Imagery Archive


Paint, Print, Glue and Burn: The Process of Making Handmade CDs

1. Blank chipboard 2. Coated chipboard 3. Printed flat 4. Glued, assembled and wrapped

The packaging of music has fascinated me for years. I have always had a fetish for CDs, cassettes and LPs. When CDs were packaged in larger rectangular cardboard boxes (probably to be more like a rectangular record) I used to keep the front and backs of the boxes and hang them on my wall. I lamented the record companies going the way of just shrink wrapping and stickering the cases closed. Those stickers still piss me off.

When I decide on what packaging I am going to use for a particular release it typically comes down to whether I am going to make the packaging myself or if I am going to find outside help. Every release Aphonia produces has a specific design goal and this usually stems from the art and cover design itself. In years past both Ben and I would design some artwork ourselves (with input from the artists) and we still do from time to time. Lately we have preferred the input of artists and designers. A lot of whom, do this very incredibly beautiful work without pay or only by trade.

When I end up with a proof for artwork it is at that point I figure out exactly what it will take to have the artwork translate to a hard copy. Over the years I have whittled down what kind of packaging and process seems to work the best. In recent years, I have come up with a unique process to creating physical releases with real impact… and it hasn’t been an easy process. For instance, it has taken a great deal of wasted paper and ink to transform a rather drab, yet sturdy, chipboard blank into one of our more recent releases L.A. Lungs Letting It All Bunch Up shown below.

This past week I have been assembling this release and it is the result of several years of refining the do-it-yourself look but with the challenge of making it look polished. The process involves many steps and personalizes each and every copy that is purchased. First, we have raw ingredients, purchased from several vendors. I have found what chipboard, paint and inkjet printable CD-Rs work best for our limited means. Yes, I use CD-Rs. We have had professionally pressed CDs and vinyl done for us, but not everyone needs 300 or 500 copies to sell. Ultimately, the argument about whether a professionally pressed CD is better than a CD-R will persist no matter what arguments I offer here. That is what the “Comments” section is for!

After printing directly on the brown flats with my large Canon Pixma Pro for so long, it was always apparent that colors just did not pop. Most of the time this hasn’t mattered so much. Having so many releases based on black and white designs makes the end translation, from PDF to paper, quite simple and predictable. Even so, black on brown doesn’t have enough contrast. After experimenting with different coating inks, I found one white water soluble ink that works well to provide a white base on the chipboard. The effect of which can be seen below.

Why do this to brown chipboard? Why not buy white pre-coated blanks or bleached chipboard? Well, for whatever reason the brown chipboard always made the inkjet printing appear sharp, while the coated ones would smear and the bleached ones would bleed. This just isn’t an issue with the brown chipboard.

I then print the inkjet color on top of the dried white chipboard surface and get varying results based on thickness of the white ink on each blank. Since I coat each blank by hand, this lends each piece a hand painted/crafted look. No single piece is quite alike as you can see more clearly by a group of these blanks lined up below.

So obviously, they are still flats and must be glued together and this is when the assembly line begins. I glue the flats together and stamp the serial numbers on each one.Simultaneously, I am burning each silver coated, silver bottomed CD-R. I often have two computers burning at once, at a low burn speed. Once I have completed the printing and gluing of the jackets and the burning of the CDs I move on to create the design and print the disc art – that is, actual imagery on the face of the physical disc.

Just as the outer cases have been given serial numbers, the actual CD-Rs themselves all have sequential serial numbers. Each disc is prepared in the disc printing software with the serial number and then printed. This process can take a great deal of time as this is a product that is made from the ground up.

The first five completed pieces with serial numbers hand stamped on.

So this was brief but it might beg the question: why bother telling the world what this process is? To me, I find a certain satisfaction from producing these releases, from taking simple ingredients and making something that is ultimately worth more than the sum of its parts. The other part of it for me is that it embodies the intention of the artists who spend years of their lives cultivating and refining their process, their composition, their sound. Although not many of our artists elucidate their process or intention, as art is left more for interpretation and we would prefer to leave it that way. After all the art isn’t for the artists alone – it is for the audience.

This is where I part ways with the artists on our label. Yes, ultimately, these discs are for an audience as well. We call them customers or distributors but that is not really who they are for, that is their function. The CDs true purpose is create an artifact, a fetishized product for the artist to profit from and for the audience to desire.


