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 analysing the new Mark Lanegan remix EP ‘Still Life With Roses’.
Earlier on in the year Mark Lanegan released ‘Gargoyle’, one of the best records of an already fertile period in his career. ‘Still Life With Roses’ is a companion piece of sorts – a collection of remixes that amps up the already notable dance and electronica influences on ‘Gargoyle’ and brings them centre stage – to frequently excellent results. It’s an experimental set, certainly, but for those willing to lose themselves in the EP’s seemingly never-ending grooves and trance-like synth bass lines, it’s a joy. Lanegan’s vocals appear here as ephemeral snatches – brief samples of often far larger vocal phrases, stretched out on this release to infinity and beyond. Andrew Weatherall’s two remixes of ‘Beehive’ take Lanegan’s grave refrains and repeat them seemingly ad infinitum, setting the whole thing to a backing of spacey, reverb drenched atmospherics and relentless techno-dub drums. It certainly throws the material on ‘Gargoyle’ into a completely new light and, while it’s not necessarily for everyone, it is great stuff for those who allow themselves to become entranced by the smokey ambience and studious rhythms.
The pressing itself is lovely; our copy is extremely quiet with no surface noise, even on the run-in and deadwax. Our copy is likewise free of pressing defects and, from new, is not only nice and clean but also sits perfectly flat on the platter. Although advertised as an EP, the runtime on ‘Still life With Roses’ is not insubstantial with both sides clocking in at very decent lengths. Although certainly not fleeting, nor are sides overlong here; something of a perfect middle ground is found, in fact, as sides are short enough that sound quality doesn’t take a hit but long enough that the ideas on the EP don’t feel under-cooked. Pressing weight is decent, too – not unusually heavy but certainly not lightweight and the record feels solid in hand. All in all, this is a really nice pressing with lovely playback and good sonics throughout the register and solid representation of both the bass and treble frequencies. See the dub remix of ‘Beehive’ for a solid bass workout, and the piercing abrasion of Blood Music’s remix of ‘Death’s Head Tattoo’ for a test of your speakers’ high end capabilities.
Packaging and presentation on ‘Still Life With Roses’ is both eye-catching and thoroughly minimalistic. The striking monochrome cover art is very appealing and printed with good, sharp definition, however the minimalist aesthetic perhaps goes a little too far with the labels, which are entirely black aside from small A and B indicators and could have benefited from some form of art to adorn them. Regardless, though, the general presentation is attractive, with a clearly printed spine and vivid artistic continuity. The back cover, too, continues the less-is-more aesthetic but it does convey all needed information, so there’s certainly nothing to fault there and the overall impression is one of a sharp and focused art direction. The inner sleeve included is of reasonable quality but non-polylined, so replacing it with a sleeve of your preference wouldn’t be a bad idea in the long run – though, be warned, the download code is attached to the inner sleeve.
This is a great pressing with excellent playback and sound quality. Packaging is fairly humble here but the release’s low pricepoint (£12 from the Heavenly Records Webstore) means that it certainly meets expectations in that regard and the actual art direction itself is very attractive. Sonically it excels, with clean, quiet playback and a dynamic, punchy soundstage. 2017 has been a great year for Mark Lanegan and ‘Still Life With Roses’ seems like an excellent way to continue that.