Vinyl Hit and Run

fbn114Some recent purchases:

The Durutti Column The Return of the Durutti Column (Factory Benelux LP)

The original 1980 Factory UK label edition of this LP was packaged in a sandpaper cover. Some things work so much better in concept than execution, especially when we’re talking Factory sleeve design — the jacket was very unfriendly to the neighboring records in one’s collection. This Belgian reissue is much more practical, the sandpaper portion of the package having been relegated to an insert (with ooh-worthy die-cut sleeve). This way, only the inside of the jacket bears the wrath of the grit.

The Durutti Column was Factory boss Anthony Wilson’s pet band (“it’s good music to chill out to,” Anthony-as-God chimed from on high at the conclusion of 24 Hour Party People). This ironically-titled debut was a welcome arrival from left field when it was released. Vini Reilly’s electric guitar rambled in a most pastoral fashion amid seeming acres of reverb and subdued e-percussion and the occasional tastefully-wielded drum set. The result is one of the finest instrumental albums of its era.

Return still sounds as though it was recorded (and released) in a vacuum amid the clamor of UK punk, post-punk and crappy new wave. The album proved that then-trendy UK labels could help give minimalism a good name, and it’s aged well, sounding as good or better over 25 years later. The pressing is clean, and trainspotters will rejoice in the inclusion of the Test Card 7″ single.

Blue Velvet Soundtrack LP colored vinyl

Maybe I should have been warned by the “Limited to: 5 Per Customer” caveat.

I suppose you could blame it on the limited-to-1000 blue vinyl, but the surface noise on this is simply awful. But at least the mastering is unlistenably shrill and shallow. The 1986 US CD sounds a LOT better. And when did you last hear that a 1986-issue CD sounded better than an LP?

This is one to avoid unless you’re buying it only to sell it on Discogs at a vast profit a year or two from now (let’s see those hands!). It’s a profound waste of potential, because the score is excellent, in kind of a Bernard Hermann-kind of way…and the sounds [could] bring David Lynch’s tensely weird atmospheres and kinky, often violent images to the forefront of your imagination.

If this LP’s mastering and pressing weren’t so substandard, that is.

Keith Jarrett The Koln Concert 2LP

Another major disappointment. Clear vinyl, limited to 1000. The surface noise is as bad as it is on Blue Velvet (clear vinyl usually being superior to blue or any other color; go figure), but the mastering here is…funky. And not in a good way. It sounds as though someone bumped up the low mids, and Jarrett’s emphatically dextrous left hand requires a more delicate touch on the EQ. Instead, extended muddy segments are the result — especially on (the usually revelatory) side two.

If you have a 1975-through-1980 ECM pressing of this, hang on to it, because it leaves this reissue in the dust. Honestly, guys: 180 gram means nothing if you’re pressing the album on vinyl with the quality of recycled tires. C’mon.

The Revenant score – Ryuichi Sakamoto/Alva Noto/Bryce Dessner (Milan/Regency colored vinyl 2xLP)

I ordered this from WEA US. It was 45 bucks, including media mail shipping.

The vinyl is pretty, a swirly, icy grey-blue. The pressing is awful. The first track on side one has a two-click-every-revolution scratch. The surface noise throughout both sides of both discs is horrible. The gatefold sleeve artwork is lovely, but the jacket was manufactured too tight for two albums and it’s nearly impossible to get the LPs back in the sleeve once you remove them.

WEA, of course, won’t give you your money back — they will only send you an exchange copy.

Chalk it up to experience; don’t buy colored vinyl if you care about fidelity, and definitely don’t buy it from WEA.