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 checking out a new collaborative release from prolific US psych-folk collective Woods and long-running Swedish experimental troupe Dungen, released through Mexican Summer.
A meeting of musical minds forged during Mexican Summer’s Marfa Myths festival, ‘Myths 003’ finds members of Woods and Dungen collaboration in what amounts to a loose, deeply laid-back collection of stoned jams and heady atmospherics. Although the collection does feature a little vocal work, the album is in majority instrumental and that’s just as well as it allows all involved to immerse themselves completely into the sonorous overtones and rich ambience of the music. The mood throughout the album is an easygoing one – there’s a nonchalance to ‘Myths 003’ that feels directly influenced by the hot, dry surroundings of the West Texan deserts it was recorded in. No one player on the album stands out and none in the band attempt to steal the spotlight; instead, all adhere to the relaxed sense of forward motion that this collection has buried at its core. Musicianship is relatively unshowy but that’s for the best – first and foremost this is a collection of pieces that promote a strong sense of atmosphere and place and to throw in musical gratuities would simply undermine that core goal. It’s a gently persuasive album and one ripe for repeat listen as we make our way out of winter and into warmer weather in the (hopefully) near future.
This vinyl pressing from Mexican Summer is a very physically sturdy one; when handled, it feels weighty and very solid and our copy sits flat on the platter during playback. It’s free of surface marking from new and looks clean – we did find a little debris and general detritus on the playing surface on both sides but that’s nothing that a carbon fibre record cleaning brush couldn’t remove within a few seconds. Upon playback, we found that there was, unfortunately, some fairly quiet but persistent surface noise over both sides, mainly in the left channel. It was quiet enough that it was by and large inaudible during the majority of the music; during those sections where the music was loud enough to drown out the quiet crackle, listening enjoyment was uninhibited and we had no complaints, with the actual sonics of the album sounding great. However during the quieter parts of the album – mostly the start and end of songs – we could hear some crackle and general surface noise in the left channel, which did mar the experience somewhat, especially given that it remained present throughout the album. Having said that, it was not significant enough to spoil the listening experience and we were still able to enjoy the album, primarily because the noise issues were limited to a low but persistent crackle rather than more obnoxious types of noise interference, such as pops or ticks. While we wouldn’t exactly say this was one of the best examples of quality control on a modern record, we would still say that the crackle is quiet enough to be fairly easy to look past.
Packaging is much as you would expect on a typically priced single LP. The sleeve is non-gatefold and bears a fairly thin spine, the whole thing being printed on normal quality mid-weight card which feels substantial enough despite not being unusually heavyweight. The presentation, meanwhile, follows the rustic charm of the frequently hand-sketched art style found on previous Woods LPs. Although the front cover is a photograph, the back cover and insert are crafted in the style of something hand-drawn and they look really nice. Print quality is fine throughout and the shrink-wrap boasts a large hype sticker giving a small write-up about the album, as well as the barcode – which is great, as it means that the barcode doesn’t have to spoil the art direction of the sleeve itself. Also included is a an A4 insert with photography and some writing; again, print quality is fine but we will say that it is on very light, thin paper and it feels as though it would be easy to damage if not handled with due care. A download code redeemable in MP3 is also included. One definite plus to this release is that the record comes from new in good quality polylined back inner sleeve, which should keep the record in great condition.
Although the surface noise issue stops us from being able to point to ‘Myths 003’ as a truly great vinyl release, it is at least still a solid one that can be enjoyed nonetheless. By and large the breezy ambience of the music remains unaffected and it’s still a worthwhile listen for fans of either band – or, for that matter, anyone simply interested in a collection of relaxed, bucolic psych grooves. Packaging and presentation may not be unusually high quality but it certainly meets expectations given the price point.