How Split’s album cover for UK band Vessels became a Best Art Vinyl nominated artwork

Electronic post-punk Leeds band Vessels’ latest album has been nominated for the Best Art Vinyl awards this year. Designed by local creative studio Split, The Great Distraction record sleeve started out as a simple brief and ended up as large-scale installation of laser lights. Here’s how it happened.

Leeds-based studio Split designed and captured the album cover for The Great Distraction with a number of computer-synthesised colourful laser lines – not by the works of Photoshop or InDesign – but by a real-life installation of lasers that people could walk around and admire.

The installation and subsequent album art created a “trippy and euphoric as it is dark and atmospheric” aesthetic, much like the sounds of the album, which has collaborations with The Flaming Lips, John Grant, Vincent Neff and Harkin (Sky Larkin) – making it the band’s arguably most ambitious album yet.

“The visuals combine the hard, crisp, rhythmical lines of a digital work with the imperfections of an analogue, physical medium, in an attempt to capture something that really got to the heart of the sound of the record,” says Split creative director Oli Bentley.

The Great Distraction

The artwork captured a large scale installation involving 25 high-powered lasers set up by Split at The Hepworth’s Clader Space. The record sleeve has since earned its rightful place among the Best Art Vinyl nominees of 2017, including Lorde’s Melodrama, Beck’s Colours and Gorillaz Humanz.

The laser’s lines allowed patterns to suspend in the air, while providing a visual link between the analogue synths that define the band’s current sounds, such as their track ‘Deflect the Light’ featuring The Flaming Lips.

“Both were developed in the early 60’s; both will always be wrapped up in the folklore of sci-fi; both have been ever-present on the club scene; and both retain their connotations with ‘the future’, despite being non-digital technology with well over half a century of history each,” says Oli.

Alongside The Great Distraction cover artwork, the laser installation features on the packshots of all the singles from the album, as well as press images photographed by David Lindsey. Split returned to the installation for the band’s press shots, using a combination of lasers and projections of the album artwork to “ensure a consistent look and feel across the album campaign as a whole”.

However some of the photographs use the light from the lasers alone, like this one.

Vessels band members captured by David Lindsey

You can vote for Split’s artwork in ArtVinyl’s cover of the year competition here.

The Great Distraction, released on September 29, is Vessel’s fourth album in over 10 years. Take a look at the visual assets below.