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. For the second in our latest series of articles on Finnish label We Jazz, we lend our ears to a various artists collection of live recordings from three groups on the label’s roster.
Long-term Vinyl Corner readers with impressive memories may well recall our features on releases by OK:KO, Alder Ego and Timo Lassy & Teppo Mäkynen (which you can read here, here and here respectively). Those that do remember those articles may also recall that all three records found release via Finland’s excellent We Jazz records within the recent past and those three groups now appear on the label through a shared three-way live release: ‘Ateneum 2019′. Serving essentially as a heavily truncated overview of the We Jazz roster, the release offers short sets from groups whose differing sonic approaches do nothing to undermine the cohesion of this dynamic collection. OK:KO offer a pair of pieces both surging and sensuous – swelling and lively one moment, then delicate and breathy the next. Alder Ego’s pair of compositions are darker in their tonality, evoking the shifting uncertainties of the ’60s’ most abstracted post-bop. The duo of Lassy and Mäkynen, meanwhile, offer something more playful in their wilfully fragmented, sonically experimental approach. Although, on the face of it, the three acts share little in their respective attitudes, the resultant collection of pieces engages nonetheless, simply by virtue of a shared aesthetic common to all three. Considering this is a live recording, it’s unsurprising that sound quality is not quite as sharp as some of We Jazz’s studio recordings but the sonics do remain impressive throughout and are certainly strong enough to allow the quality of the music to come through.
As we’ve often noted here on vinyl corner, the weight of any given record has little to do with the quality of its sound, despite the fact that many mistakenly correlate heavyweight wax with superior audio. Proof of this, if any were needed, can be seen in this particular release from We Jazz. They’ve long produced high-quality LPs with tidy sound and solid sonics and ‘Ateneum 2019’ is no different in this respect, despite being offered as a roughly mid-weight slab of black wax. It feels fine in hand and although it’s certainly not lightweight, it’s also short of a full 180 grams. That’s absolutely no issue, though, as its surfaces boast an impressive sheen free of the blemishes which appear on modern pressings with frustrating frequency. Playback quality is similarly stout, benefitting from a low noise floor which allows the often subtle music to shine in a context free of irritating surface noise.
In our recent Vinyl Corner article on the We Jazz release of Antti Lötjönen’s ‘Quintet East’, we praised the gorgeous tip-sleeve which so accentuated the quality of that title’s presentation. Although we have previously covered other titles from the label to boast such deluxe packaging, their releases generally tend to appear in more conventional sleeves. Indeed, that proves to be the case with the able yet relatively modest presentation of ‘Ateneum 2019’. The cover itself is a standard-width, non-gatefold design which feels sturdy enough in hand but is certainly wrought from a lighter cardstock than the highest quality releases we’ve seen from the label. Kudos must certainly be given to We Jazz for continuing their trend of placing the barcodes of their releases on hypestickers attached to shrinkwrap rather than printing them directly onto the back cover of any given. Likewise, the art direction and layout of this title possesses a certain understated class.
‘Ateneum 2019’ is another rock solid release from one of jazz’s most interesting active labels. It should be of no surprise to long-term readers of Vinyl Corner that this is a very able release which comes recommended to anyone with an interest in jazz’s modern interpreters.
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 email@example.com – it would be great to hear from you!