808 State : Ninety

This sleeve design, just like this first album of 808 state itself, is an interesting crossroad between the old and the new : the old was the wise and tricky peoples from the famous ZTT label, that had just gone through a decade of hits and hype, and that were mastering perfectly the Art Of making Noise about themselves (or their artists ;-) 
On the other side, the New were this highly hyped new band from Madchester, representing the perfect exemple of the Acid House generation of UK artists.

It may appears as a classic situation : an experienced label signing some new gifted lads to keep on with its quest for fame & money-making. But the fact is that ZTT was far more than just a cash machine: it was an intellectually ambitious bunch of incredibly talented producers. 

On the other hand, Graham Massey and his friends were a (proto-) Techno band. And back in 1989, it meant the refusal for all the star system schemes of Rock'N Roll. And it was those same schemes that ZTT had been so good at!  
Acid House and the whole electronic scene was about the love of the sound, the fascination of the machines, about raving non-stop during the weekends, and getting yourself lost in the music as much as in Ecstasy... It was about experiencing something, and not about admiring an iconic personality. The DJ had become the iconic reference, and a deejay remains hidden behind his decks, behind the music. The exact opposite a Rock star...

Sure, 808 State shared with ZTT the passion of forward-thinking music, and after all, Trevor Horn was the guy behind inspiring acts like The Buggles and The Art Of Noise... but these ZTT weirdos where twice their age!

So the famous graphic design studio Three Associates (aka , that is Mark Farrow+ Paul West) had to come out with something that would fit in the ZTT style and history, but that wouldn't disappoint the rave heads out there!


Building on the general fascination for technology, Farrow & West used a cryptic front cover, focused on numbers, where the images where reduced to two small operative dots.

The choice of the silver background was based on the color of the bottles of Purdeys, that was, according to Graham Massey himself "the ravers drink of choice back then"

As for the new 808 typography, it referred to the previous sleeves of 808 State, but it was still a departure towards a toned down feeling, and a more conventionally indie pop style.

Inner sleeve (Front)

Inner sleeve (back)
The ensemble shows the influence of the Hacienda/Factory link that Mark Farrow still had at that time, with the use of those large empty spaces, and with a fish picture (taken from an image bank) that is reminding of Peter Saville's artwork for New Order's "True Faith".  
Massey confesses he never really understood the reason for this fish to appear, but he liked it enough to have the poster still in his bathroom! 
If we where to guess an explanation, we would observe that both the fish and the eclipse where highly stylised images of nature : it fits quite well with the ambient AND electronic nature of most of the tracks of this LP, especially "Pacific"...

The CD version (Front)
While this album had a huge influence back then, its visual style was much more classical, even if brilliantly done, and very elegant. But it marked the entry of the band (and of the Techno generation) into the overground music world. 

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