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. Somalia is the destination this time, as we take a look at fascinating new release compiling work from funk greats Dur-Dur Band.
Dur-Dur Band are one of those acts almost heaven-sent for reissue labels such as Analog Africa, who have released this new compilation. Well respected in Somalia but largely unheard elsewhere, the group released a wealth of genuinely fantastic music on cassette throughout the ’80s and into the early ’90s, before splitting up. To those of us for whom the band is an unknown quantity, it’s somewhat revelatory to hear their first two albums (compiled here in full, Volume 1 over the first LP and Volume 2 spanning discs two and three) – full, as they are, of dense, deeply rhythmic grooves, luscious melodic stints and powerful delivery from male and female vocalists alike. Check out ‘Jubba Aaka’ for a showcase of what the group did best – tight, driving rhythms over which delay-drenched vocals lead the charge while brass and guitar melodies weave around them. Dur-Dur Band were far from one trick ponies, however, and ‘Volume 1 & Volume 2’ goes a long way towards demonstrating the diverse influences on the band. There’re a few moments of psych-drenched, funky reggae going on here and even a few eerie, melodic ballads here and there. It’s great to see the band’s work given a new lease of life by Analog Africa.
‘Volume 1 & Volume 2’ is a triple LP and, as mentioned before, the first album covers LP 1, whilst the second album covers the remaining 2 LPs. Clocking in at about an hour and fifty minutes, each side averages around 18 minutes – which is about ideal. Any less and the sides would feel fleetingly shortlived and, although it’s possible to fit comfortably more on a side, you do risk loss of fidelity by doing so. The music is, to a certain degree, innately lo-fidelity; however efforts have been taken to remaster and polish up the sound and they have paid off well. Sound quality is really solid considering the equipment and circumstances under which the albums were recorded and, due to the comfortable side lengths, sound quality remains as good as it could ever be. There’s not a touch of distortion, compression, sibilance or frequency loss due to overcrowded grooves from overly long sides – so top marks there. The albums were pressed by German juggernaut Optimal Media, and we have to admit that they’ve done a superb job here. No doubt thanks to a rigorous test pressing process, playback is wonderfully clean across all six sides. We did not pick up on a single pop or click across the entire course of the nearly 2 hour compilation, and our copy was also free of anything more than the faintest background crackle here or there – which is largely unavoidable. Vinyl weight sits, by our estimate, at around 120 grams or so – we’ve certainly felt heavier records from Optimal, but these are still solid enough and this is really not an issue, as weight doesn’t affect performance or sound quality.
In the past when we’ve written about Analog Africa releases, we’ve always been particularly impressed with the quality of their packaging and presentation – ‘Volume 1 & Volume 2’ is no exception. Housed in a high quality, thick gatefold sleeve, the first LP is slipped into the first pocket while the next two are slipped into the second. While a fold-out triple gatefold sleeve would have been great here, it would have considerably raised productions costs and this is a reasonably priced released considering all the effort that’s gone into it, so we understand why they went with a traditional gatefold instead. It’s well manufactured, with solid cardstock and really nice print quality throughout that bares both excellent image definition and strong, vibrant colours. The spine is excellent; boasting both bold, eye-catching text and a pleasingly chunky width. There are no inserts here, but lengthy, in-depth liner notes are spread across both of the inner-gatefold panels. This makes for a enlightening read and is tightly penned, so full marks as per usual to the label for including some high-quality supplemental reading.
Analog Africa’s latest release is another fascinating title from an ever-intriguing label. It’s one that showcases a dynamic, powerful band who have, until now, never really gotten their due amongst Western audiences. Hopefully that’s all about to chance, however, as Dur-Dur Band’s ‘Volume 1 & Volume 2’ is a really exciting, immediate piece of 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 firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!