Creative Direction
Art Direction
Print & Packaging
Motion Design
Live Performance
Film & Video
Product Development
Building a literary and conceptual universe for Los Angeles composer Deru’s pivot to ambient music through metafiction and a limited-edition consumer product

Los Angeles-based producer / composer Deru (aka Benjamin Wynn) approached EFFIXX with a fully-realized set of moody but melodic ambient recordings that ultimately became 1979, the first thing we both agreed on while comparing notes was that the prevailing feeling of the record was that of warmth and nostalgia. The songs themselves were bounced to cassette before mastering, so inherently the warmth derived from analog tape hiss and crackle created the sort of trapped-in-amber sonic qualities of “found music”.  

This led us down a path towards contemplating novel ideas for the release media itself, and we kept returning to the concept of a “modern-day time capsule”.  We reminisced on the days when unwrapping a physical album of music created an emotional connection between artist and audience, the moment where a fan could be hearing the songs for the first time while reading liner notes and seeing images as a holistic experience.  So we set out to create both a sculptural artifact that would embody the album — as well as a mythological universe surrounding the music that would reward listeners with layers of narrative context to unpack and in some instances, actively contribute towards.
We explored practical ways to literally put playable media into an enclosed “box” with speakers.  The goal was to convey the idea that the collection of music itself was forever held inside of the object, much like the ephemera in a time capsule were stored away for future generations to discover.  

With this in mind, we found a consumer electronics vendor willing to work with us on the construction of a custom LED pico projector, a format which would allow us to create a set of accompanying films, making it perfect for our “time capsule” metaphor and a novel conversation piece in its’ own right.

Together, Deru and EFFIXX assembled a team of engineers, industrial designers, visual artists, and a fiction writer who would help us develop a rich backstory for the object’s origin story — laying the foundation for a densely-layered set of supplementary content to seed during the album’s release campaign.

A Modern Day Time Capsule
Memories & Nostalgia
1979 began with a reflection on the impermanence of memory in the digital age — the notion that the more we capture and document, the less time we spend actually remembering. The album itself conveys a feeling of time slowing down, and so the visuals themselves are a celebration of memory and the way humans use captured media to foment nostalgia in our lives.

The Obverse Box
Product Development, Industrial Design & Content Production
We developed this artifact-as-album to be a functional and entertaining centerpiece that could be portable enough to share with friends and family—the type of music-listening ritual that inspired us in our youth. To promote its' release, we crafted an origin story showing product features, portability, as well as planted seeds about its' narrative backstory.


The artifact’s exterior enclosure was designed by artist, craftsman, and frequent-collaborator Mark Wisniowski.  Optimized to be milled from a single block of walnut, we worked with fine art machining expert Jon Mendez and engineer Roberto Crespo, who designs Mars rover components at JPL as a day job.  The team customized aspects of the interior chassis to feature an acoustically-optimized built-ion speaker for the music, and a low-noise fan to keep the internal components cool with minimal noise interference.  
Beautiful brass hardware accents the lens focusing ring and interface controls and hand-finished, milled walnut exhibits unique details for each edition.
The Obverse Box was delivered in a hand-painted pine box featuring a key graphic mark in the 1979 mythology — The Nine Pure Tones. Instructions for operation are minimal and the printed instruction manual reflects its’ rustic minimalism. A deck of “tone cards” displays a set of illustrations derived from the 1979 backstory, which describe “a system for the various types of energy” developed by one of the story’s protagonists.

Viewers power up the projector, and the visual album immediately begins playing. Battery-powered operations means that viewers can take The Obverse Box anywhere and beam its’ visual contents on any surface, anywhere they go — a portable conversation piece.

Content Design

The Obverse Box contains nine songs & videos comprising Deru 1979 . It's videos reference graphic visual elements of the esoteric philosophy developed by the project's mythological protagonist, Jackson S. Arden, and cinematic vignettes which claim to be derived from the photographs and 8mm films discovered in a time capsule by the artist at a flea market.
Mythology & Visual Language
The Arden Family Metafiction
David Chun, a Los Angeles-based fiction and prose writer, joined the team to help weave a complex, intentionally confusing and esoteric mythological backstory which would place Deru squarely at the center of an important flea market discovery in Pasadena.

The Arden Family and The Nine Pure Tones

Chun's mythology centered around a body of letters, films, and photographs chronicling the correspondence of a father and son—Jackson and Henry Arden. The father was rendered as a madman philosopher, obsessed with the dissemination of a new age philosophy inspired by quantum theory and espousing his theory of pure sound as energy in a system of "Nine Pure Tones".

Sourcing Archival Footage

We spent time culling reels and reels of curated archival footage at a storied underground film archive in San Francisco’s Mission District led by counterculture filmmaker Craig Baldwin. A fixture in the SF experimental art community, Craig is often considered the “godfather” of narrative found-footage cinema and was instrumental in helping us create an authentic feeling in our incidental story elements by providing hours of original source material that couldn’t be discovered or used anywhere else.  
The Website: 1979.LA
An experiential Repository for documented Memory
The album campaign kicked off with the launch of 1979.LA—billed as “an interactive repository of documented memories”.  Housing miscellaneous articles purported to be scanned from the strange time capsule discovered by Deru at a flea market, the hub invited the public to submit their deepest, most cherished memory to the gallery in exchange for the first album single, and to share an anecdote about its’ significance.  

The resulting outpouring of intimate, personal photographs and videos showed us how willing people are to connect and be vulnerable when galvanized around the call-to-action of an artist that they care about.
Vinyl LP & Merch
Print & Packaging Design
We included handpainted envelopes containing a mysterious letter from the elder Arden character, chronicling his musings about the nine pure tones and philosophy. An additional mixed-media art print was created with an excerpt detailing the characters ideas about matter and the pure tones.

Live Performances
Brand IP & Production Toolkits
Invited by over a dozen museums, galleries, and media art festivals, Deru + EFFIXX performed the album as a live audiovisual stage experience, including the inaugural year of the venerable Houston-based Day For Night festival following a set by Philip Glass Ensemble.

Layers of Memory

Scenography included a layered projection and lighting configuration, featuring a massive 24’ x 15’ front scrim, circular projection portal, and practical light-play using glass prisms and spotlights.

The result was an improvised, cinematic experience with cameos by the mythological elder figure from the backstory, and glimpses of content contributed during the online album release campaign. Fans in the audience could at times see their own photographic memories reflected in the show’s content.
Deru "1979"
Creators Project / VICE

Red Bull Music Academy - Interview

Motherboard / VICE

ISO50 Blog - Interview
Anthony Ciannamea
Creative Director / Art Director
Lead Designer
Motion Designer
Deru (Benjamin Wynn)
Creative Director
Composer / Producer
Mark Wisniowski
3D Artist & Sculptor
D.S. Chun
Writer & Mythologist
Roberto Crespo
production Engineer
Jon Mendez
CNC & Laser manufacturing
Mark Palansky
Director / "Boy" Trailer
Jon-Kyle Mohr
Web Development & Engineering