Vinyl Corner : BadBadNotGood ‘IV’

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. Today we’re taking a look at the Vinyl Me, Please release of BadBadNotGood’s 2016 effort ‘IV’.

The Music:

BadBadNotGood’s rise to become one of modern jazz’s most popular groups is impressive, having gone from self releasing live sets via Bandcamp to being one of the genre’s brightest luminaries in a few years, it’s last year’s ‘IV’ that really confirmed the band as a force to be reckoned with. A 50 minute journey of rhythmical drive both skittish and forthright and intuitive melody verbalised through sweeping keys and stabs of saxophone, it’s a powerful brew that brings to mind a raft of influences (everything from Nujabes to Frank Zappa) but first and foremost stands as its own musical invention. Although mostly instrumental, the set does feature three guest vocalists, ranging from Mick Jenkins’ eager, fluent rapping on ‘Hyssop Of Love’ to the smooth enunciation of Future Island’s Sam Herring on ‘Time Moves Slow’. It’s an eclectic album that veers wildly between urgent, polyrhythmic ecstasy and woozy, slo-mo ambience but it’s testament to the band’s clear vision that the end result is as coherent as it is.

The Pressing:

Spread over two LPs and pressed in a gorgeous shade of transparent magenta, this is a lovely pressing both sonically and aesthetically. There’s a decent weight to both discs – they’re perhaps not quite 180g but they are certainly most of the way there. Surface noise is next to non-existent on our copy and there are no issues whatsoever with sibilance, distortion, pops or clicks. It’s a really slick pressing that does justice to a detailed, intricate album of rich soundscapes and dynamic musicality. The album’s production is crystal clear, with a vivid sense of space that lends each instrument its own well defined individuality; this pressing only reinforces that, boasting a crisp soundstage that allows both the churning lows of the bass and the swirling highs of the keys clear representation. Drums, too, have real presence on this pressing with a rock solid, punchy sound benefiting the album’s essential rhythmic drive. This is a great pressing of a well recorded album; visually, it’s hugely appealing – the chosen shade of magenta is beautiful – and sonically, too, it’s deeply rewarding, offering real presence and punch to an already technically well made album.

The Packaging:

The packaging and presentation is top notch on this release. Vinyl Me, Please have gained something of a reputation for high quality presentation, and their version of ‘IV’ certainly lives up to any such expectations. Housed in a chunky gatefold sleeve, the album’s idiosyncratic visual flair is articulated in fine form here – the off-beat album art is printed in good quality, the sleeve itself is likewise well made. The records come in good quality polylined inner sleeves from new – a definite plus and a good way to store the discs on a longterm basis. Also included are two small inserts – a special thanks note and a triangular cutout of the band in towels as per the front cover; neither are essential additions to the package but certainly give the sense that real thought was definitely put into the presentation. Also included is a large art print, specially commissioned for this release along with an advertisement sheet for other Vinyl Me, Please. Both are interesting inclusions and only further the sense of artistic continuity in the release. The art print fits the often ambiguous nature of the music well, and the advertisement sheet offers a refreshingly old-school attitude to marketing, more in-line with the sort of advertisements often found in late ’70s and ’80s releases than the predominantly online marketing most labels use today. Overall presentation is really striking here and offers a vibrant visual representation of the music found within.

Final Thoughts:

This is a stellar pressing of a great modern jazz album; the visual element is refined here and the pressing itself is excellent, with sound quality being a real strong point on the release. For those looking to discover the unpredictable world of BadBadNotGood, the Vinyl Me, Please pressing of ‘IV’ comes highly recommended.

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