Kristian Garrard: From Electroacoustic to Acoustic

Luke Bergman and Kristian Garrard at Aphonia Recs Showcase April 2008

Kristian Garrard (KRGA) & Luke Bergman are Thousands.

In the past 4 and a half years our label has gone through many changes and growth spurts. Our artists are no exception. I have seen many of them play their first shows, go on tour, later to dissolve, reform and reinvent themselves. Kristian Garrard is one such individual.

I recall meeting him very early on in the Aphonia Recordings journey. Ben had met another Max/MSP composer and was extremely eager to have Kristian release something under his moniker KRGA. Later we would tap Kristian to play many of our showcases. Ben and Kristian even hosted a Max/MSP workshop at Gallery 1412, detailing the cryptic under the radar manipulations that many disavow as mere knob twiddling and laptop music. Yes, Kristian performed with a laptop but the results were simultaneously engaging, sedative, dynamic and, at times, frightening. Some of the best performances I witnessed during our run of showcases were shows in which KRGA was the headlining act.

By the summer of 2009 it was clear Kristian was onto other material. By this time he had released his first EP Magic Wand [AR014] and the full length June [AR016CD]. Both were mere snapshots of a larger musical genius at work. I had known that Kristian had been a drummer in the band Joules and that he was a blossoming master of electroacoustic improvisation. It was with his formation of Lonesome Shack and Thousands that is became clear that there was little Mr. Garrard could not do.

A few months back I passed by Kristian on Ravenna Boulevard where we both live – we are neighbors as well. I had no idea that this casual passing was on the brink of Thousands getting signed to UK imprint Bella Union. Yes, the very same Bella Union that signed Seattle’s Fleet Foxes in addition to Andrew Bird, Wavves and Midlake. Very good company, indeed. Hearing the news that they had been signed took me back to a show that Kristian and Luke had played at one of Kristian’s last appearances at our showcases.

Fully expecting to hear KRGA’s signature hum and layered developing/enveloping textures, I asked what he and Luke were doing there with a guitar and an upright bass. “Are you gonna hook that up to your (Max/MSP) patch?” I joked. Kristian something like, “Oh we are just going to play acoustic… no mics.” I knew some direction had changed for Kristian and while I knew him to be a consummate performer, he and Luke’s short set that night headlined a night of ambiant and noise music like no other. The strains of Kristian’s particular weaving chords, half resolutions and sustains and Luke’s persistent and hardy upright bass backbone ended the evening with a tribute, a lullaby that later would morph into Thousands.

Recently they have been playing sold out shows, completed a successful tour of Europe and were rightfully praised in Seattle’s alt-weekly The Stranger. Mr. Reighley describes their sound: “Like a shadow that cannot be divided from the entity that casts it.” Well said, and best of luck to our pals, Luke Bergman and Kristian Garrard.

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Date Palms are Marielle Jakobsons & Gregg Kowalsky

Marielle Jakobsons and Gregg Kowalsky are Date Palms. Of course we know Marielle from Darwinsbitch and as a member of myrmyr with Agnes Szelag. Now the blog “Raven Sings the Blues” has reviewed Date Palms release Of Psalms. Rachel Swan from the East Bay Express has a lot more to say about their new release as well but I suggest looking into these Oakland based artists and get that LP while you can! Highly recommended!


Agnes Szelag Presents: Evon “The Bees Are Coming”

bees-square-frontlgPurchase Options:

Limited Edition CD $9.99 (via PayPal)

Download $9.90 (via Bandcamp or click “Buy” below)

All Aphonia Recs fans should know who Agnes Szelag is by now. Not only has she released a solo EP “No Summer Or Winter” a couple of years back but also joined forces with The Norman Conquest as Dokuro. Now Ms. Szelag returns with an even more ambitious project entitled Evon “The Bees Are Coming.” It is her first full length on Aphonia and is available on compact disc or download now. From the official press release of “The Bees Are Coming”:

Heartfelt performances on cello, guzheng, and voice dance on a bed of intimately interwoven arrangements creating a lush combination of rock, classical, and folk genres with leanings in the avant-garde. Agnes’s unique instrumentation is further augmented by her distinct recording style and electronic sculpting.

Following the textural 2008 release No Summer or Winter (Aphonia Recordings), this album explores Szelag’s songwriting under the pseudonym Evon. The varied song forms intertwine with complex compositions containing the haunting, cinematic elements that Szelag is known for and that show up on her recent release The Amber Sea (Digitalis 2009) with Marielle Jakobsons as myrmyr.

