Agnes Montgomery is a Philadelphia-based artist that works in collage. Her work has been been getting heaps of attention since she was tapped by Animal Collective member Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) to create the cover art for his highly-acclaimed solo release Person Pitch (2007).
â€œNoah is a good friend of mineâ€, Montgomery told us, â€œI showed him my collages back in 2003 and he liked them a lot.â€
Itâ€™s easy to see what appealed to him. Montgomery creates her collages on a miniscule scale, using small scissors, found paper and a magnifying lamp. She then enlarges them and prints them on large canvases. The result is a striking and warm juxtaposition of images that is at once nostalgic and contemporary. Children make regular appearances, reinforcing the feeling of whimsy and innocent wonder.
Lennox recognised its potential as cover art: â€œNoah asked me if Iâ€™d like to make some collages for his next solo record and we talked and thought about it for a long time before it really started to happen.â€ While there may have been a lengthy germinating process, Lennox prefers to work very quickly. In contrast to Montgomeryâ€™s process, he likes to â€œspit it out real fastâ€.
â€œI get impatient writing songs, I canâ€™t spend more than a couple of hours before I get frustratedâ€ he is quoted as saying. â€œMy favorite songs are the ones where I worked really really fast on, when it comes all out in like two hours or something.â€
You would expect the end result to be shallow or sloppy, however the output belies Lennoxâ€™s professed impatience. His songs, as chief-supporter Pitchfork describe them, â€œconsist of intricately constructed, heavily layered and highly repetitive loops on top of which Lennox sings oddly familiar and touching melodies.â€
The music â€œsounds like what it is: one guy alone in his bedroom trolling though music history, picking and choosing bits to make something deeply personal and all his ownâ€.
The parallels with Montgomeryâ€™s process was not lost on Lennox. â€œHe liked the idea of collage cut paper for the album art since he was also working in a style of collage musically, cutting up samplesâ€ she says.
â€œThe songs of Person Pitch inspired the collages. I listened to the songs over and over again during the course of a year to fully immerse myself into them and to try my best to make a visual match.â€
â€œWe corresponded mostly by email since he was living abroad in Portugal at the time. Noah didnâ€™t give too much input as to what he was hoping for. He gave me a lot of freedom and space to just see what could happen. He already had a pretty good sense of my style and he thought it could work well with the songs.â€
â€œNoah sent me one song at a time and I made a collage to match its song so they could be released as singles first.â€
For the Person Pitch cover, Montgomery worked with both Lennox and designer Rob Carmicheal. â€œVisually the packaging being symmetrical was important to Noah. He had the idea of the layout and how he wanted the thank you’s and inspiration to be centered with 2 collages on either side of the flip fold out insert.â€
â€œThe album is kind of symmetrical in terms of how long the songs are, and I wanted the album art to reflect thatâ€ says Lennox. â€œI knew I wanted to do a lot of personal thank yous and I knew I wanted to have the artwork from all the singles on there in a symmetrical fashion. So I needed another text panel, and I also thought that since I was sampling so many different people I thought it was appropriate to give thanks to other musicians.â€
This eclectic and much-discussed list of musicians included Cat Stevens, Daft Punk, Black Dice, Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, Vashti Bunyan, Ariel Pink, Aphex Twins, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, Talk Talk, Kylie Minogue, Ennio Morricone, Metallica, Wu-Tang Clan, Nina Simone, The Strokes, Dr Dre, Notorious B.I.G., Nirvana, Echo & the Bunnymen, Enya, George Michael, Gratefull Dead, Maria Callas, Phil Collins and New Order. Whew!
On the cover of Person Pitch, a children’s pool party has been crashed by the inhabitants of a petting zoo. The result is squishy, psychedelic and oddly comforting, much like the music within. You could argue that these disparate party goers are an analogy for the album’s varied influences. Whatever the meaning, it’s a memorable image that acts as the perfect visual foil for Panda Bearâ€™s beautiful music.