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. Following on from our previous Vinyl Corner feature, in which we looked at a recent release from German reissue label Analog Africa, today we’re focusing on their new title – ‘Mogadisco’; a selection of Somalian music released between 1972 and 1991.
A little over a year ago, Analog Africa released one of the best titles in their sizable and highly consistent catalogue. It was a collection of works by Somalian funk institution Dur-Dur Band; a roaring success in every regard, it offered an insight into the work of a classic group from the Horn of Africa and demonstrated to Western listeners that the country had much to offer in tight funk and trance-inducing reggae prior to the country’s crippling civil war. A new various artists compilation, ‘Mogadisco’ sees the label return their focus back to Somalia while broadening the scope. This a seventy minute overview of the country’s varied musical output across a near two decade period of time. ‘Dur-Dur Band’ are present here – and account for three of the album’s twelve tracks, no less – but a broad selection of pieces are included to offer a glimpse of the country’s often exhilarating musical history. There’s a wide array of pieces here, from reggae epics and kitschy DIY-funk-pop to sultry stompers. Despite the eclecticism of the material included, the sequencing is such that the material falls together with plentiful cohesion. As a sibling and unofficial follow-up to Analog Africa’s ‘Dur-Dur Band’ release from 2018, ‘Mogadisco’ expands upon the scope of its predecessor by offering a compelling sense of variety; as a standalone release, it is no less of a joy.
With some seventy minutes of music spread over two LPs, both discs are short enough to avoid issues such as inner groove distortion and sibilance. Indeed, the sound quality is admirable throughout. Often originally recorded to cassette, these tracks are somewhat lo-fi to begin with but, as per previous Analog Africa titles, every effort has been made to polish these recordings up and the results are impressive considering the age of the tapes from which they have been mastered. The records themselves have been pressed by German industry titans Optimal Media. Although the bulk of their output is solid, they have been known to produce some noisy pressings, so it’s always with a degree of caution that we approach their work. In the case of Mogadisco they’ve produced a respectable set of pressings, although not a flawless one. The first LP does bear some minor surface noise at a few points throughout but we didn’t find this to be intrusive and the second disc is cleaner, offering a smooth, unobtrusive noise floor and clean surfaces free of sonic ailments such as crackling, pops or clicks. The records also sit flat upon the platter and appear clean from new, being free of the marks left from dirty stampers that appear on far too many new releases now. The wax itself is roughly mid-weight; though not a full 180 grams, the discs still feel sturdy in hand when handled. Rounding the package off is a download code redeemable through Bandcamp – the perfect accompaniment to records at a time when many major labels are ditching such codes in the face of tightening purse strings. Redeemable in practically any format imaginable – from lossless FLAC and WAV though to high-quality MP3 – this is yet another sign of the care put into each Analog Africa release.
Those already familiar with Analog Africa’s output will be unsurprised to learn that packaging and presentation is excellent on this release. The album is presented in a high quality gatefold sleeve with artwork designed to resemble some half-forgotten cassette tape of yore. The art direction is vivid, with plenty of rare images included in relatively high quality. A 16 page LP-sized booklet is also included; in addition to highly revealing liner notes from label-founder Samy Ben Redjeb, there are intriguing newspaper clipping and images of the groups reproduced. These booklets are an Analog Africa staple and, in the case of ‘Mogadisco’ as much as any of their other titles, highly embellish these already admirable releases. The paper stock is high quality and the print quality, too, is excellent. The jacket itself is a bulky gatefold affair; once again well-printed, the cardstock is good quality and the spine is thick, with vivid colours and bold typeface helping the album to standout on even the most packed of shelves. The label designs are also appealing, combining the label’s classy logo with a clearly marked track listing. The records are found in generic non-polylined black sleeves; they’re reasonably good quality and the LPs can be safely removed without too much trouble but, as always here at Vinyl Corner, we’d advise swapping them out for more protective polylined inners.
Those intrigued by Somalia’s compelling musical past would be foolish to skip over ‘Mogadisco’. It offers a revealing insight into the country’s varied musicality and, what’s more, it does so in real style. Presented with typical aplomb, Analog Africa have done an admirable job of making this a package for collectors to salivate over and the records sound great as well. Miss at your peril.
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!