Jeff Mills - Free Fall Galaxy




Jeff Mills is a living legend of techno. Part to the Detroit originators side of the genre, a real turntable wizard, and heralding minimal techno at its beginning, Mills is one of the few artists of Techno that is widely recognized beyond the "milieu". And deserves it!

But he is also one of the first and few originators who accepted (or decided?) to go for the iconisation of himself : since 1996 (and his Live in Liquid Room Mix CD), he started to use self-portraits on some of his albums, and has more and more accepted to be somewhat "The Face" of Techno.

A fact that really matter as most of the originators really tried very hard to remain in the shadows, hidden behind their instruments, their music or their fights  : Mike Banks' Underground Resistance galaxy, to which Mills was originally connected, still epitomizes this. Techno was above all about machines and futures, perhaps robots, but certainly not Rock-like star system. Even Richie Hawtin waited long before accepting such an iconic status (and the bad haircut that goes with it). Before the cash-minded era of the Guetta clique, it was nearly sacrilege to self-expose. Beyond the conceptual "rigueur" of this, it also helped a lot the movement to focus on graphic design and typography, and participated to the revitalizing of the domain.

So a new sleeve for the legendary master is a good opportunity to look at his body of work, on a sleeve design point of view of course.


As a matter of fact, Jeff Mills was never known for the quality of his sleeve design : a glance on discogs would convince you easily of the fact. After the interesting images of his first Waveform Transmissions LPs on Tresor, and perhaps the exception of the "Man Of Tomorrow" film score, his sleeve designs never been visually strong, to say the least. 

Cover of the 1992 first solo 2xEP by Mills on Tresor, by Michael Bulgarian 


Back cover of the same ep
Two year later, same label and same artist (Front)
Back, still in some Germanized TDR style.

One of the few other interesting cover art, in 2014, from Studio Buro, a French creative agency.

Such a conceptually ambitious work like "Metropolis", which was a turning point in his career, was quite disappointing. 
OMG. This was so inspiring ; how could this end like this ?


As a matter of fact, the only highlight in the three decades of Millsian techno was the "Live at Liquid Room, Japan" Mix CD, released in 1995. It had two different main visuals : a retro-futurist illustration by sci-fi illustrator Shigeru Komatsuzaki for the Japanese edition...



...and an "adaptation" by Designer Republic for the European market, with this portrait by Rumiko Nakata - the one that broke the "rule" of faceless Techno imagery.

Front cover : quite an "adaptation", don't you think ?!
Back cover.
The rest of the artworks of the releases of Jeff Mills weren't interesting at all. Lack of luck or personal disinterest, the question has yet to be asked to M. Mills...

Then, here comes the new LP. Free Fall Galaxy is the new album and ninth chapter of space-and-time traveller Jeff Mills’ Sleeper Wakes series, published on his label Axis.


As stated by the press release, "The cover art is a collaboration between Jeff Mills and French artist Grégory Fages alias Greg13*. Known for his complex and detailed paintings, Fages uses his obsessions as a source for inspirations to drive his creativity, resulting in compositions that draw just as much from comic books and graffiti as they do from pop art, product packaging and tattoos."


More than a depiction of the concept of the album (yet another link between Techno and space mythology), this cover art shows Mills as an alien force, somewhat linked to gravity (the movement of the image) and to curiosity (ok there are multiple eyes in this extension of his personality).
Sadly, this new LP could have been visually more fruitful : having commissioned an urban artist was a promising first step towards some innovative designs. But the result is more or less what Gregory usually offer, and the graphic design (lay-out, typographies, framing etc.) of the ensemble is average, to say the least... 

And adding to that the fact that it is a mere variation on Mills' LP "Sleeper Wakes" (2009), the third release in the Sleeper Wakes series does not make it more interesting...



So Jeff Mills, a true legend of techno, has yet to give his innovative and refined creations the visuals they deserve.

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