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 our latest exploit we’re travelling to the lively Brazilian city of Belém for a taste of its musical produce from 1974 – 1986.
For the past decade or so Germany’s Analog Africa have been one of Europe’s preeminent reissue labels. Their specialty – thorough compilations focusing on the music of Africa and, more recently, South America – has seen them shed light on the rich musical scenes of countries including Cameroon, Cape Verde, Colombia and now Brazil. ‘Jambú e Os Míticos Sons Da Amazônia’ is an ambitious new double LP selection that offers insight into the city of Belém and its vibrant musicality from 1974 to 1986. The compilation has been approached with the same fastidious care and respectful transparency long associated with the label’s releases. Though many of the artists included here achieved success in their home city and country, few of the roster (if any) are likely to rings bells amongst western listeners. That, of course, is only a positive; the music included here offers the chance for revelation – just as so many Analog Africa compilations have before them. This is lively, exciting stuff that’s sure to prove itself popular amongst collectors and DJs alike.
Long-time readers of Vinyl Corner may remember that we featured a handful of earlier Analog Africa releases upon their respective release dates. We were impressed with the sonics and pressing quality of each, noting that every effort had been made to present the often rough, lo-fi recordings that the label deal with in the best possible sound quality. Unsurprisingly, the same can be said here; ‘Jambú…’ boasts a winningly immediate soundstage. These are hardly audiophile-grade recordings but with that sonic grit comes a rough ‘n’ ready realism that suits these energetic songs well. Remastering has polished these songs to their best possible state, although they certainly remain lo-fi. The pressings themselves have been handled by German stalwarts Optimal Media. Always in demand, the factory’s output can be inconsistent at times and surface noise issues are far from a rarity on their releases. However, we’ve yet to hear an Analog Africa release that suffers from such a malady and, fortunately, ”Jambú…’ is no exception. The album is spread over two LPs and, with a runtime a little under an hour in length, this means that plenty of breathing room is left on each side, thus avoiding issues such as dynamic compression and inner groove distortion. Playback is clean throughout, with a low noise floor and tidy surfaces. We didn’t pick up any noticeable surface noise on our copy, which is refreshing considering the amount of new releases over the past few years riddled with pressing defects.
Another area in which Analog Africa have always excelled is packaging and presentation. ‘Jambú…’ does nothing to break with tradition in this respect; presented in a chunky, well-made gatefold sleeve, the art direction is striking and the inclusion of a high quality 24 page LP-sized booklet is a welcome addition. A thick, attractive spine ensures that the album will always be easy to pick out on a packed shelf and the art direction across both the sleeve and booklet present an array of rare and previously unseen images of key figures in the Belém scene. There are also a number of essays written by label founder Samy Ben Redjeb and those who were there to witness the music firsthand. The booklet is a worthwhile inclusion that helps to place the music in a wider context, ultimately adding a degree of depth to this release that puts it in the echelon of the year’s best reissues. One minor complaint would be that the generic inner sleeves are non-polylined; fortunately they’re loose-fitting enough that it remains easy to remove the records inside without damage. Even so, we’d recommend swapping them out for polylined inners of your own. A download code is also included, redeemable through bandcamp in a wide selection of different digital formats.
Analog Africa are an experienced, adept reissue label and ‘Jambú e Os Míticos Sons Da Amazônia’ is further proof of their abilities. Those intrigued by Brazil’s long, rich musical history could do far worse than to look into this release post-haste.
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!