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Elbow announce new album using the same image as a previous Hudson Mohawke record

Yesterday, as British band Elbow announced their upcoming eighth record Giants of All Sizes, some viewers couldn’t shake the feeling that they had seen the record sleeve’s artwork before.

And they had. The image used on the cover, which features a crowd of swimmers nestled in against each other at a resort in China, was originally used as the sleeve for Scottish artist and producer Hudson Mohawke’s Chimes EP, released back in 2014.

Appropriating images on record sleeves is a regular habitual design method, notable in the work of Peter Saville, for instance, who used A Basket of Roses by Henri Fantin-Latour on Joy Divisions’ Power, Corruption, Lies record in 1983. But what has confused fans is how close a similarity there is between these two records, released within five years of one another, particularly due to their different generic contexts too.

Dominic Flannigan, who designed the original Hudson Mohawke cover at Warp, tells It’s Nice That that perhaps “what has flared this one up is that it’s from an established, older act and it comes across a bit oblivious to a really successful release in another genre by a younger artist.”

As the designer explains, it’s difficult to see how Elbow’s team could have been unaware of the other record. Viewers, he says, have to consider the success of the Chimes EP in 2014, which was one of “Warp’s biggest releases that year with lots of activity including a rap remix, a Boileroom launch in LA and the track placed in an international Apple MacBook Pro campaign.”

Dominic initially began working with the image from a Chinese broadsheet, used to illustrate the heat of summer in an editorial piece. Originally repurposing it for the Chimes sleeve “to communicate something about the maximalism and colour of the record,” Dominic chose the image, because “it just ‘felt right’ to me,” he explains. “And Hud Mo loved it. Maybe the image does the same for Elbow.”

Dominic honestly admits that he “found the image online and I can’t pretend to have ownership of it”. In the designer’s mind Elbow’s use of the image is a compliment, adding: “Look, I’m not mad at it really. It’s very flattering.” And the Chimes sleeve remains “one of the covers I’m most proud of just by how much it speaks to the music.”

Also, considering the comments made largely on Twitter over the past 24 hours about the repeated use of the image on Elbow’s sleeve, Dominic concludes: “Elbow, if you’re reading this, don’t change your cover art because of Twitter. That’s stupid. The internet is stupid. If you’re a designer and you saw a Hudson Mohawke cover and still made this cover, you don’t know how the internet works. If you’re the original photographer, thank you, it’s a brilliant photo.”

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