Vinyl Corner : Rob Mazurek & Exploding Star Orchestra ‘Dimensional Stardust’

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 today’s instalment, we’re sinking into the nervy yet undeniably fascinating world of Rob Mazurek and Exploding Star Orchestra.

The Music:

There are a few styles of music that reign supreme here at Vinyl Corner; much as we’re ready and willing to cover anything from acid house to zydeco, more often than not we find ourselves spinning fresh releases from the bustling international jazz and modern composition scenes. This, of course, is no bad thing but it must be said that – as with any genre – it can take a special kind of album to stand out in such numerous company. As an album which straddles both styles – and plenty of others besides – ‘Dimensional Stardust’, the newly-released collaboration between Marfa-based sonic maverick Rob Mazurek and Exploding Star Orchestra, is an album with fingers in numerous different pies. There’re definite strands of the avant-garde in this deeply vivid, immediately attention-grabbing set; the playfully dissonant stylings of Frank Zappa can be heard in Mazurek’s nimble, unpredictable arrangements and, likewise, the woozy rhythmic deconstructions of Moondog are brought to mind at more than a few moments across the length of this forty minute collection. But more importantly than any of that is the fact that Mazurek and Exploding Star Orchestra assimilate such influences into a sonic direction that is markedly fresh, even within the context of the jazz-tinged modern composition scene in which they reside. ‘Dimensional Stardust’ is the work of a set of musicians with a keen desire to set themselves apart from the crowd and, in the process, they’ve produced the single most interesting album of its kind to see release this year.

The Pressing:

It isn’t all too often that we have the pleasure of covering a record here at Vinyl Corner which has been pressed by the German company Pallas. They’ve long set themselves apart from their competitors as the refined choice; the audiophile’s go-to for fantastic sounding records. Their quality control is and has always been meticulous, their decades-long existence lending them a hard-earned experience that comparative newcomers such as the ever-popular Optimal Media GmbH lack. All that, of course, comes at a cost – which is perhaps why many labels instead opt for the services of more popular yet ultimately far less consistent pressing plants, such as GZ Media and MPO. Whilst those plants are certainly capable of producing a great-sounding LP with the right attention-to-detail applied, Pallas’ output is more dependable by far. It’s clear that International Anthem Recording Co. And Nonsuch – who have released this title in collaboration – are keen to represent their output in the best possible way, as they’ve gone to Pallas for their vinyl release of ‘Dimensional Stardust’. True to form, the plant have produced a truly lovely record here; there’s a limited pressing on coloured vinyl for those inclined towards such frivolities but we’re reviewing the standard black wax edition here and, quite frankly, it really couldn’t be better. Our copy sits flat upon the platter during playback and feels fantastic in hand, weighing in at a full and substantial one hundred and eighty grams. The surfaces are equally impressive, with both sides boasting a lustrous sheen which unfortunately can’t be taken for granted when assessing produce from many of Pallas’ competitors. The quality of playback is similarly impressive; ‘Dimensional Stardust’ is a well-recorded album and mastering is no less commendable, lending this engaging, imaginative music a fittingly dynamic soundstage.

The Packaging:

Just as the pressing itself speaks of a great attention to detail, ‘Dimensional Stardust’ stands as one of the most impressively presented titles we’ve reviewed here at Vinyl Corner in quite some time. Presented in a handsome gatefold cover, its broad spine and starkly vivid art direction immediately set it apart in regards to visual presentation. The luxurious, heavyweight cardstock from which it has been produced is similarly impressive; we never pass up on an opportunity to praise the quality of old-school American tip-on sleeves – a rarity in the modern vinyl market – and, true to that, we’re pleased to note that this release appears in one such cover. Long term readers will likely know by now that these no-expenses-spared covers replicate the kind of hard-wearing, high-quality sleeves produced in the US during the ’50s and ’60s but even those unfamiliar with such covers will be able to tell the difference immediately. The record itself is sleeved inside a printed paper inner; rather than including any kind of liner notes or credits, it instead sports an in-house International Anthem Recording Co. design, presumably fashioned after the company-branded inner sleeves that every major record label would produce during vinyl’s halcyon days in the ’60s and ’70s.

Final Thoughts:

Those with an ear for boldly imaginative avant-jazz composers will doubtless be impressed with what Mazurek and Exploding Star Orchestra have achieved with ‘Dimensional Stardust’ and those who wish to seek the album out on vinyl will be rewarded with a unilaterally excellent release boasting some of the highest standards of any moderately-priced single LP we’ve written about here at Vinyl Corner.

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 martin.leitch@gigsoupmusic.com – it would be great to hear from you!