Szelag’s focus in this record was to create a unified band sound that is moody and unpredictable but also very deliberate and delicate. Using her intuition for what should be written and what should be improvised, she displays her multi-instrumentalistism and production craft as she blends her performances with those of Jordan Glenn (drums), Shayna Dunkelman (marimba), Jon Porras (guitar), Alee Karim (guitar), Jason Hoopes (doublebass), and The Norman Conquest (various). The end result is a very eclectic but unified sound backing Szelag’s velvety voice.


Nucular Aminals New CD Release!

Today Aphonia Recordings presents a very unique re-release of Portland’s folky favorite, Nucular Aminals self-titled debut (AR031CD). What is special about this new limited release is not only the fact that each disc is has hand printed artwork making each disc one of a kind, but most notably the two new bonus tracks, Blood Love and Kitty Pity – never available before!

These numbered and limited release CDs will be available only on Aphonia Recordings website and at shows on Nucular Aminals upcoming tour. See Nucular Aminals Myspace for tour dates in your area!

Purchase here!


Bill Horist’s New Release The Psoriasis Coast now available!

The Psoriasis Coast: while representing more familiar territory to those who know Bill’s work, indicates a different direction than previous records. Inspired in part by W.G. Sebald’s “The Rings of Saturn”, this record imagines an coastline in the midst of an interregnum between the end of a sentient species’ existence and the birth of a primal structure from which a new order will evolve. This is an itchy and decrepit place as the emblems of previous enterprise slough back into the ineluctable resilience of nature outside our own. Passages of dense noise and wailing are balanced by dolorous moments of stillness and quietude.

Come to Bill’s dual release party for The Psoriasis Coast and Covalent Lodge (available in CD/LP/download at on Friday June 11 in the acoustically sublime chapel at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.

Chapel at the Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Ave N, SEATTLE, 8pm, ALL AGES!


Mangled Bohemians, Lube Fondue & New Red Sun @ Josephine

Hello Everyone!

I am happy to inform you all of Aphonia Recordings next showcase on January 10th at the Josephine in Ballard – that’s 01/10/10. That’s a lot of 1’s and 0’s… very binary. Anyways, we have sonic buffet of a variety that hopefully will be an auspicious beginning to a year that I think everyone hopes will be better than the last one. So don’t forget, Sunday January 10th, 2010 at the Josephine in Ballard: 608 NW 65th St N Seattle, Washington 98117… Read on about our featured artists this time around! I know its short notice, deal with it.


Mangled Bohemians (PDX) are an intensely atmospheric two-piece band featuring massively effected guitar and electronics. Mining heavily from the post-punk tradition of the likes of Glenn Branca, Savage Republic , Heathen Earth era Throbbing Gristle, and Sonic Youth’s SYR releases, Mangled Bohemians create long spacey drones that melt into beautiful washes & pseudo-melodies.


What started out as a collaborative effort for Butoh dance & sound between Casey Jones (Noisepoetnobody) and Briana Chittenden turned into a string of performances 3 years long. Eventually the situation blossomed into a romance story full of art, dance, noise & an outdoor wedding. Trained as a butoh dancer Briana incorporates experiences in movement art into a new medium seamlessly blending the boundaries between frequency and motion. Instrument builder and electronic musician Casey collects sounds from small peaces of metal, strings, springs, rocks, sea shells, kitchen tools & more with a hand soldered contact microphone.


Seattle-based drone group New Red Sun weave delicate melodies into densely shifting tapestries, from violin, guitar, and interlocking feedback. Drawing on a diverse palette, NRS includes elements of folk, drone, black metal & noise. NRS self-released their debut EP “Riding the Slow Wave of Death” in October ’09 and will be releasing a more extended follow-up on Albuquerque’s Featherspines label. NRS work is especially informed by the acts with which they’ve been fortunate enough to share bills, including Dragging an Ox Through Water, Barn Owl, Bill Horist, Novemthree, Elm, honey.moon.tree, Dr. Jones, Thunder Grey Pilgrim, Vivimancer, Higuma, Violet, Groves, I Died, Hobby Knife, Shurpa, Tempered Steel, Cult of Zir, Sleeping with the Earth, Prion, Dementia, Split Horizon, Groves, Travis Johns, Derek M. Johnson, Vradiazei, and more.

You see? You can’t miss it! See you there!


