Ciel “Homesick” LP
Paralell Minds Records
Packaging Layout / Graphic Design / Typography / Illustration
Cindy Li aka Ciel approched me to design and layout the packaging for her first full length double LP debut.
The concept started with a poster I had designed for a show here in Portland where Cindy was headlining the bill. I had created the Ciel butterfly logo for said poster but then decided to take the concept further as I had a vision to make something else with this custom typography. I then shared this concept work with Cindy and she asked me if I’d design her album cover using the typography I created as a style guide. The artwork features watercolor paintings by illustrator Lis Xiu which I had the pleasure of stylizing to match the rest of the design.
Poster design for Ciel and Index Records as mentioned above which birthed the Ciel logo design for the album.
Parallel Minds’ fifth label release is a major landmark for the Toronto-based label. Not only is it their first full length LP, it is also the debut album from co-founder Ciel, who is also making her first solo appearance on the label since its inception.
In 2021, spurred on by a productive creative streak and the economic austerity of pandemic lockdowns, the Xi’an-born and Toronto-based DJ Ciel (real name Cindy Li) applied for grant funding from the government of Canada to write her debut album. Self-proclaimed “DJ first, producer second”, Ciel never thought she would have the self-confidence and desire to write an album. It wasn’t until after spending prolonged time away from clubs & festivals whilst dedicating herself to daily sessions in her studio that she gained the motivation and aspiration to make a musical statement that only an album could express.
Since the start of the covid19 outbreak, Ciel, like many other Chinese diaspora people in the West, had felt a great deal of anxiety and pain at the rise of anti-Chinese sentiment and racism in the media — even in her corner of the dance music industry. Tired of expressing her frustrations fruitlessly online, she felt inspired to channel that into her music, to turn something that was filled with hate into a thing of joy and beauty. It was within this context that Homesick began to take shape.
After researching the rich history of Chinese instruments, a concept began to form around the album in which she could marry her love of sampling and analogue instruments. Using the eight types of traditional Chinese instruments (silk, bamboo, wood, stone, metal, clay, gourd, and hide) as a guideline, Li began writing each track with a focus on one of the eight. She hired traditional Chinese instrumentalists to play the guzheng and the xiao, whilst purchasing and teaching herself the smaller hand drum instruments like the kuaiban (bamboo clappers), and muyu (temple blocks). With the news that she had successfully been granted funding from Canada Arts Council, she wrote, recorded, arranged, and mixed all nine tracks of her album over the first three months of 2022. More than just highlighting Chinese instruments, the music on this album encapsulates so many musical influences from Ciel’s childhood when she began her lifelong love affair with music. True to her style as a DJ, the LP incorporates a diversity of genres she loves, from drum & bass to house, electro to breaks - even downtempo.
What has come out of these sessions is a deeply personal dancefloor record, a true expression of love for Cindy’s culture that came out of a time of relentless chaos, negativity, and uncertainty. Ciel sees her compositions as a distillation of herself — her life experiences, her wide interests and passions, and her often-turbulent emotions. Immersing oneself in the LP feels like listening to the musical confessions of an artist heading towards the peak of their career, who is finally starting to make sense of her artistic identity. What a joy to witness it.
creditsreleased November 24, 2023
This album was recorded during the first 3 months of 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
All tracks written, produced, and mixed by Ciel
Mastered by Eastend Mastering
Heidi Chan performs the xiao on 'Bamboo'
Dolores Chung performs the guzheng on 'Silk'
Cindy Li plays the kuaiban on 'Wood' and the temple blocks on 'Stone'
Artwork by Lis Xu and Michael Wert. Layout and design by Michael Wert.
The album was made possible through the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.