Have Wu-Tang Clan produced the weirdest 'album' yet?

Wu-Tang Clan’s next album is to be presented in a museum, not sold on iTunes. From Beck’s sheet music to the Flaming Lips’ chocolate skull, here are five other unusual albums

So, Wu-Tang Clan are to release their new album in a one-of–a-kind, hand-carved nickel-silver box, which is apparently sitting in a Moroccan vault.

The songs will never be sold on iTunes or streamed on Spotify: if you want to hear Once Upon a Time in Shaolin you’ll have to head to one of the galleries, museums or festivals it will be taken to, pay for admission and listen on closely monitored headphones. The group later hope to sell the album for millions.

"We're about to put out a piece of art like nobody else has done in the history of [modern] music," RZA said. "This is like somebody having the sceptre of an Egyptian king."

This may sound slightly ludicrous, but it’s also fascinating. “The music industry is in crisis," the group say. "The intrinsic value of music has been reduced to zero. By offering it as a commissioned commodity … we hope to inspire and intensify urgent debates about the future of music."

Maybe we need more ideas like this to breathe fresh life into this stagnant age of MP3 reliance. And whereas Wu-Tang’s might be the most extreme, there are several other examples of artists and labels who have come up with bizarre or innovative ways to get out their music.

Alcopop!'s fixie bike

Alcopop!'s A fixie bike
Alcopop!'s A fixie bike Photograph: PR

The always excellent Alcopop! Records have a knack for finding unique ways to keep their releases interesting. Hence treasure maps in bottles and all-you-can-eat menus. But they took it up another gear with Alcopopular 6: Highway to the Velodrome. It was released in the form of a fixie bike, featuring "drop handle bars [and] super-awesome wheels". Pre-order yours now for £300.

Flaming Lips' life-sized chocolate human skull

They’ve released an album that needed to be played simultaneously on four separate audio systems, a toy frog containing the band’s first demo, and each copy of Heady Fwends vinyl featured the blood of collaborators such as Chris Martin and Kesha. But the Flaming Lips' high point may be the reissue of their debut EP, which came housed inside a "hand-crafted, custom-made … anatomically correct and life-sized" chocolate skull. Also inside was a "special golden coin" that gave you entrance to any Lips show.

Nicolas Jaar's musical cube

No, it's not a game show hosted by Phillip Schofield. The Prism is actually an aluminium rechargeable player with a pair of headphone sockets, so two people could listen to the music at once. Designed by Jaar, The Prism is meant to "retain a physicality in music and promote connectivity" . He used his Clown and Sunset label to release the Don't Break My Love compilation on the cube-shaped player.

Beck's sheet music

Beck's Song Reader
Beck's Song Reader Photograph: PR

In 2012, Beck released an album as individual pieces of sheet music. "The Song Reader is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012," he said at the time. "An alternative that enlists the listener in the tone of every track." This could be considered a brave new way to see how other musicians interpret and perform your music, or it might be proof that Beck couldn't be bothered to record it himself. Whatever your point of view, the internet has filled up with versions of the tracks. The staff of the New Yorker performed "Old Shanghai" and Ed Harcourt did one, too.

Max Tundra's kosher chicken soup

Max Tundra’s 2008 album, Parallax Error Beheads You, came in four formats: CD, vinyl, digital and, er, a tin of kosher chicken soup. Described as a "hearty, healthy meal for one" the soup also included a download code all for the low, low price of £12. That’s your lunch and an album. Look, here’s a low-budget video of Ben Jacobs (AKA Max) in the soup factory.


Danny Wright

The GuardianTramp

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