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. Following on from our focus on Alder Ego’s ‘II’ during the previous Vinyl Corner, this instalment finds us rating another release from Finish label We Jazz: Otis Sandsjö’s ‘Y-Otis’.
The debut LP from saxophonist and bandleader OtisSandsjö is an intriguing and distinctly modern proposition. It’s unmistakably jazz, but so too does it reference the annals of electronic music, hip hop, glitch and even post-rock. Strikingly eclectic, the album feels notably composed and the pieces are too short-form to allow for significant improvisational stretches. At the same time, this purposeful, almost academic approach doesn’t, for a second, stifle the energy of the musicians. Drummer Tilo Weber’s stick work is frankly incredible – his playing boasts the kind of undulating tempo and fluid yet complex beats more likely to be found on an Aphex Twin record than your typical jazz LP. Many of the instruments here feel processed to a degree, filtered and oscillated until they take on an undeniably unique newfound textural dimension. It’s a salient brew of wide-ranging influences, and they coalesce to form an album which is too idiosyncratic to quite fit into any one style. That’s for the best, though, as much of the most stimulating music out there is inherently difficult to pigeonhole.
In our last Vinyl Corner, we looked at Alder Ego’s ‘II’ and noted just what an excellent pressing it was. ‘Y-Otis’ shares a couple of things in common with that album – a record label and a pressing plant, to be precise. Both albums have been released by We Jazz, and both have also been pressed by the same plant. While we’re not sure on the name of the establishment or where it’s based, we can say with certainty that they know how to press a good record. The LP itself is in the region of 140g grams by our guess, so it’s sturdy in hand. More importantly, however, it is also very clean, both in terms of playback and visual appearance. Both sides are free of surface marking, scuffing, hairlines or fingerprints – none of which, of course, should be on a new record, but unfortunately do appear all too often on titles from certain pressing plants. The LP also sits flat on the platter during playback, so it’s all good from a visual perspective. How about playback? Fortunately, that holds up very well too – the noise floor is minimal to the point of being barely audible, even during run-ins. Playback is also free of interruptions such as crackle, popping or clicking. We did pick up the occasional bit of static noise in the background here and there, but that’s almost impossible to avoid and didn’t mar enjoyment in the slightest. We’ve heard far less impressive records manufactured by far larger plants, so kudos to whichever company produced this, as it’s a great pressing.
Packaging errs on the minimalistic side with this, but presentation is still attractive here. The artwork fits the mood of the music well; once again, it’s distinctly 21st century in its direction, and both print quality and colours are really sharp and vivid. A hype sticker bears a brief write-up about the music and the barcode and, as we’ve discussed before on Vinyl Corner, it’s always a positive when the UPC is kept away from the sleeve itself and is instead stickered onto the shrink. The sleeve itself is a single-pocket, pretty standard affair. It’s solidly constructed, but not unusually so; text on the spine is small by necessity, but remains clear enough to be distinguishable. The inner sleeve is a generic, non-polylined one, which is a bit of a shame. We would recommend caution when removing the record, as such sleeves can leave abrasion marks if due care is not taken. We would also suggest storing the LP in a polylined inner to retain the abundant sound quality that we were so impressed by. The labels also earn marks, both for presentation which is in keeping with the sleeve, and for providing all the necessary information. Rounding the packaging off is a download code redeemable through Bandcamp. This is a always a plus, as Bandcamp offer a veritable smorgasbord of different options, including more lossless file types than you can shake a USB stick at. We were also pleasantly surprised to find a download code included at all, as we’ve noticed a definite decrease in the amount of new releases including them over the course of 2018, even when compared with 2017.
Otis Sandsjö’s ‘Y-Otis’ is a unique and vibrant record. We Jazz have done a great job of doing the album justice, with a really clean, nice sounding pressing. While the packaging is possibly a little barebones, the presentation is tasteful and slick enough to placate any concerns.
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!