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Herb Sundays 39: Michael Cina
The visual polymath connects the dots for a soulful ride through songs of faith and devotion. Art by, um, Cina.
Herb Sundays 39: Michael Cina
Herb Sundays are all about giving flowers, so where better to do so for Mr. Cina, whose work has been the visual backbone of Herb Sundays that you see each week. While we can go on more later about Mike’s eye for color and space, the reason this particuar mix exists is because of his musical taste. His record collection is pretty much unmatched in my group of friends and his playlists are top flight.
Michael’s jazz and soul game are some of the strongest aspects of his vinyl vault which comes across here in proper stride. Herb 39 is a journey through devotional music, crossing continents and eras.
“The arts exist in a fascinating cross-section of utility vs form because art can provide indefinite functions in divergent contexts. Most of this music was not made under the guise of a ‘gospel/spiritual genre’ and the ones that were, crossed those lines. The best music to me often occurs when people blend ideas and concepts to create something new and unique. “
I met Michael in the mid-00s via my friend and Ghostly collaborator Will Calcutt. Our meeting overlapped with some new stylistic innovations in Michael’s oeuvre, where the two sides of Michael’s work, both the austere type-driven stuff (Michael makes fonts as part of his Public Type brand) and his more painterly and organic work, were continuing to merge. It has been a huge honor working closely with Mike, from the winding down of his YouWorkForThem/WeWorkForThem, through the hundreds of projects he’s done with Ghostly and his many clients.
This mix hit me pretty hard and I was trying figure out why (apart from the upfront beauty of the music). There definitely feels like a renewed interest in devotional music in the air. For examples, see Luaka Bop’s recent releases and the success of the Numero Group’s Pastor T. L. Barrett projects and those of the more cosmic Laaraji, Alice Coltrane’s continual rediscovery, and the perrenial passion for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Music that feels like affirmation, regardless of your active, lapsed, or non-existent faith, offers a confidence or resoluteness that feels at odds with the more dissociative forms of art, media, and memes that connect with our strange nowness.
As a wise person once told me “you can’t hear what you can’t see” which has informed how we’ve approached design at Ghostly. The visual aspect of what we do has always been of huge importance to being able to help elevate the music we release. Image and type have perhaps defined my relationship to the arts just as much as music. It’s when all these things come together that you approximate ecstacy. Cina has hit this mark in our catalog more than a few times, I believe.
Just as finding out about new and old music has been a personal direction for living, the same approach applies for art and design. Design itself has felt like a language that I have been able to study and learn like a student who wants to feel closer to the local tongue of a place they want to live one day. I’ll never be a “native” but I’ve gained a modest degree of fluency thanks to the people around me.
The experience of getting to work with visual artists has been one of my life’s greatest joys, and my friendship and collaboration with Mike is high up there. The list of artists in our orbit is too long to mention here but there’s a partial list here if curious.
For the Herb Sundays project, the fun of sending Cina a playlist and seeing what he comes back with is part of the alchemy that cements each week. What you don’t see is that it’s not the one design that comes back, it’s often 5-10 for each. Each of them are an odyssey in themselves, a vision that could be it’s own planet.