The die-cut sleeve is very much alive. To prove it, I handpicked four jaw-dropping pieces of evidence from my record cabinet.
Scissor seventies: early die-cut sleeves
First off, some … background. One of the most famous die-cut sleeve examples – and one of the most ambitious record sleeves altogether – is surely Led Zeppelin’s double album ‘Physical Graffiti’ (1975).
Designer Peter Corriston cut the windows out of two New York tenement buildings, exposing well-known faces like Lee Harvey Oswald and Laurel & Hardy on the inner sleeves as well as (printed on the insert) the letters that form the album title. Read all about it on Dangerous Minds.
Also check out the amazing die-cut sleeve of ‘In a Glass House’ by Gentle Giant
(1973) on Discogs: “Album comes in a gimmix cover with the center part of the jacket front side being transparent foil with black print on it; there is a printed cardboard insert that provides the remainder of the cover image.”
More recent examples show a more minimal approach to die-cut sleeve design. Let’s cut to the chase.
1. Bowie – The No Inner Sleeve Die-Cut Sleeve
Artist: David Bowie
Label: ISO Records, Columbia, Sony Music
Year of release: 2016
Die-cut sleeve design: in the wake of Bowie’s death, much has been written about every detail of his life and artistry, including the meaning behind the die-cut sleeve design of ‘Blackstar’. But let’s keep it simple. London agency Barnbrook designed a pitch black gatefold sleeve, with shiny pieces of stars at the bottom of the front sleeve, and above that, a big cut-out star.
There is no printed inner sleeve, only a thick transparant plastic sleeve that holds the actual record. Prices for this limited edition clear vinyl edition skyrocketed after the Starman left Planet Earth. It has already been sold on Discogs for 409.10 euro
! Insane, but it’s a magical thing!
2. The Durutti Column – The Sandpapery Die-Cut Sleeve
Artist: The Durutti Column
Title: ‘The Return of the Durutti Column’
Version: FBN 114, UK
Label: Factory Benelux
Year of release: 2013 (originally 1980)
Designer: James Nice / Peter Saville
Die-cut sleeve design: the first pressing of this 1980 album was distributed in an iconoclastic sandpaper sleeve, famously assembled by the members of Joy Division. This 2013 reissue pays tribute to that version, albeit with bigger respect for neighbouring record sleeves in your collection.
The outside sleeve is off-white. An old Factory Records logo by Peter Saville was cut out and accentuated by the orangy grinding paper that’s paisted on a white inner sleeve. The inner sleeve provides additional information on its remarkable design.
One word of advice: always keep the actual record at a safe distance from its sandpaper sleeve. You might scrape of some great guitar bits!
3. Goat – The Triangular Space Tunnel Die-Cut Sleeve
Label: Rocket Recordings
Designer: Chris Reeder
Die-cut sleeve design:
Swedish band Goat pushes things to a psychedelic level. Inside the cut-out triangle of the golden outer sleeve, a mind-altering space storm of red and blue seems to be raging, going in circles or coming straight at you, depending on how you insert the inner sleeve.
As a bonus, this Rocket Recording edition – nomen est omen! – contains eye-catching ‘red with blue splatter’ vinyl.
4. Steven Wilson – The Girls Behind Bars Die-Cut Sleeve
Artist: Steven Wilson
Title: ‘4 1/2’
Designer: Carl Glover
Photographer: Lasse Hoile
Die-cut sleeve design: this release features a sober grey outside sleeve. Four and a half strips of cardboard are cut out, which nicely references the album title.
The two women that peep through the ‘bars’ are on the inner sleeve, captured in a magnificently coloured photograph, that brings to mind the even more intense, heavily filtered pictures of war-torn Congo by Richard Mosse
Amazing, isn’t it? Which records would you add? Tell me!