Anyone who loves electronic music will be aware of the classic albums of Aphex Twin, Massive Attack, and Chemical Brothers. But did you know what they might look like as soundwaves? Sheffield graphic designer Alex Szabo-Haslam has decided to find out through his new series of metallic and holographic artworks.
Titled Waveform, the gorgeous silkscreen-printed pieces visualise soundwaves generated by dance, rave, synth, and electronic music albums of British musicians including everyone from 808 State to Squarepusher. It’s a passion project Alex has worked on since 2012, which has resulted in two previous successful Kickstarter campaigns to bring his artworks to life and sell.
This latest series is the result of the pandemic when most of Alex’s commercial work was postponed or cancelled, so he set about creating fresh artworks referencing his obsession with electronic music while finding a way to support those in the music industry going through tough times. Launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, the campaign has now achieved its funding goal and Alex plans to sell the artworks via his shop with 50% of profits donated to the Help Musicians, a charity offering health and welfare services, creative development funding, and a mental health helpline for the entire music industry.
You’ll soon be able to choose from 40 prints of classic British electronic music albums. Each limited edition artwork is silkscreen-printed onto a range of metallic and highly unusual holographic papers. Speaking of how he creates each artwork, Alex says: “Beginning with the soundwave generated by a song or piece of music, these are meticulously redrawn as a series of bars, then orbited to create beautiful, elegant, abstract shapes.”
Alex’s interest in this subject stems from him being a techno and electronica music promoter in Yorkshire from 2005 until 2010. “Any promoter will tell you how hard it is,” he says. “It was the days before everything was promoted online. Four of us would spend three or four nights a week handing out flyers to people leaving clubs at 3am, being ignored mostly, but you’d make friends with other promoters doing the same and slowly people would take notice. Sometimes we’d make loads of money on a gig and think we’d cracked it, only to lose it all on the next event.
“We’d have artists turning up making demands like they’re Mariah Carey, but for the most part, everyone was great – people like Andrea Parker, Altern-8, Jerome Hill, and Surgeon were a pleasure to meet. It was a time of my life when partying and barely sleeping for three days was totally normal. It sounds hedonistic but at the heart of it was this music we loved. I remember watching DJ Rephlex Records play our first event – and I’m absolutely beaming. I’d bought absolutely stacks of stuff from his label and here he is, in person, killing it.”
Of the albums that Alex has visualised in soundwaves, Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works is his favourite: ” Being a teenager I was into punk and metal mostly, and the dance music I’d hear on the radio at college was mainly novelty garbage. A friend gave me this album along with an Aphex compilation called ‘Classics’ and it was pretty much an overnight transformation. It opened the door to a whole new world of music.”
As for electronic music itself, Alex admits he’s drawn to things that have lots of layers: “Especially music made with synths, whether it’s the classic Roland gear or custom modular stuff. I’m always discovering new music, there’s so much variety.”
The Waveform prints will soon be launched on Alex’s online shop. Keep an eye out for them. We don’t expect them to be around for long.