“February, 2013—winter in New York. An epic blizzard had descended on the town. Photographer Vivienne Gucwa went out into the storms, night after freezing night, to take a run of sensational shots of the city under snow. I found Vivienne’s work mesmerising—but one shot made me stop, spoke to me directly. It was in colour, but also in black and white. In black and white it had great drama, a grand, cinematic energy. I immediately thought of it as a cover for an album. Because suddenly, after a silence of many years, I’d started working on an album of new songs. I wrote to Vivienne immediately, asking could I use her photo for the albums. She gave her permission, saying she would be honoured.
I thought then of the great Parisian designer, Pascal Blua. For me, Pascal had a string of hits behind him—beautiful work he’d done for others and for The Apartments too. A poster for The Apartments 2012 European tour, artwork for our ‘Seven Songs’ album, and the design of A Letter from Sunset Hotel, a special edition for Apartments fans. He and his friend, Stéphane Constant, had also created a beautiful, limited edition poster for the 2012 tour.
Pascal’s work was as personal as a song. It had real presence. In that work, I could see Pascal’s love and respect for certain designers with strong signatures, work that I also loved. Over the years, in posters and artwork, similar influences had been absorbed, such as the miraculous Saul Bass and his dramatic movie titles and posters, the spare aesthetic of Reid Miles’ Blue Note album covers. Classic style, like Pascal’s. I gave Pascal the title of the album, ‘No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal’ and Vivienne’s shot for the front cover. We spoke and emailed about visual elements we thought were important for the cover, from my perspective as the songwriter and his as an accomplished designer.
Pascal’s magic process of creation then began. Listening to the album, putting pieces together, patiently and meticulously working through the hundreds of decisions and revisions, experiments with fonts and layouts, showing me his ideas and style and taking in responses to his work.
An album is a world, and when Pascal had finished, he had designed the perfect cinematic cover and album artwork for the world of “No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal”.
Peter Milton Walsh
The Apartments, february 2020