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 the latest in the series we’re looking at hot-off-the-press Finnish jazz, OK:KO’s ‘Syrtti’.
One of the more vital and buzzing acts of the ever-intriguing Finnish jazz scene, OK:KO are a four piece dealing in expansive work which is, by turns, both mathematically complex and emotively rich. Some regular readers may remember that back in November 2018 we looked at another title from Finland’s contemporary jazz movement, Alder Ego’s ‘II’. That album shone in part thanks to excellent saxophone work from Jarno Tikka, and he appears once again on this album – perhaps no surprise given that both are released by the same label: We Jazz Records. Drummer and bandleader Okko Saastamoinen manages to mostly keep the group focused across a selection of original compositions and production is as clear-eyed as the playing is virtuosic.
We’ve been impressed by the vinyl releases we’ve previously reviewed from We Jazz Records, and ‘Syrtti’ is no exception. It’s a quality pressing, plain and simple. The noise floor is low, we didn’t pick up on any pops or clicks and background crackle is kept to a minimum with just a few instances of such noises here and there. A few small imperfections are to be expected, of course. This is a fairly sparse album musically and silence is intelligently used as a compositional tool; it’s as much an instrument as any other on the album, so attempting to press a truly perfect example of such an album is an exercise in futility. Fidelity is excellent throughout on our copy – both sides hit the sweet spot in terms of length, being neither dissatisfyingly fleeting or problematically long. As a result, the likes of inner groove distortion are comfortably skirted around and the dynamics remain impressive as well. One other thing to note is that our copy was pressed in a lovely shade of transparent violet, which looks especially great when catching the light. The black wax should sound equally as good but try to nab the colour version if you can as it does look really great.
Packaging and presentation is solid throughout on this release. The album is presented in a standard-width non-gatefold sleeve, however it is made from cardstock which is a little heavier than usual, giving the release a sturdy feel when being handled. The card is lightly textured, which is a pleasing if subtle touch that goes a good way towards helping the tactile presentation of the release. The minimalist art direction employed here is in keeping with the aesthetic of the music itself and it’s rendered well too. Colours are nice and print quality is sharp. The record is found in a generic white paper inner sleeve which isn’t great quality and does require some care if you want to remove the record safely, so a polylined inner would have been a nice inclusion. Labels continue the clean presentation found on the jacket, with an efficient design that remains both functional and slick. Overall, this a nicely presented release that is both aesthetically pleasing and solidly constructed.
This is a really solid release and one worth checking out for those intrigued by intelligent modern alt-jazz. Pressing quality makes for an enjoyable listen and presentation is humble yet attractive.
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!