London studio Fiction Department has hand-crafted an exquisitely detailed limited-edition box-set for techno producer Si Begg, with just 50 copies released.
In the digital age, the album as a physical object that fans pore over and cherish is fading, replaced by a more abstract, click-to- listen future of downloads. Not all acts are taking this lying down: some, such as Radiohead (for their 2007 album In Rainbows) reacted by creating a high-end box set stuffed with goodies; fans who didn’t want to cough up £40 for this could download it.
Techno producer Si Begg adopted the same tactic for his new EP 24 Bit Error, releasing a free download version on his website. He also commissioned Fiction Department, a one-man studio run by Chris Angelkov, to make a detailed, tactile limited-edition package, costing £100, featuring a DJ remixing toolkit.
“The physical product was created with the idea of counteracting this digital nature, producing something totally analogue and non-copyable, something that did not use mass-market production methods,” explains Angelkov.
“I looked to use artisan, tactile methods and materials, steering well clear of any CMYK-style automation.” The design takes its lead from digital music.
“The idea [is] that when waveforms are digitized and turned into data, this information is in the hands of the user and free to be distributed with no loss of quality, regardless of copyright,” says Angelkov. “So the design was inspired by this process of lossless duplicaton – the outcome is geometric tessellation.”
There are two versions of the box set: black and white, with just 25 of each available. Each features two posters, a USB stick loaded with the EP in high quality, a DVD, and more. The black version has a laser-etched 12” rubber disc, while the white’s disc is made of oak, hand-pressed and laser-etched.
“The perforated envelopes containing the project sheets and music are all hand-sewn and sealed, asking you to tear them open to get to the stuff inside – kind of like Christmas morning.”
Almost every element of every box set was laboriously handmade by Angelkov: he hand-pulled the screen prints, and hand-sewed the envelopes.
“Rubber discs were commissioned to Pantone 347 to match the green stitching of the cotton used in the envelopes; the USB drives were sourced in Beijing because they were as stealth as I could ?nd,” Angelkov explains.
There must have been points when Angelkov wished he’d done a nice Photoshop composition instead? “Screenprinting vinyl and metallic ink through a screen mesh on possibly the hottest day in three years, with a drying time quicker than a Google search return, was a real test,” he admits.
“At times I wanted to burn it all, sure. But it seems worth it, as it’s been well received, and it’s a great feeling to have something so bespoke in your hands.”
The white version of the box set. Chris Angelkov says: “The oak disks were all hand-pressed or laminated using good old-fashioned PVA, rollers and clamps with love, care, and hours.”
Project: 24 Bit Error box-set design
Client: Si Begg
Studio: Fiction Department, fictiondepartment.co.uk