also working on a very detailed article on color calibration which we’ve been sorting out for a while now and which just seems to keep growing in scope. But it will be worth the wait when it’s done, I promise!
As for new work, I’ve been locked downstairs working on the new Tycho album along with a few new posters which you will start to see coming out over the next couple months. It’s sort of been a rough few months transitioning into getting-shit-done mode. Putting together the Coastal Brake 12″ (due out in August) sort of wiped me out and then a long stretch of poorly timed traveling really put me in a bad spot as far as motivation is concerned. But after some time off I was able to get back into it over the past few weeks and the new work has been flowing pretty well. It’s nice to step away from things for a bit (even if not by choice), when I get back to it I always find myself seeing things from a different perspective and appreciating the process a little more.