Up until a few years ago, you might have spotted the album art or illustration work of Robert Beatty who tended to lend his sci-fi-infused psychedelia to a host of different underground bands, each with their own small to medium cult following. In that regard, Beatty was in similar company, having spent most of the 2000s as part of the influential noise act Hair Police while also peddling his own warped dance-not-dance electronic noodlings as Three Legged Race.
When not on the road playing in DIY noise venues and dive bars touring, he was developing a truly singular style in the contemporary album art world, one that borrowed the airbrushed sheen, amorphous shapes, and interstellar beings of 70s sci-fi book covers amongst a host of other obscure references, all the while building an aesthetic database to which Beatty is always adding.
Floodgate Companion is thus something of a logical progression for the prolific artist, his profile having grown substantially since the release of Tame Impala's massive Currents album, for which Beatty did the album art and accompanying single artwork. Now Beatty himself is finding his images increasingly shared and posted as .jpegs online, a feeling he explores in the 112-paged book, while be released by the esteemed Portland-based comics shop and press Floating World Comics.
Explaining the creative impetus behind the book, which is comprised entirely of unreleased imagery arranged non-sequentially, he says "“The initial idea came from collecting old graphic design and illustration annuals, and also my obsessive collecting of images from the internet. I began to see interesting relationships between very disparate images and also began to see the ways images can transform when viewed as a thumbnail on a screen surrounded by tonnes of other images.” The preview images that have been released indeed point to Beatty's already eclectic style going into overdrive, and music and art fans alike can get lost in his world when the book is released on October 11, 2016.
Below we've assembled a selection of our favorite Beatty covers paired with some of his most well-known covers.
Beginning in 2008, Beatty had arguably his first major breakout with the cover of Cincinnati-based cellist C. Spencer Yeh's, better known as Burning Star Core, Challenger album. The iconic cover featured what can best be described as a cracked cosmic egg spilling its rainbow-colored contents across the galaxy. While there have been many Challenger imitators, nothing comes close to the original.
While Beatty's cosmic imagery is what first drew significant attention, he is also adept at creating 60s and 70s-styled fonts, like the Real Estate logo in the floral fantasia above. A consummate collector, his blog is a fantastic resource for personal inspiration, as well as better understanding his influences, which include Caren Caraway, the fantastical landscapes of Victor Linford, and Jozef Jankovic.
A wonderful anomaly in his oeuvre, this set of line drawings brilliantly matches the sharply angled rhythms of Eric Lanham's The Silent Interruption. The closest he's come to a return to this style has been in the two compilations of commissioned work by Oneothrix Point Never.
While Beatty is praised for his ability to effortlessly synthesize vintage influences with a contemporary, Internet-powered sensibility, he's not above paying direct homage. In his now-classic cover for Oneohtrix Point Never's post-Capitalism opus R Plus 7, he recreated a still from the animation "Le ravissement de Frank N. Stein" by George Schwizgebel, with permission from the artist of course.
Which brings us to Beatty's biggest success, Currents. Hailed instantly as a classic of the album art genre, the truly singular image of a pinball-like sphere wading through a rigid 80s gradient, leaving behind chem trails of a whole other variety. And to close things out, here's a personal favorite: Beatty's cover for La Big Vic's second album, which not only topped his previous effort for the band, but created a sense of space unlike anything else in a body of work where space is most definitely the place. So congrats Robert. I might be a hater, but can't get mad at seeing someone deservedly get theirs.