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 compilation of heady Turkish psychedelics and swirling traditional folk.
It’s a great time to be a Westerner intrigued by music made outside of Europe and North America. A whole raft of labels – some longstanding, some new – have sniffed out the current boom in demand for rare non-Western music and been quick to satiate that demand, producing some genuinely excellent compilations and reissues in the process. A new addition to this blossoming reissue market is ‘Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976 – 1984)’ – a compilation of heady, exciting Turkish music. As the title hints, this is the latest release from Uzelli records – a label that has been an Anatolian institution since it was first established in Germany in 1971. The label has a gargantuan catalogue but the vast bulk were released on cassette, having only ever subsequently been issued digitally. ‘Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976 – 1984)’ cherry picks a few select cuts from their library, offering a rich insight to creative high-times for Turkey during the late ’70s and early ’80s. The saz – a traditional Turkish instrument – takes centre stage here, its distinctive tone a defining characteristic of these tracks.
Uzelli may not be prolific advocates of vinyl, but they have certainly taken every precaution to ensure that ‘Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976 – 1984)’ is an auditory pleasure. This is a very well pressed slab of wax that benefits from an evidently high level of quality control. It’s a weighty disc, probably a full 180 grams by our estimate, and it also looks great, boasting a high sheen – something that unfortunately can’t always be relied upon with modern pressings. It also sits flat and warp-free during playback, which – again – is frustratingly not a given with many new releases on wax. The visual signs are certainly promising, then, and the quality of playback is no less impressive. There is barely a lick of crackle anywhere on our copy; the noise floor is low and surfaces are consistently clean, offering an unobtrusively tidy soundscape over which the music can ring. Perhaps inevitably, some of the tracks here err towards the lo-fi. The sound quality is certainly more than presentable throughout but there’s a touch of analogue crunch here and there. While that certainly doesn’t make for an audiophile listening experience, it’s unobtrusive and arguably even lends a certain charm to these raw, passionate recordings.
If the quality of the record itself sets a high benchmark, then it’s one that the packaging and presentation has no trouble matching. Despite being only a single LP, ‘Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976 – 1984)’ is presented in a beautiful gatefold sleeve. The spine is thick, the presentation is arresting and the layout is distinctive. When so many double (and, at times, even triple) LPs are presented in cheap, non-gatefold covers, it makes for a refreshing change of pace to see such a high quality cover here. In addition to a memorable front cover, the inner gatefold spread is put to good use, showing images of the eight artists featured on this compilation. Some of those portraits are a little on the grainy (or, in one case, pixilated) side but images of the artists are probably scarce so this is understandable. There’s a small barcode on the back cover and, if we were to nitpick, then it would have been nice to have seen this placed on a sticker on the shrinkwrap but it is small and relatively discreet, so this isn’t a significant issue by any means. The spine text is chunky and colourful, helping ‘Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976 – 1984)’ to stand out even on a busy record shelf. The impressive level of care put into the presentation continues with the inner sleeve, which contains insightful liner notes written in English. They’re a welcome inclusion which help to place these recordings into a cultural and historical context, although we would of course recommend to sleeve the LP itself in a generic polylined inner for safekeeping. Not content with including just a printed inner sleeve, Uzelli display a rare commitment to high quality presentation by including a second insert, which helpfully shows the original artwork for the cassette releases that this collection was compiled from.
We haven’t seen many moderately priced single LPs this impressive in a long time here at Vinyl Corner. The packaging and presentation goes above and beyond in order to inform those of us with little to no prior knowledge of these excellent recordings, and the pressing is just as impressive. ‘Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976 – 1984)’ comes highly recommended from us.
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!