The Best Record Label Artworks of 2016

by Isabel Thomson Officer

Music is not just an auditory experience. It is a multi-sensory affair which triggers all kinds of feelings and emotions throughout the body and the mind. When listening to music, we want to feel a certain way, to be transported to an entirely different place, and an album’s sleeve, can help to do that. The final released product encompasses both musical and visual art and the two very closely intertwined - so it goes without saying that the record’s cover is always an integral component to any production. Here are 15 labels producing some truly beautiful, thought provoking, inspiring and creative artwork that is worth checking out.

Drumcode

Adam Beyer’s techno label’s signature heavy-hitting sound, wouldn’t be complete without the work of psychedelic visual artist Staffan Larsson. The Swedish-born graphic artist is known for his fantasy, sci-fi like drawings that go hand in hand artistically with many of the Drumcode releases. It's very hard to choose which one is our favorite. Check out the covers for dubspeeka's Unfriended EP and Pig and Dan's Mexico Ep. They also have an official merchandise store in the works where they plan to sell shirts and cell phone cases with their coveted designs - we can’t wait!

Dubspeeka - Unfriended EP                                        artwork by Staffan Larsson

Dubspeeka - Unfriended EP                                        artwork by Staffan Larsson

Pig & Dan - Mexico Ep                                                 artwork by Staffan Larsson

Pig & Dan - Mexico Ep                                                 artwork by Staffan Larsson

Watergate

Straight out of Berlin, the club’s mix series has some seriously gorgeous illustrated artwork. The designs by Frank Hõhne are themed with dramatic psychedelic creatures from the deep usually, against a dark backdrop. A psychedelic octopus, two sharks fresh from eating their prey, a dolphin, and a multi-colored seahorse have all graced the album covers for artist and club mixes by producers such as Matthias Meyer, Soul Clap, Pan-Pot, Kerri Chandler and many, many more!
Another cover we are loving from Watergate Records is by visual artist Anouk Manser. The Brazilian beauty is far from just a pretty face and has an exceptional talent for creating stunning abstract portraits as album covers. Her design for Jimi Jules’  Bogota EP is a definite favorite.

Culoe De Song - Watergate 21                                             artwork by Frank Hohne

Culoe De Song - Watergate 21                                             artwork by Frank Hohne

Jimi Jules - Bogota EP                                                        artwork by Anouk Manser

Jimi Jules - Bogota EP                                                        artwork by Anouk Manser

Crossfrontier Audio

The five-year-old family label from Marc Poppcke works closely with Stella Gelesh to create rich and intricate visual designs. Her graphics are eerie and ‘Daliesque’ frequently featuring human figures in geometric patterns and landscapes that could be from another dimension or out of space. We are loving MUUI’s New Faces EP cover art featuring a body curled up in a canoe floating on a psychedelic tikki-looking peach-colored pond with skulls floating on the surface in place of waterlilies and Danito & Athina's Losing Time EP, this rendering is a result of an inspiration given to the artist by Salvador Dali. Long legs Dali elephant carrying an obelisk on its back, a snail that is linked to Dali's meeting with Sigmund Freud and a human head which is associated with the head of Freud, all beautifully represent the Dalinian symbolism.

MUUI - New Faces EP                                                           artwork by Stella Gelesh

MUUI - New Faces EP                                                           artwork by Stella Gelesh

Danito & Athina - Losing Time                                         artwork by Stella Gelesh

Danito & Athina - Losing Time                                         artwork by Stella Gelesh

Chapter 24

The melodic house and techno label asks you to ‘get lost in the narrative’ of their talented producers and artwork by Danish illustrator Simon Vaeth. Joining the label in summer 2014 as their resident designer, Vaeth’s work is a mix of lino prints and illustrations. Chosen for his work with lino, Chapter 24 were drawn to him because of the similarities they saw in the physical process of the art form with cutting grooves in vinyl. It's very hard to pick a favorite but designs for Oliver Schories' Artik EP and Sezer Uysal's Rho Persei EP will be great ambassadors of Simon's art.

