On December 9, Jack White announced a new “Third-D” virtual reality app, once again taking the arms race over novel ways of presenting music to a new level. Earlier the same day, though, a Brooklyn label without the resources that accrue to a former White Stripes leader offered its own homespun take on 3D music releases. That’s when Famous Class revealed it would be issuing a new Ty Segall EP, Mr. Face, with 3D cover art and pressed on two seven-inch vinyl records that double as 3D glasses.
Segall’s 3D record has already been a boutique-scale hit. “I thought I was going to sell 500 the first day and that would be the biggest day,” says Cyrus Lubin, who runs Famous Class out of his apartment. Instead, as of last weekend he had almost sold out of the 3,000-copy initial run, Lubin told Wondering Sound over the phone. “It’s totally nuts.”
The Segall vinyl also comes with a pair of more traditional 3D glasses, which will presumably make for easier viewing than the records with their double-sided grooves. But Lubin points out that unlike with other recent unconventional releases such as the PIAPTK label’s digital-analog hybrid “CD-Records,” no technological wizardry is required to turn records into prospective 3D glasses — just transparent red and transparent blue vinyl. Lubin says he was inspired by the 3D comics he’d seen growing up, as well as a record his girlfriend had bought him recently by the Cramps that came with 3D artwork.
“The only special thing that we did with this was I got this two-lens digital camera,” he explains, describing a type of camera that was marketed amid the advent of 3D television a handful of years ago. “Panasonic made this two-lens camera, and some guys made a program online that will convert the image that takes into the old-school red and blue. So that’s what we used to do all the art.”
As it turns out, at least a couple of other highly limited vinyl releases that can work as 3D glasses have made their way into the world in recent years. Way back in 2008, frenetic guitar-and-drums duo Knife World released their self-titled debut album via Minneapolis-based label Roaratorio. The record came with a 3D gatefold sleeve — and 3D glasses cut directly into the center label (more photos of the finished product are here).
The idea was the band’s, recalls James Lindbloom, who runs the label. He tried to buy the red and blue filters from a wholesale company but ended up having to buy 1,000 3D glasses and stripping out the filters. Josh Journey-Heinz, the drummer, painstakingly drilled holes in the labels of each record at a pace of about 10 at a time using a drill press at a local art school. Lindbloom had self-adhesive blank labels specially die-cut to match the holes. Then, all they had to do was peel the label, stick the 3D filters on the back, put the label on the record and stamp it with the band logo.
“It wasn’t quick, and it wasn’t cheap, but it was worth it in the end,” Lindbloom told WS in an email response to questions.
Knife World and their friends did the diorama on the cover, and Journey-Heinz took care of the 3D treatment.
Early last year, British label Sonic Cathedral released the compilation EP Psych for Sore Eyes, which also has two seven-inches that can act as 3D glasses, though these are in green and red instead of blue and red. The label has since released a purple and orange sequel, which like the first installment has a 3D cover.
The original idea came out of the idea for the compilation title, remembers Nat Cramp, who’s behind Sonic Cathedral. London-based studio Heretic designed and screenprinted the artwork, which folds in a complex way to house the two records. Cramp cites the packaging for Sonic Boom’s Spectrum and OMD’s Dazzle Ships as a couple of his preferred examples of sleeves with added elements.
“I’m a big lover of vinyl, but not necessarily gimmicky releases, and certainly gimmicks for the sake of it,” Cramp says in an email. “But in this context I think the playfulness of the sleeves acts as a physical manifestation of the music within. it’s as much a work of art as it is a record.”
While White dabbles in 3D virtual reality, these 3D vinyl releases are already real.