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. This time around, we’re taking a trip to Columbia in the late ’70s for a new compendium curated by Germany’s ever-excellent Analog Africa.
The rising prevalence of archival reissue labels has brought with it a number of boons for the modern music industry but chief amongst those is the light that such institutions can shed on music which has tended to slip under the radar. Although – in the case of much music recorded outside of the Western world – the artists, genres and movements highlighted by such archival releases tended to enjoy success in their own cultures, many in the European and North American markets have remained totally unaware of such acts. Reissue labels – including, pivotally, Germany’s Analog Africa – have proven crucial in exposing a new Western audience to such work, their endeavours in unearthing previously unavailable rarities from across the globe every bit as valuable as the actions of those labels who seek out and sign new and upcoming talent. Analog Africa long ago proved themselves to be one of the most vital labels of their kind, their large catalogue one which stretches back over a decade at this point. Their holistic approach tends to find them choosing stand-out cuts from a wide range of acts in a certain movement or genre, in the process shedding light upon often deeply exciting musical worlds largely unheard in the Western sphere. The label’s approach is one which often extends beyond the continent after which they’re named and in the case of ‘La Locura De Machuca 1975 – 1980’ – their most recent release – they lend their focus to Rafael Machuca and his work as a deeply singular risk-taker in the Colombian record industry. Establishing his own label in 1975, Machuca went on to sign a series of innovative bands who bore the vision necessary to blend their native country’s sonic aesthetic with the distinctive rhythms of the African LPs which were proving such widely-loved hits in their nation’s clubs. Looking back upon that label’s distinctive oeuvre over forty years later, Analog Africa deliver a collection of lively and imaginative pieces from a generous clutch of different acts. Those enamoured by the label’s past releases will almost certainly be impressed with this collection and newcomers should also prioritise experiencing this smart, engaging compilation.
Having been in the business of releasing their compilations on wax for over a decade at this point, it should be of little surprise that Analog Africa know exactly how to produce a great sounding record. Long-term readers of Vinyl Corner may well recall that we’ve featured quite a number of their past releases and we have never been anything less than highly impressed with the quality of their wax offerings and the stout mastering provided with each title. ‘La Locura De Machuca 1975 – 1980’ is no exception to this rule, boasting clean sound across both of its LPs and crisp mastering with sound quality which is especially impressive considering the often so-so fidelity of recordings as old as those featured here. Visual inspection of the records reveal lustrous surfaces free of the dirtying which all-too-often appears on new records. Dropping the stylus upon these German-pressed LPs – manufactured courtesy of the sometimes patchy but mostly impressive Optimal Media GmbH – reveals tidy sound with low noise floors across all four sides. We heard barely a crackle anywhere across this collection’s hour-plus runtime and both LPs sat flat on the platter in the case of our copy.
As much of a joy as the all-important musical content of Analog Africa’s releases are, the presentation of their titles can also be relied upon to impress. We’ve reviewed a good number of their past releases here at Vinyl Corner and we’ve always been at pains to accentuate the quality of their packaging and presentation. ‘La Locura De Machuca 1975 – 1980’ is certainly no exception to this rule; offered in a handsome gatefold sleeve, the label’s distinctive visual aesthetic is spread across a cover manufactured from sturdy cardstock which feels weighty in hand and boasts a subtly textured finish. Print quality is excellent throughout, boasting vivid colours and sharp definition; the spine is similarly impressive, with a bold typeface which is enough to ensure that this title will never be difficult to pick out on a crowded shelf. Both LPs come in printed paper inner sleeves; they’re adorned with repeated text which makes for an aesthetically pleasing – if decidedly minimalistic – addition to the release’s overall presentation. Attached to the first of these is a sticker offering a download code redeemable through Bandcamp; the listener can choose from a broad array of file types both lossy and lossless, making this a far superior download option than those offered by the lion’s-share of major label releases. Rounding the package off is an impressive LP-sized booklet, boasting detailed and highly informative liner notes, as well as numerous rare images. It’s additions such as these which help to lend archival albums in the ilk of ‘La Locura De Machuca 1975 – 1980’ some broader sense of social context to those who may be unfamiliar with the music’s incumbent culture. Analog Africa routinely deliver some of the best inserts of their kind with these booklets and the one which appears with their latest title is no exception to that rule.
‘La Locura De Machuca 1975 – 1980’ is another thorough and deeply engaging anthology from one of the best active archival reissue labels currently active. Analog Africa have presented this collection with the same confidence and high-calibre presentation as has come to be expected of their consistently strong work.
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 email@example.com – it would be great to hear from you!