Andrew Pekler, Cover Versions
April 4, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Andrew Pekler is an electronic musician based in Berlin; Resident Advisor has described his music as the “cold alien groove of a midnight jazz café reemerging in the world of clicks and bleeps.” I came to him by way of a video, “Composition No. 1 for Electronic Toothbrush, Voice, and Synthesizer,” in which he plays a Philips Sonicare toothbrush—with his mouth, in the usual way—to harmonize with a Moog Prodigy synthesizer. It’s an entrancing wash of beautiful, dentally hygienic sound.
Pekler works primarily from found materials. His latest album, Cover Versions, draws from the music and imagery of postwar exotica records—those kitschy aural forays to faraway lands, rife with congas, vibraphones, and theremins. With an eye toward a certain aesthetic, Pekler bought dozens of secondhand records and appropriated their music and their covers for his own work. Cover Versions was printed in a limited run of three hundred (all of them, alas, long since spoken for), each with its own individually designed cover; featured here are thirty of Pekler’s favorites. He explains his process:
I picked records out of bargain bins and charity shops. I was looking for cover art with certain motifs:
- Couples in silhouette
- Mountains/alpine panoramas/nature
- Female faces in close-up
- Rose petals/flower petals on pianos
- Still life
- Abstract geometric patterns
Using the records from those sleeves as sound sources, I recorded a dozen or so tracks. The tracks on Cover Versions are titled according to the records from which they were assembled.
Then I covered all the text on the covers with the multicolored lines and dots and circles—all materials from standard office supplies. For the back covers, I printed two-sided inserts with credits/track titles on one side and miniature images of some of the other covers on the reverse, taking up the idea of the generic “also available” inner sleeves that labels such as Atlantic or Impulse used to use.
All in all, I made three hundred covers. At the Laura Mars Gallery here in Berlin, I put together an installation that was basically a record shop, but one that sells only one record (in three hundred different covers). The records were sorted in sections according to their cover motif. Pretty much everyone who came in looked at every single record in the shop—and they kept turning the record around to look at the back, although all the back covers were identical.