I picked a couple of these 12″ sleeves up a year or so back for their interesting montages; dozens of sketchy line portraits inputted directly (by the looks of it) on some sort of graphics tablet, then brought together to make up one large collective design. Gradually more emerged in second-hand boxes. Some had exactly the same design, others were totally different and yet more just varied a previous cover ever so slightly slightly. Someone was clearly enjoying themselves!
The releases were from the French based Kitsune label, which started up in 2002 and now runs to over 400 releases across all formats. Looking up the label, it is run by Gildas Loaëc, former manager and artistic director of Daft Punk, and the architect Masaya Kuroki. The brand encompasses both the label, a fashion range and other endeavours.
There is also a further twist over the covers. If the disc opening is on the right, then what looks like the back – with a panel containing bar-code, titles and credits over a continuation of the montage – actually appears on the front. The overall image is on the back.
It all makes for some interesting sleeves. The montage first appeared in 2004 (Kitsuné Music 014) and overall there would seem to be around 100 variations on 12″ alone, with the idea also continued on CD and MP3 only editions, especially in more recent years where the vinyl pressings have largely been phased out (the design has much less impact on the smaller formats). Maybe the vinyl became a financial indulgence too far.
The artwork was put together by Åbäke, a collective of four graphic designers: Patrick Lacey, Kajsa Stahl, Benjamin Reichen and Maki Suzuki. They design all the sleeves for the label, though few are quite as much fun as these.
The front montages change on almost every sleeve, the backs less so. There is a continuing idea where the original montage appears on later sleeves much reduced, with new portraits added. Later covers also introduced a limited colour palette. Sometimes a cover will feature the same design but with just one hair style picked out in a colour.
I’m struggling to think of another label who has tried this sort of continuous cover theme over so many releases. The problem was how to show the sleeves on the site – in the end we’ve settled on two galleries of twenty covers and backs.