Artist Rhox combines old with new in nostalgic series of motion covers for music playlists

For those of you nostalgic for actual physical music – whether vinyl, cassette or CD – then you'll enjoy WAVES, an ongoing project by the artist Rhox. He pays tribute to vintage album design and creates motion graphic artworks in the theme of curated playlists or favourite songs.

WAVES was launched in early 2020 and is described as a "concept-driven playlist hub and visual gateway to music", merging various creative disciplines, such as illustration, animation and graphic design, to create "music-synced visuals". The rules are simple: each playlist is built around a specific – almost cinematographic – theme, and looping, animated artworks are posted via Instagram, with each of them taking the user to a song or a playlist on the project's Spotify channel.

Rhox works with various other artists and designers to bring the project to life. A recent addition is 'Street Fighting Mechs', which takes inspiration from the album 'La Morte Dei Miracoli' by Frankie Hi-NRG MC, released in 1997. The digital artwork links to a Spotify playlist of "raw electro power, fuelled by sci-fi dystopia at its coolest," so the description reads, which includes this track along with music from Justice, Linkin Park, Poppy, and more. We spoke to Rhox about how this project came about and where he sees it heading next.

What are these moving images based on, CDs and vinyl?

Both of them, and none of them in particular. Visually speaking, the idea was to create items that could be perceived as both flat and 3D, still and animated. Believe it or not, one of the key inspirations was the animated newspaper in Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban! Seeing an object that was supposed to be flat and still come to life with movement and depth really impressed me, and I tried to emulate that "in-between" nature when WAVES started to feature some motion.

Where did the idea come from? Do you have a personal love of older technology?

To quote the official description of WAVES: this project serves as "a visual gateway to music" – it's a way for me to pay tribute to the music I love, letting people discover and enjoy it in the easiest way possible. I grew up in a household with very diverse music tastes, and this probably helped develop my curiosity over various genres.

I believe that discovering a new track or band opens up a window to that artist's life, country of origin, culture, and everything that comes with it. I see music as a time machine: when listening to a song, we are listening to a moment frozen in time, as if we were precisely in the moment and place where it was recorded – which is a fantastic feature for a form of art. Additionally, a song that was beautiful ages ago will still be beautiful today, just like the beauty of a monument doesn't decrease with time.

Does the track come first and then the artwork? What's the process?

It can work both ways! Some pieces were made because I was really into a song that moment, while others came from my desire to experiment with a specific technique; there's no rule – more a...deliberately vague creative guideline! One of the main objectives was to create a "flexible container" fit to work without a rigid process, so I set up a framework that lets me approach each piece in a different way while keeping a fair degree of consistency.

Do you have any favourites? Can you talk us through them?

My favourite artwork is probably the Neon City Awe playlist cover – not necessarily the most visually striking piece, but definitely the one that I feel more aligned with its content. When I made it, the first wave of Covid was hitting London, and nobody felt safe going anywhere – least of all on the tube! As I always liked city subways, I missed the atmosphere surrounding them, especially those cosy yet melancholic late-evening vibes, when only a few commuters are still on their way home.

It's a very cinematic fraction of time, especially in a metropolis like London, with all the shiny, light-reflecting skyscrapers setting a monumental scenery in stark contrast with this feeling of hollowness. This could sound somehow broken and sad – probably it is! – but there's also a warmth in it that I find reassuring and immensely fascinating.

Who does what? Who else is involved?

A good 90% of what you see is crafted by me, with various friends contributing with their own talents – such as Silvia Cutrera, whose wit is a staple for strategy and copywriting, or Gradoner, who jumps in with his incredible drawing skills for anything we're building around Street Fighting Mechs, our hi-energy sci-fi playlist. Then we got animators, AR artists, guest illustrators and designers often doing one-shot collaborations: the idea is to involve people who can organically merge their style with the \WAVES world, so I often look for people who share an interest in the project.

You can find the current WAVES lineup on Behance, and a couple of new names will be added soon, whenever – drumrolls – a few upcoming collaborative pieces are released.

What's been the feedback?

Feedback has been great! Since this project has started, many renowned creative hubs talked about it, from Adbuzeedo to AIGA to Muzli – with Adobe even dedicating a short special to WAVES on their Behance Narrated series! I consider this last one my highest achievement, especially when crowned by the most honest review I could ask for, straight from a YouTube comment: "I couldn't understand half of what he said but beautifully amazing animated art!". This made me both laugh and realise how this project has definitely trespassed the language barrier, despite my best attempts to build one through my poor grammar.

What else do you do, aside from this project? What've you been working on lately?

Commissions are now quite intertwined with what goes on on WAVES. Mostly, I find myself working with music artists or – more broadly – for projects within the entertainment industry: I'm now finalising a job with Riot Games (the guys behind League Of Legends) while another with Universal France has just been completed, and a new one with YouTube Music has just started. Also, there's a couple of upcoming collaborations with absurdly talented colleagues – one of them being Nina Geometrieva – which I can't wait to show you. Hopefully, this will happen very soon, so...keep following the project for more updates, and of course, more music!


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