Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl
pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound,
how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving
a brief overview of the music itself. This time we’re rating a recent release
from a long-time Vinyl Corner favourite: We Jazz records.
Scandinavia has been a hotbed of jazz innovation for longer than most of its current players have been alive and even now – at a time when many would report the genre as having a faint pulse at best – it’s a region of the world that continues to produce fresh and inventive music in the style. Helsinki’s We Jazz records have been an important component for this recent resurgence and here at Vinyl Corner we’ve written about practically every title they’ve released over the last couple of years. Of all the artists on the We Jazz roster, it’s drummer, bandleader and composer Teppo Mäkynen who has proven to be particularly prolific of late. He released a pair of records in 2019: a collaborative LP with Timo Lassy and an ambient side-project entitled Abyss. That latter album was billed as a prelude to this new 2020 effort, entitled ‘Lake’. It’s perhaps his strongest effort yet – and certainly one that finds him successfully building upon the style established with last year’s disparate yet subtly connected works. As leader of trio 3TM, Mäkynen wrote and produced the entirety of this hypnotic, understated effort, performing it alongside saxophonist Jussi Kannaste and bassist AnttiLötjönen. These are sultry, subtle pieces that shine through the group’s economic yet effective use of melodic accenting; this understated grace makes for an affecting listen, free of flashy showmanship or honking melodrama. If ‘Lake’ might prove too slow-burning to initially stun, then repeat listens reveal a beautifully evocative, atmospheric effort performed with a deft hand from all involved.
Consistency is a strong point for We Jazz records and this applies to their vinyl pressings as much as the music they release. ‘Lake’ is no exception to this rule, which is fortunate – if unsurprising – considering that this a work of such subtlety that any excess of surface noise would considerably mar the listening experience. Surfaces are clean throughout with a low noise floor and tidy sound boasting well-cut, clear audio and solid clarity. There are a few instances of light background crackle now and then but nothing that we found to be at all intrusive upon ‘Lake’s singular, arresting mood. The record itself is roughly mid-weight black wax with clean surfaces free of visual imperfection. There is also a white vinyl edition available for the coloured-wax hounds and collectors out there and it should, at least theoretically, sound as good as the black vinyl edition. It should also be mentioned that there’s a double LP version of the album available which bundles this title with its prelude and sibling album ‘Abyss’.
As with the aforementioned ‘Abyss’, ‘Lake’ is presented with a minimalistic art direction that suits the swirling mystery of the music to a tee. Packaged in a standard-width non-gatefold sleeve, the cover is manufactured from roughly mid-weight card stock. It isn’t the heaviest-duty cover we’ve ever seen but it’s certainly solid enough and the textured finish adds a pleasing extra dimension to the presentation. Curiously, there’s no text printed onto the spine. While that decision may have been taken as an attempt to leave the minimalist art direction uninterrupted, it does result in an album that’s likely to be difficult to find on a packed shelf of albums. The record is found in a printed paper inner sleeve that bears a photograph, credits and an essay by Mäkynen reproduced in both Finnish and English. While this is a welcome inclusion from an aesthetic perspective, caution is advised when removing the record as these paper inner sleeve can scuff vinyl if removed improperly.
This is another great title from We Jazz. Fans of Mäkynen’s previous work will doubtless be interested to hear the direction he and the rest of 3TM have taken here, and the vinyl release is also of impressive quality.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re
always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you
have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in
touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!