For those of us who daydream about watching the sunset over a negroni from the balcony of La Torre, Jonny Nash’s Melody as Truth record label has become as important as Birkenstocks, blue skies, and DJ Harvey bootlegs.
Releasing downtempo, spacey, Balearic-infused music by Suzanne Kraft, D.K., Palta and more, the label’s gone from strength to strength in recent years.
Jonny cites Japanese graphic designer Ikko Tanaka and super-serious German jazz record label ECM as primary aesthetic influences on Melody as Truth’s visual identity. Space, silence, and dynamics are essential components of his musical output, and he tells It’s Nice That that, “for me it is important that the visual aesthetic mirrors the ideas held within the compositions, but in a way that is not too literal, leaving room for personal interpretation and the element of surprise.”
Since founding the imprint in 2014, Nash has worked closely with designer Michael Willis. Willis, who has collaborated with the likes of Kenzo, Vevo, Mould Map, Nike, Warp Records, and Copson, is responsible for the abstract, hallucinatory sleeves that have adorned the bulk of the label’s output.
Prior to Michael’s involvement, the Melody as Truth look was somewhat more character-led. The cover for Suzanne Kraft’s icy and emotive masterpiece Talk From Home features a denim-cloaked figure that could pass for Raiden from the Mortal Kombat games after a payday splurge in Edwin.
That visual switch coincided with a musical one.“I began to work more “in-the-box”, using a variety of software instruments and processing recorded sounds within the computer,” Jonny says. “Working this way opened up a new area of experimentation and I felt that the artwork should echo this in some way.”
Experimentation has been brought to the fore in Melody as Truth’s latest release. The Will Galperin and Evan Stalker directed video for Australian artist Tourist Kid’s, Bacterial, consists of a collection of surreal macro shots, exploring mathematical models of cellular division to find a visual metaphor for the messiness and beauty of change and growth. It is slow, strange, and sort of seductive.
“For me, the video for Bacterial has always been about looking at the relationship between growth and decay. Nothing ever really “decays”, things just metamorphose. “The Circle of Life” if you will,” Will tells It’s Nice That. “Time is a way to understand this, and when you watch the video, you get the indication that something is blossoming more than it’s dying. In the final shot we see a cluster of humanoid forms who are consumed by this colony of growths. I want people to leave asking themselves what they just saw— was it an act of creation, destruction, or just change?”
Will and Evan’s original idea was to shoot the video organically, using real fungus, real mould. After growing “some pretty gnarly mould colonies in Ziplock bags stuffed in my bedroom closet,” the pair deemed the process “too gross to pursue,” and decided to detour down an animated route.
Developed using 3D animation software Houdini, Bacterial emerged from what Will describes as “a continuous loop of research into design into animation and then back again.” Despite Houdini offering a relatively straightforward approach to a circular workflow, the video still took Will and Evan around three months to complete.
It isn’t the first time the duo have collaborated with Jonny – in addition to working on the visuals for Jonny’s live show with Suzanne Kraft, they also directed the suitably undulating video for Jonny and Suzanne’s 2017 single Inside.
Taken as a whole, the Melody as Truth project is proof that with enough thought, and the right collaborative instincts, record labels can exist as individually identifiable creative hubs that give both listeners and viewers a string of one-off experiences. And mould colonies in Ziplock bags, if needs be.