Music Week — Sensory Projects

Published:  November 19, 2012
Heath Killen
Music Week — Sensory Projects

Melbourne Music Week is now officially underway, and we’re celebrating by taking a look at a small selection of record labels that are doing some interesting things both sonically and visually. Each day this week we’ll be featuring a different record label from around the world, showcasing some of their fine releases, and asking them a few questions about music and design.

We’d be remiss if we started this feature without a label based here in Melbourne, so today we’re talking with Steve Phillips of Sensory Projects. Sensory have released some brilliant records this year, many in collaboration with a couple of new design talents, including Melbourne’s own Jordan Dolheguy (aka Totem Visual). Incidentally Doleguy’s artwork for the new album by No Zu was recently featured on our project wall, and he is also a contributor to a special feature in our upcoming December issue.


No Zu - Life (Design by Totem Visual)

What is the history of Sensory Projects?
Sensory Projects (the record label) kicked off in 2001 with the release of Kammerflimmer Kollektief’s amazing Maander album. I started thinking about setting up a label because I admired record labels all of my life, and I was incredibly curious about the work involved in putting out music.

Since 2001 we’ve released about eighty releases. It’s been incredible starting up the label from scratch and “learning the ropes”. I’m both pleased and regretful to say that it started with me and it’s still (just) me, working on every facet of the label from artist development and support, marketing and promotion, accounting and publishing.

New War - New War (Design by Luke Fraser / AHR+)

What has inspired the design direction of the label?
Oddly, despite my own personal aesthetic ideals, I have tried not to shape design as much as I can, and to let each band or artist define the final product. Everything within reason, practically and economically, but ultimately it’s their art so it’s their vision, for the most part, in every instance.

Lost Animal - Ex Tropical (Design by Darren Sylvester)

How important are physical releases to the label, and what are your thoughts on digital releases?
To me, physical releases are again, for the most part, essential. Sometimes it feels archaic to say this, but I love the tactile nature of the physical product. I think CDs get a bad rap and can be really striking, and carry a distinctive visual feel, when designed with love and care. Vinyl is well, vinyl. The ability to use the space that 12 inches provides is crucial to a savvy, timeless record I think.

I think digital releases are fine; I’m not adverse to digital-only releases but I think they suffer from that lack of those dimensions which allow the music lover to pose questions about the music, or answer them. Who played on this? What images did they chose to contextualize the music? Who’s involved? There not being a physical form makes it more difficult to provide to the consumer. So I think anyway..

Rat Vs Possum - Let Music & Bodies Unite

Who are the designers you’ve chosen to work with, and why were they chosen?
As a rule of thumb, the records are designed by whomever the artists want to work with. But in the more recent past we’ve worked with the incredible Darren Sylvester on a number of memorable releases, such as Lehmann B. Smith’s album, the last Love Connection record, the Lost Animal album of 2011, and others previous. I loved Luke Fraser’s design work on the New War album, Cailan Burns’ Mystery Twin album will always be a standout, and ofcourse JD Dolheguy’s work with NO ZU on their record ‘Life’ is beguiling.

Personally I look for two things in a designer; efficiency and creativity in balance.

Love Connection (Design by Cailan Burns)

What’s coming up next for the label?
At this stage I’m working on a less is more approach for 2013. I’m very excited about the prospect of the upcoming Lost Animal album. I’m quite sure we’ll be working with The Ancients on their third album. Hopefully there will be a brand new Panoptique Electrical album, and a couple of others which are as yet to be locked in.

Mum Smokes - Easy/House Music (Design by Mark Rodda)


The Sensory Projects logo was designed by Renato Gallina (1995)

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