Tourist's new 'U' album cover draws on high-contrast typographic design to draw you in to its realm of ephemeral textures and trippy beats...



For someone who may be on the cusp of becoming a household name, Londoner William Phillips, aka Tourist, already has a pretty impressive bunch of collaborations under his belt.

Brit talents Lianne La Havas, Disclosure and last year’s breakthrough act Years & Years have all benefitted from Phillips’ crystal-clear production and love of electronic dance music, but it’s his songwriting chops that have brought him his biggest success to date. Co-writer of Sam Smith’s epic ‘Stay With Me’, he won a 2015 Grammy award for this tense torch song. 

Having lit up the dance floor with tracks like ‘Illuminate’ (featuring Olly Alexander from Years & Years on vocals) and ‘Patterns’ with Lianne La Havas, Phillips’ debut album ‘U’ goes a few dubsteps further into more experimental territory. Title track ‘U’ glides into focus with pensive synthscapes and sound effects, adding sampled voices reminiscent of Jean Michel Jarre’s 1984 ‘Zoolook’ album. ‘To Have You Back’ uses reversed loops and stuttering rhythms that James Blake would kill for and the electronic noodlings of ‘Foolish’ sound like Phillips has been let loose in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. There are enough floorfillers here too. Current single ‘Run’ is a hypnotic rush of uplifting energy while the chilled euphoria of ‘Waves’ is a blissed out summery groove.

Phillips chose the single letter title as the album reflects a past relationship. 'I called it 'U' as the word 'You' looks a bit accusatory, and the tone of this album certainly isn't bitter. 'U' is a shape that is balanced but also incomplete,' he says. 'I thought it was a nice visual metaphor for a failed relationship.'

The sleek, crisp and punchy typographic sleeve design comes care of UK talent Jacob Robinson. A big sans serif 'u' holds centre stage, offset in white, pink and bright red. It sets up a vibrant colour clash against the graduated blue-green background creating an arresting image that also lends itself perfectly to accompanying merchandise (from T-shirts to totes, patches and pencils). 'About two years ago Will and I started talking about his album. We wanted to move away from moody imagery and develop a bold, colourful and expressive look in line with the tone of the record. I made lots of sketches based on our references and listening to the tracks as the album came together,' says Robinson. 'Pretty early on we agreed on the form of the ‘U’ and spent the next couple of years refining it. Luke Griffiths came on board and together we improved and adapted the design across formats.' As well as vinyl (white, naturally), 'U''s designs span CD and MP3 offerings.

It's proof positive of the power of design. We saw the sleeve before we'd heard a single track and it drew us right in. The recent resurgence of vinyl has also reawakened the art of the album cover as the large format becomes a visual playground for designers once again. 'U' not only sounds good, it's also sharply dressed to boot and that's a winning combination in our eyes... Fizz rating: 10/10.

'U' by Tourist is out now on Universal