Most people familiar with the underground electronic music scene might know Lena Platonos through the Red Axes Remixes EP that got released in 2015 on Dark Entries Records. For Greeks like myself, her name might remind you of Edo Lillipoupoli (Lillipoupoli Here, Minos 1980), a kid’s radio show that aired from 1976–1980, for which Lena Platonos composed some of the music. It’s only later, to my surprise, that I realized not only did Platonos compose music for my then favorite radio show but also some of the most progressive and cutting-edge electronica to ever come out of Greece.
So here is a topic that has interested me for a long time – the novel ways artists and labels have come up with for music presentation, translating some of the themes or psychology of the release into the package, or the item itself. When so much music of the past 30 years has been presented simply in generic hole sleeves, the unique items in this list are deserving of further examination, whether or not you enjoy the music contained within.
Note: for whatever reason, releases in the “Industrial” and “Dark Ambient” genres seem to be over-represented in this very niche category, so I have tried to select releases across a variety of genres.
Die Tödliche Doris – Chöre & Soli (1983)
This box contains one book, eight miniphon records and a battery-driven device. A holy grail of avant-garde music, and a piece of modern art.
Vegetarian Bavarian In Exile – Ja Soa Schmarrn (1995)
Object in cake box. Each copy with a miniature mountain on the one-sided vinyl. One of the craziest concept records I have ever seen, not least for the labour required to build each of these unique “mountains”. Check out the Discogs page for more images of the box and its content.
Throbbing Gristle – Gristleism (2009)
Soundbox containing 13 loops with a pitch bend wheel, volume control and loop switch. A toy for TG fans of all ages and ridiculously fun to experiment with. Not a bad way to experience the music.
John Bender – Plaster Falling (1981)
Sleeves hand-dipped in plaster; with a string to tear open the sleeve. Often imitated but this is the greatest “destructive” packaging of all time (you can only open it once) and also a brilliant album that should be heard.
V/A – Visionaire No. 53: Sound (2007)
Five Picture Disc records packaged in a dome case (13.25 x 3.5) with an Austin Mini Clubman “Vinyl killer” portable record player.
Henrik Nordvargr Björkk – Vitagen (2005)
Limited handmade box housing the standard edition, a set of six professionally printed cards in textured paper and a beautifully crafted semi-porcelain doll inspired by the work of fine artisans of the 19th century. Some incredibly creepy stuff but the attention to detail is remarkable.
Blood Axis & Les Joyaux De La Princesse – Absinthe – La Folie Verte (2002)
“Two picture-10’s in a 26 x 26 cm box. Included is an absinthe spoon with the record title punched in it.”
To close out the list is my personal favourite example of “strange packaging” because it matches so perfectly the music contained. From this beautiful product you can easily imagine the Absinthe era of mid to late 19th century Paris.
Further reading on this subject.