Andrew Senna
Aphonia Recordings



APHONIA FEST 2009 – JUNE 4, 5, 6 (( THURS // FRI // SAT ))


Hello Everyone,

I wanted to let you know about a festival that we (Aphonia Recordings) will be hosting during the first week of June. As a celebration of 2+ years in business, we have organized this three day festival featuring friends & artists across the region & the country. In classic Aphonia-fashion, the festival will showcase a synthesis of Electroacoustic, Microtonal, Performance Art, Avant-Pop, & New music. As always, we hope to see you there….

-Ben Robertson

Desolation Wilderness is a West Coast band. They left the parking lots and the malls, the high schools and the valleys, and found their home at the summer night overlook. Taking the sounds of the cities below & amplifying them into a pitched resonance, they write slow burners & warped guitar/synthesizer/vibraphone ballads influenced by drone music, the photorealistic art of Robert Bechtle, & musique concrete (with pulse included). Desolation Wilderness has released music with a variety of labels, including Aphonia Recordings (In Love With Anything 2007). They hit the studio again & recorded New Universe for release on K Records in August 2009. Itching to leave the studio again, Desolation Wilderness will be touring extensively in support of New Universe.

(b. 1971, Washington DC , US )
Since arriving in Seattle in the mid-nineties, Bill has established himself as a highly regarded performer, composer and improviser. He has appeared on over 50 releases and has performed hundreds of concert around the world. In addition to his solo endeavors and work with bands Master Musicians of Bukkake, the Paul Rucker Ensemble and Ghidra to name a few, he has collaborated with a wide range of artists including John Zorn, Secret Chiefs 3, Ruins, Bill Frisell, KK Null, Vidushi Sumitra Guha, Kinski, & Aiko Shimada among many others. In practice, Bill’s prepared-guitar tactics will stun.

Mood Organ is the solo project of Seattle-based musician Timm Mason. Timm is best known as the bass player for diverse acts including funk juggernaut Eldridge Gravy & the Court Supreme, psych-rock supergroup Midday Veil, and instrumental hip-hop cover band Hamburger Pimp. Mood Organ is a platform for exploring different modes of listening and intersections between musical (& non-musical) genres. Each Mood Organ performance is unique; recent performances have included a solo performance on electric bass, a duet between saxophone and amplified objects, and a solo composition for harmonium and prepared piano. Work is nearly complete on the first full-length album “Visiting a Burning Museum “. Also in progress is a series of solo performances inspired by the classical elements and their associated platonic solids. For the Thursday show, Mood Organ will be presenting Quietus 3. Quietus is an improvised drone ensemble with fluid membership. I’m nailing down the complete lineup but it will at least include Skip Milford (electric fiddle), Emily Pothast (vox), David Golightly (analog synth), and myself on bass.

Gabriel Tuzzolino Will and Ian Thomas Ackerman are two members of a loose collective of musicians also including Warren Lee and Danny Sasaki. They are bent on exploring the outer limits of tonality as it exists within nature eschewing the harmonic imprecision of equal temperament. Harsh dissonances are revealed as delicate sonorities by the temporal stretch of the music.

L.A. Lungs was formed in the summer on 2005 in a Tacoma studio apartment by Afterthought Lung (nee Nathan Markiewicz) and Leeward Lung (nee Lori Peterson). What began as a “studio” project became a “functioning” live act by the summer of 2006, with L.A. Lungs making their live debut at the, now defunct, No Tomorrow concert series in Seattle . L.A. Lungs continue to perform around the Pacific Northwest and have been fortunate enough to share bills with artists such as Acre , Wesley Borden, Cabinet of Natural Curiosities, Crank Sturgeon, The Dead Air Fresheners, Steve Fisk, Forest Friends, Gowns, Bill Horist, Derek Johnson, Mattress, Myrmyr, POWRFL POWER, Shearing Pinx, Talbot Tagora, Your Drugs My Money, and many others. In their loose arrangements L.A. Lungs use variances in phrasing, the inconsistencies of live electronic sound manipulation, and acoustic/amplification variables to create semi-improvised compositions that can vary drastically in tone, rhythm, and emotive qualities from one performance to the next. Visitors to the Aphonia Fest can look forward to the possibility of hearing work from LA Lungs recent Aphonia Recordings release, Most of the Time We Do Not Realize We are Shedding Our Skins 2008, as well as newer material.