Oliver Schories - Artik EP                                                artwork by Simon Vaeth

Oliver Schories - Artik EP                                                artwork by Simon Vaeth

Sezer Uysal - Rho Persei                                                     artwork by Simon Vaeth

Sezer Uysal - Rho Persei                                                     artwork by Simon Vaeth

In Their Feelings

The Sao Paulo electronic music label by Davis and Zopelar feature beautiful graphic designs on all of their releases. Keeping it in the family, Pedro Zopelar’s wife Gabriella Garcia is the visual artist behind these thought-provoking designs. A highlight is Zopelar’s ‘Hamato’ which depicts two hands - one white and one gloved as well as a human ear against a dark backdrop on the cover.

Zopelar - Hamato EP                                                  artwork by Gabriella Garcia

Zopelar - Hamato EP                                                  artwork by Gabriella Garcia

Davis - Ewer EP                                                           artwork by Gabriella Garcia

Davis - Ewer EP                                                           artwork by Gabriella Garcia

Something Happening Somewhere

Nuno Dos Santos’ label Something Happening Somewhere (SoHaSo) works with a variety of visual/graphic artists on their releases. One in particular that has caught our eye is the talented artist who created a cover art for Sea EP by Love Over Entropy - Lu Liang. Her uniquely styled collage can be described as a wide array of vivid tones, black-white spiral illusion, the moon and sea objects combined with the abstract drawing of retro-modern patterns is sure to make a dramatic and inviting impression to anyone who sees it. 

Love Over Entropy - Sea EP                                                       artwork by Lu Liang

Love Over Entropy - Sea EP                                                       artwork by Lu Liang

Sigward ‎– Black Mambo EP                                                    artwork by Lu Liang

Sigward ‎– Black Mambo EP                                                    artwork by Lu Liang

Life And Death

Life and Death’s inhouse illustrator, Kero is a talented visual artist and illustrator from Italy. Responsible for practically all of the label’s designs and imagery, her record sleeves are intricate, detailed and usually in black and white; sometimes with splashes of color. One of our favorites is of DJ Tennis’ release Divisions of a hypnotic surreal like castle with multiple staircases and archways.

DJ Tennis - Divisions Chirality EP                                                   artwork by Kero

DJ Tennis - Divisions Chirality EP                                                   artwork by Kero

Joakim - Daemon EP                                                                   artwork by Kero 

Joakim - Daemon EP                                                                   artwork by Kero 

URSL

The home of many of our favorite artists and producers like Krink, Sebo, Madmotormiquel, Soukie & Windish and Nico Stojan. URSL Records artwork is full of quirky cartoon and comic book style as well as the Russian Avant-Garde inspired imagery by Philip Cassirer. Check out Krink’s newest release Two Sides EP and URSL’s compliation Wintergalactic for an intergalactic artistic journey into dance music space.

Krink - Two Sides EP                                                     artwork by Philip Cassirer

Krink - Two Sides EP                                                     artwork by Philip Cassirer

VA - URSL Wintergalactic                                            artwork by Philip Cassirer

VA - URSL Wintergalactic                                            artwork by Philip Cassirer

Save Us Records

Recently moved to Zagreb from Berlin, the Save Us label releases features some of the most uniquely-styled colorful and surreal artwork illustrated by Šumski. Describing himself as a ‘dreamer’,  Šumski’s work has appeared on several releases for the label including YokoO’s Nefalibata EP that depicts a man walking up a dreamlike green path and Brian Cid’s Division EP of four figures dancing. 

Yokoo - Nefelibata EP                                                               artwork by Šumski

Yokoo - Nefelibata EP                                                               artwork by Šumski

Brian Cid - Division EP                                                             artwork by Šumski

Brian Cid - Division EP                                                             artwork by Šumski

Fayer

Edu Imbernon’s Fayer features work by the talented Spanish visual and tattoo artist Andy Paneque. His designs are intergalactic, space-themed psychedelic portraits that feature all kinds of weird like feathered shaped spirals and brain-like octopus’ spewing out of faces. It’s out there, it’s whacky and it’s right up our alley.

