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 around, we’re reviewing the new album from Dexter Story, released by the reliably interesting Soundway Records.

The Music:

On his third album ‘Bahir’, Dexter Story creates a dizzying kaleidoscope of sounds and influences. It’s an ambitiously varied album, spilling over with fresh ideas around every turn. Heavily influenced by music from the Horn of Africa, ‘Bahir’ weaves all kinds of vivid musical threads together in a real dream coat of an album. Multiple vocalists take the helm across the course of the album, but as often as not ‘Bahir’ is at least partially instrumental, leaning heavily on its strong, memorable melodies to guide the listener through. Jazz, funk, soul, afro-beat and more are brought together to form an album that ultimately eludes categorisation into any one single style. A deeply engrossing listen.

The Pressing:

Germany’s Optimal Media never seem to be out of work; they’re an enduringly popular pressing plant to the point where, at least by their own measure, they’re the single biggest plant in Europe. Like so many other modern releases, ‘Bahir’ has been manufactured by them. We’ve discussed this on Vinyl Corner before, but it can be hard to know what to expect with their output. We’ve heard some fantastic pressings by them and also some underwhelming ones. However we’ve been impressed by their work on previous Soundway releases; see, for example, our highly favourable review of Felbm’s ‘Tape 1 / Tape 2’. It’s clear that quality control from both the label and pressing plant hasn’t slipped one bit in the intervening time, as this is another great quality vinyl release. The noise floor is basically inaudible and sound is very clean, with run-ins free of surface and crackle. Playback remains impressive across the full length of the album; we didn’t pick up on any pops or clicks, and only found a few minor background crackles on the last track of the album. The record sits flat and warp-free on the platter during playback as well – which isn’t altogether as common as it really should be on new records these days. Mastering is excellent on this release – the soundscape is well balanced and each instrument has its own separate space. Brass crunches just as it should and percussion has a subtle definition to it. This pressing reflects that well, with clean sound free of distortion and with excellent fidelity throughout.

The Packaging:

Packaging is relatively minimalist here, but it is certainly executed well. The album is presented in a non-gatefold standard-width sleeve printed from mid-weight cardstock. While not of an exceptional build quality, it’s most certainly on par with other comparably priced releases from similar labels and it feels entirely solid during handling. Print quality is sharp and high quality throughout; the colours of the beautiful artwork are vibrantly printed and text is well defined. Layout and overall presentation is really impressive as well; the back cover contains full credits for every song – which totals an impressively large number of guest musicians – as well as some general recording information. Spine text is a good size and remains nice and visible even from a distance. The labels are also really attractive on this release, with a retro-styled label design that recalls the layouts found on the releases of some of the classier ’50s and ’60s labels.

Final Thoughts:

This is a great vinyl release of a really interesting, fresh new album. Pressing quality is very solid and packaging is kept simple but very slick.

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 martin.leitch@gigsoupmusic.com – it would be great to hear from you!

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