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 checking out a new soundtrack release from Tangerine Dream’s Thorsten Quaeschning .
The soundtrack of director James Dylan’s recent indie thriller, Thorsten Quaeschning’s ‘Cargo’ is a set of well paced, carefully constructed electronic pieces running the gauntlet from taut electro to sweeping, panoramic ambient. It’s a selection of compositions that form a salient, powerful atmosphere all of their own. Fans of Quaechning’s work, both in and out of electronic-innovators Tangerine Dream, should look into this post-haste.
This pressing is released by something of an unknown quantity for us, Invisible Hand Music. Online we could only find mention of a handful of releases from them over the past few years, and this is the first release from them that we’ve heard. Despite their lack of reputation, this is a solid product with impressive credentials. The deadwax tells us that the album was mastered by Miles Showell at Abbey Road, which should be enough to tell the eagle eyed that this is going to sound good. The album’s sonics are really crisp here; at points, ambient rumbles befitting of Quaeschning‘s Tangerine Dream roots shift and murmur in the background whilst at others the album rumbles along in a blast of techo-influenced assault. It’s a winning combination and, from a sonic perspective, this pressing lives up to that nicely with good clarity and strong fidelity.
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The album clocks in at not that far shy of an hour but despite this, it’s only spread over one single LP. Especially in the modern age when it’s not all that unusual to see forty minute long albums spread over two LPs, it’s rather surprising to see that Invisible Hand have opted to press the whole album on just one disc. Although the resulting pressing is still solid, there are definitely some downsides to the decision. Both volume and dynamic range suffer considerably from the length of each side, which is a largely inevitable side-effect of the sheer amount of music contained on each side (both of which last the best part of half an hour). The grooves are so tightly packed in, that volume is definitely subdued here and to achieve the kind of loudness many prefer to listen to their music at, the amp has to be cranked to such a point that normally unnoticeable surface noise does become more apparent.
Dynamic range is also not ideal on this pressing, with what should have been hugely dynamic, nuanced pieces at times sounding a tad flat, despite the fact that the mastering itself – at least as far as the clarity and fidelity are concerned – remains well executed. It’s far from a poor pressing and the results are actually fairly impressive given the excessively lengthy sides but neither is it ideal and, although we often find ourselves wondering just how many modern double LPs are little more than cash-grabs, in this case a double LP would have been more than justified. On the plus side, the retail price for this release remains highly reasonable from what we could find – and one definite advantage comes with the fact that such lengthy sides allow the persuasive, singular atmosphere of the album to really establish itself, without the interruption of changing sides every 12 – 15 minutes. Still, although this remains a worthwhile pickup for fans of Quaeschning, we would have rather had the album spread over two LPs at a little extra cost, because it doubtless would have sounded better.
Packaging and presentation is largely in-line with what you would reasonably expect from a fairly low-priced single LP. The sleeve is non-gatefold and printed on moderately light card but it’s still sturdy enough, and print quality is fine throughout. It would have been nice had the barcode been put on a sticker as the large one printed on the back cover doesn’t look great but that’s small potatoes really. The inner sleeve is an unusual one; it harkens back to the days of company-specific inner sleeves with a mid-weight paper die cut inner featuring the Invisible Hand logo. It’s not all that great an inner sleeve and it’s likely to lead to surface scuffing if used repeatedly (as always, we’d suggest storing the album in a polylined inner of your choice) but it’s certainly a quirky, interesting touch.
All in all, then, the vinyl pressing of Thorsten Quaeschning’s soundtrack for Cargo is something of a mixed bag, but the overall impression is generally fairly positive. While it would certainly be a push to refer to this as anything close to an audiophile pressing, neither is it a poor one. Considering the length of the sides, it’s impressive that the sound quality remains as good as it is and, although the stirring music’s impact is dulled somewhat by the record’s muted dynamics, it is still easily enjoyable. While we perhaps wouldn’t point to this as an exceptional modern pressing, those interested in the film or in Quaeschning’s work in general could still do far worse than picking this one up.