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. Today we’re taking a look at an intriguing new release from Mute Records, Daniel Blumberg’s ‘Minus’.
Some may know Daniel Blumberg for his tenure in indie rockers Yuck, or under the array of aliases with which he’s released music in the past. ‘Minus’ is his debut release as a solo artist and it’s an album that packs no shortage of impact. In its own way, it’s one of the more quietly striking albums of 2018 so far – and certainly one of the most unique. Blumberg’s compositional basis on the album may be piano, but washes of fuzz guitar, squealing ambience and scattershot drums firmly unsettle any notions of an archetypal singer/songwriter album before they’ve even had time to cement. These are abstract, impressionistic songs – ones where threads of thought are stretched out to near breaking point, and where repetition is taken so far as to attain a sense of meditative somnambulance. Despite (or, more likely, because of) all that, this is a great record and one which feels artistically self assured. It takes guts to make a record that ventures this far off the beaten track, but Blumberg and his band do it with a scarce degree of skill.
There are two different options for those looking to pick up ‘Minus’ on wax – a standard black vinyl version and a clear vinyl pressing. We’re looking at the clear version here, but both should sound more or less the same. It’s an attractive piece of vinyl, that’s for sure; the plastic used here has produced a milky tone to the colour which looks especially good when held up to the light. While that’s all well and good, the most important thing is surely the sound quality, which is fortunately excellent. The pressing is clean and quiet, with just a very light touch of surface noise audible here and there. It has a low noise floor and playback reveals the album to be free of defects such as pops or clicks. Fidelity is also top notch and the record is free of inner groove distortion or any such similar sonic impairments. Quality control is evidently strong here as there’re no no visual flaws that we could find on either playing surface (although, of course, the clear vinyl would mask scuffs and suchlike anyway) and the record sits flat and warp-free on the platter during playback. A great pressing and an excellent way to hear ‘Minus’.
If Mute Records have taken the time to ensure that the LP itself is well presented, then they’ve clearly put a similar degree of effort into the sleeve as well. It’s a sturdy, good quality gatefold with a decently wide spine that sports a bold, clear font which makes the album easy to pick out, even on a crowded shelf. The striking, tastefully minimalist cover art is excellent and is well produced here, with strong print quality and a classy layout. The barcode is found on a sticker applied to the shrinkwrap, so bonus points for that. The record is sleeved from new in a solid, well made printed inner sleeve which presents further artwork, full lyrics and credits for the album. Although in scenarios like this we would always suggest putting the record in a polylined inner, this is a quality inclusion to the overall package. There’s also a download code included for those who want to have a copy of the album available on-the-go.
This is a really solid, recommended release both in terms of playback quality and aesthetic presentation. ‘Minus’ is an interesting, commendably original record that packs a lot of punch so it’s great to see that the vinyl version of the album lives up to the high bar set by the album.