Cubicolor - Falling EP                                                   artwork by Andy Paneque          

Cubicolor - Falling EP                                                   artwork by Andy Paneque          

Edu Imbernon - Bitter Fate EP                                     artwork by Andy Paneque

Edu Imbernon - Bitter Fate EP                                     artwork by Andy Paneque

Dystopian

Known for their dark melancholic techno, this German label places a huge emphasis on artwork making it one of our top contenders for amazing label art. Fans can even purchase their designs through their online store. German graphic artist Sebastian Manger is the incredible talent capturing the post-apocalyptic dissident vibe on their release covers. His design for Dystopian producer Jon Hester’s Solstice is an outstanding cover of mind bending clouds encapsulated in geometric triangle patterns forming a tower towards the sky. In Manger’s words it depicts ‘floating astronomical objects and the void in between’.

Jon Hester - Interstellar Systems EP                      artwork by Sebastian Manger

Jon Hester - Interstellar Systems EP                      artwork by Sebastian Manger

Monoloc - The Untold Way LP                                artwork by Sebastian Manger

Monoloc - The Untold Way LP                                artwork by Sebastian Manger

Last Night on Earth

The artwork accompanying releases on Sasha’s label Last Night on Earth by Susie Wright are simply mind blowing. The series she did for Sasha a few years back were all drawn by hand and got her on the shortlist for an AOI Illustration award in 2013. Susie’s work is featured on many of his EP’s and releases including: Bring On The Night, Reconstructed, and Lands. Her work is fragmented and dreamy with splashes of color contrasted with an otherwise monochrome illustration of various urban scenes - the perfect accompaniment to his productions.

Timo Maas - Once Upon a Time EP                                 artwork by Susie Wright

Timo Maas - Once Upon a Time EP                                 artwork by Susie Wright

Sasha - Rivaldo EP                                                           artwork by Susie Wright

Sasha - Rivaldo EP                                                           artwork by Susie Wright

AEON

Launched in 2013 by Berliner Alex Niggemann, the label’s release covers are comprised of minimal yet interesting composites by graphic artist Alland Byallo. The imagery merges animal and human characters with various shapes creating a surreal and dreamlike visual landscape. Aeon releases from 2016 such as Denis Horvat - Mother and Denis Horvat - Exit EP deserve a noteworthy mention

Denis Horvat - Mother EP                                               artwork by Alland Byallo

Denis Horvat - Mother EP                                               artwork by Alland Byallo

Denis Horvat - Exit EP                                                    artwork by Alland Byallo

Denis Horvat - Exit EP                                                    artwork by Alland Byallo

Dirtybird

Claude Von Stroke’s LA based house music label Dirtybird curates their release cover art using several artists. In 2016 Dirtybird has been collaborating with exceptionally talented visual artist and illustrator Dan May. His animal sketches remind us of the children’s book ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ but with a more ethereal and mystical edge making them truly magical. Our top picks from his collaboration with Dirtybird are of German Brigante’s Chronicles EP and DJ Funk and Will Clarke - Booty Percolatin' EP 

German Brigante - Chronicles EP                                          artwork by Dan May

German Brigante - Chronicles EP                                          artwork by Dan May

Will Clarke & DJ Funk - Booty Percolatin' EP                        artwork by Dan May

Will Clarke & DJ Funk - Booty Percolatin' EP                        artwork by Dan May

 

Mobilee

Another stunning label from Berlin and the brainchild of Anja Schneider, Mobilee Records features highly detailed illustrious designs by Berlin based artist Josaiah Chong. The very fine and delicate drawings feature late 19th century style portraits etched in black and white, some with roses, hats and almost always with a circle as a key component to the design. Our favorite cover art by this artist is Animal Trainer’s Yumala release of a female magician wearing a top hat flowing out of a circle.

Animal Trainer - Yumala EP                                         artwork by Josaiah Chong

Animal Trainer - Yumala EP                                         artwork by Josaiah Chong

Anja Schneider - Rain EP                                            artwork by Josaiah Chong

Anja Schneider - Rain EP                                            artwork by Josaiah Chong