Xmal Deutschland, was a post-punk group from Hamburg, Germany. Founded in 1980 with a completely female line-up, they became successful outside their native country. The lead singer of the band was vocalist Anja Huwe. Xmal Deutschland's last album was released in 1989. While most German post-punks explored atavism and dadaism, Fetisch applied the dogma of German expressionism in dark-punk.
In 1982, the band released the goth classic "Incubus Succubus." While German audiences were less than receptive at first, a United Kingdom tour opening for the Cocteau Twins resulted in a deal with independent label 4AD.
Their debut album, Fetisch and the singles "Qual" and "Incubus Succubus II" were released in 1983, all three making the UK Independent Chart, even though the band wrote and performed in German.
23 Envelope was the name given to the design partnership of graphic designer Vaughan Oliver and photographer/filmmaker Nigel Grierson from 1983-1988. During this time, they created a distinct visual identity for 4AD through their record sleeve designs for bands such as Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, and This Mortal Coil.
23 Envelope wanted sleeves to have a strong ‘tactile’ presence, and lavish swathes of texture – ‘We express ourselves with textures,’ Oliver declared – soon became a favourite device. Mainstream design’s vision of reality was clean, brightly lit, direct and efﬁcient. 23 Envelope’s underworld of texture was dirty, murky, ambiguous and uncertain.
Inspired by the music, 23 Envelope would ‘project their own personal world of imagery in collusion with the artists they represent.’ Sharing 4AD founder Ivo’s musical values and independent label ethic, they rejected the hard sell, the well trodden path, the merely fashionable, tedious pastiche and the banal overuse of the band photograph (many of 4AD musicians were equally keen to avoid anything as obvious as cover portraits). On no account, Oliver and Grierson felt, should the taste and discernment of the audience be underestimated. Record buyers should be seduced or challenged by visual landscapes as resonant as the soundscapes they expressed.
The inﬂuences that helped to shape their shared sensibility mostly came from outside design. The atmospheres they admired in literature, music, and ﬁlm were dark, brooding, bizarre, enigmatic and it translated to their designs. On the tenebrous cover of Xmal Deutschland’s Fetisch (1983), pieced together from fragments of Japanese rag paper held together by masking tape, Oliver dispensed with the expected cover image and succeeded in imbuing ordinary bits of paper with dark portents of existential menace.
As 23 Envelope, Oliver primarily art directed and designed, while Grierson primarily photographed. With Grierson's departure in 1988, Oliver saw fit to retire the 23 Envelope moniker, and continue working under the name v23 with new partner Chris Bigg, and various design associates that would come to include Paul McMenamin, Timothy O'Donnell, Martin Andersen and others. Meanwhile Grierson focused more on the moving image, directing music videos and TV commercials, both in London and the USA.
Emigre (ISSN 1045-3717) was a graphic design magazine published by Emigre Graphics between 1984 and 2005; it was first published in 1984 in San Francisco, California. Art-directed by Rudy VanderLans using fonts designed by his wife, Zuzana Licko, Emigre was one of the first publications to use Macintosh computers and had a large influence on graphic designers moving into desktop publishing (DTP). Its variety of layouts, use of guest designers, and opinionated articles also had an effect on other design publications.
Emigre #9 released in 1988 devoted the entire issue to 4AD record label including an 8 page spread devoted to 23 envelope. The magazine is filled with interviews, photos, design and information on "Everything 4AD."