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Vessels, The Great Distraction

Art Direction · Campaign · Music · Print

We were asked by Vessels to create the album artwork for their new album The Great Distraction.

What started as a record sleeve design brief turned into a large scale installation, creating an album cover made entirely from lasers that you could walk around.

This latest release from the live techno outfit features a host of guests, including The Flaming Lips; John Grant; Vincent Neff of Django Django fame; and Katie Harkin.

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The artwork for the campaign was created from a laser sculpture, installed in The Hepworth’s Calder space back in January 2017. 

Reflecting Vessels’ live approach to techno, we looked to blur the lines between the computer-synthesised and the real. The visuals combine the hard, crisp, rhythmical lines of a digital work with the imperfections of an analogue, physical medium, in an attempt to capture something that really got to the heart of the sound of the record.

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The lasers’ crisp lines allowed us to suspend intricate patterns in thin air. But they also provided us with a visual cognate to the analogue synths that define the band’s current sound: both were developed in the early 60’s; both will always be wrapped up in the folklore of sci-fi; both have been ever-present on the club scene; and both retain their connotations with ‘the future’, despite being non-digital technology with well over half a century of history each.

The outcome is not only unique, but – as with the record itself – is as trippy and euphoric, as it is dark and atmospheric.

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Alongside the cover for The Great Distraction, we used the installation to create the artwork for the singles from the album, with other imagery still up our sleeves for any remix projects.

The end concept was the result of following through the most appropriate, exciting concept for the band and their music – but in doing so, we took ourselves down a path that led well away from our original training as ‘graphic designers’. From working out the challenges of wiring large scale 12-volt circuits and learning about voltage drops the hard way; to creating stringent health and safety briefings (rock n roll); to sweet-talking two fire engines full of grumpy fire fighters arriving to a haze-filled Hepworth thinking we’d burned the place down (we hadn’t) – this brief was a bit of a ride.

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After creating the installation, we then returned to shoot the band’s press shots, using a combination of lasers (1 & 4) and projections of the album artwork (2 & 3) to ensure a consistent look and feel across the album campaign as a whole.

The first image shown here is shot using the light from the lasers alone – the band members perilously close to the powerful beams, creating this mix of their tension and stillness with the other-worldly lighting. Needless to say, it wasn’t the easiest shot to pull, and was one of the many challenges pulled off brilliantly by our long-suffering collaborator and photographer on the project David Lindsay – without whom all this wouldn’t have happened (…and to whom we now owe favours until the end of time. Love you Dave.)

The Great Distraction is out September 29, and is available to pre-order on Bandcamp now.