In February 2020 I was approached by Myles of Me Rex to work with him on the artwork for their debut album - so far, so straightforward. I'd been a fan of Myles' work for a while, and was excited to hear he was working on a full length record. What I didn't anticipate was the absolutely mind-boggling concept behind the album: 52 short tracks, mostly in the same key and time signature, designed to be played on shuffle for a seamless listening experience that changes with every play through.
I was daunted, baffled, but on board. I started thinking of ways in which the artwork could emphasise and work with the randomised nature of the record, and we formulated the idea of a deck of playing cards, each card corresponding to a song on the album. The pack could be shuffled and dealt out to create a new tracklist every time, adding an immersive, practical aspect to the listening experience.
The playing card device worked well as, lyrically, the album is vast, touching on an encyclopaedic array of themes including but not limited to: alchemy, astronomy, the periodic table, ancient Greek theology and the Heaven's Gate cult. Ideas, images and musical passages weave in and out of songs, establishing links in every direction like an enormous web. With the cards, I used repeated symbols, colours and compositions in order to solidify those links.
To give you an example: there are six songs named after the noble gases, and these are depicted with geometric illustrations that are similar, but also each suggestive of the properties of the individual element, as well as the character of their corresponding songs. I referenced the use of suits in traditional playing cards, as well as the visual language of tarot and chemical hazard symbology.
Megabear can be listened to on a dedicated player built by web developer Lee Martin here, and the physical goods can be pre-ordered from Big Scary Monsters (UK). There's also a little more to come from this one, so I won't give too much more away just yet.