Kristian Garrard’s project, KRGA, aims to combine the sounds of any and all instruments around into thick, swarming clouds of tones using self-built sampling software. He uses emphasis on drones and moving textures to create warm and dense atmospheres. Most pieces are created using only one or two instruments as source material to be processed & resampled in the software environment, Max/MSP. Past works have used utilized the ubiquitous 60 hz ground-hum, a “personal massager”, as well as more traditional instrumentation. In performance, deconstructed sounds swirl around the room, as patiently created beds of tones build into a complex organic storm.

Unicorns in the Snow is the one-woman project of Kansas City-based composer, performance artist, & social worker, Julia Vering. The project’s roots are grounded in earlier attempts to explore empathy in a visual context. Her most recent work, “The Aviator”, is a miniature opera inspired by the narrative of an aging, anti-social pilot, obsessed by the inimitable power of flying planes. In the final act, recorded the day after the aviator’s death, reveals the primal collaboration of the artist and her elderly muse, commencing in a primal scream accompanied by violent arthritic movements of the performers’ neck and hands.

Mangled Bohemians (PDX) are an intensely atmospheric two-piece band featuring massively effected guitar and electronics. Mining heavily from the post-punk tradition of the likes of Glenn Branca, Savage Republic , Heathen Earth era Throbbing Gristle, and Sonic Youth’s SYR releases, Mangled Bohemians create long spacey drones that melt into beautiful washes & pseudo-melodies.

Heavy drones, overtone melodies & the sound of the land – Paintings for Animals is the vocal electro-acoustic music of Pearson Wallace-Hoyt. The sound possesses an archaic resonance connecting the human voice with an Earthen narrative of the landscape, flora, fauna & human ritual of both pre & post-history. Started in 2001 & transformed for live presentation in 2007, performances have taken place at art, dance & music galleries, warehouses, bars, cafés, DIY venues & live radio. Paintings music has been used in film, for video, installation & with dance.

Derek is an Olympia native and can’t seem to ever get away. He frequently performs solo acoustic/electric cello throughout the Northwest with an ever changing, direct animation slide show. He’s been a member of Bloodclot, Dead Air Fresheners, Le Ton Mite, Frequency dB, and the unfortunately named Superfly 2000. Collaborations include: Unwound, Thollem McDonnas, Jeremy Jay, Ben L Robertson, Arrington de Dionyso, Bob Marsh, among others.

The magnetic vortex that is eastern Washington is perhaps best reflected by the banshee like howls and tortured vocal treatments that hover over the fractured rhythms and found-sounds of Ryan Leeds’ project, Daedelum. Leeds is interested in exploring the boundaries of traditional instrumentation & dissecting, reassembling, & colliding the parts with electronic gestures and commentaries. The music is aurally diverse and intentionally oblique. The compositions are informed as much by Leeds ‘ upbringing and education as by his various employment stints, including work as a recording engineer for a books-on-tape factory, a camera operator for a local news affiliate, a graphic designer, and currently as a CAD technician.

Aphonia Recordings founders, Ben L. Robertson & Andrew Senna team-up as The Precambrian. In concept, The Precambrian is a constantly evolving interactive synthesis environment/instrument, engineered by Robertson using the graphical programming language, Max/MSP. In its current incarnation, The Precambrian utilizes a slide zither & various pitch recognition algorithms to coax out microtonal intervals derived from a graphical system of 11-limit, just intonation matrices & traditional Arabic Maqams. Additionally, Senna (armed with a handful of piezoelectric transducers, microphones, field recordings) executes a series of absurd narratives & synthetic onomatopoeia, indicative of both his sound design work for film & theater.


Aphonia Recordings welcomes: ACRE (Thurs, Feb 19 @ Gallery 1412)

We’re super excited to be hosting & performing with one of our old Olympia friends, Acre. If you are anywhere within a 500 mile radius, you need to go to this show.


L.A. Lungs – CD Out Now!

If you were looking for a completely limited edition L.A. Lungs release – it is out now on Aphonia Recordings! After much anticipation L.A. Lungs bring you Most of the Time We Do Not Realize We Are Shedding Our Skin CD release. This new version of Most of the Time… can be purchased online at the Aphonia Recordings website. Each copy has a completely different and unique cover and every CD inside echoes this by having its own unique design as well. There are an extremely limited amount of these – purchase yours today, shipping included (US customers only) for only $9.99.

Most of the Time We Do Not Realize We Are Shedding Our Skin / buy now