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 revel in a highly unique new vision – Felbm’s ‘Tape 1 / Tape 2’.
Dutch multi-instrumentalist Eelco Topper has previously released music under the pseudonym of Falco Benz, but his latest project comes into the world under a new moniker – Felbm. A unique project by any measures, ‘Tape 1 / Tape 2’ is an album of genuine substance, and one which lives far beyond the simple novelty of the concept it works around. A fully instrumental selection of 15 pieces, ‘Tape 1 / Tape 2’ compiles together a titular duo of previous digital-only EPs into a single full-length album. Brimming to the very top with unique ideas and florescent, vivid sonic concepts, ‘Tape 1 / Tape 2’ feels both very conceptual and very inspired. It is mood music in the best possible way; the album’s various soundscapes are often ephemeral – sometimes greatly so – and Topper leaves himself only just enough time to paint an evocative picture of a place or feeling before the music fades out of view. It’s beautiful stuff – engaging and distinctive both melodically and texturally. At the same time, its grooves and melodies remain low-key enough to serve as the accompaniment to some other activity just as well as they work when they’re the centre of the listener’s focus. There’re elements of ambient, jazz, electronica, post-rock and even kosmische here, but ultimately it’s a unique vision and a highly intriguing record.
Like so many modern labels, the UK’s Soundway Records have opted to go with the services of Germany’s Optimal Media for the vinyl release of ‘Tape 1 / Tape 2’. In a recent feature on Fufanu’s ‘The Dialogue Series’, we noted with some small surprise just how good that Optimal-pressed LP sounded, especially considering the plant’s (at times) patchy track-record. Well, it’s possible that they’ve turned over something of a new leaf, as this is every bit as impressive in terms of playback. The noise floor is minimal to the point of being practically inaudible, and playback is very clean indeed. While calling any record “perfect” would be gung-ho to say the least, we will at least concede that there is very little to find fault with on our copy. There’s not a pop or click to be heard, and nor are there more than a few audible crackles. Even when cranking the volume, only the most minor and infrequent of flaws can be heard – which makes for a really impressive listen throughout, especially considering how quiet much of the music is. Fidelity is also top-notch at all points across the two sides; although 15 pieces are spread over just one LP, each track is quite short and side-lengths remain brief enough that inner groove distortion is comfortably skirted around.
Packaging and presentation is quietly classy on this release. The art direction is as minimalistic as it is slick, and both the front and back covers bear different artwork intended to represent the separate “tapes” included on the album. Although the music itself bears no overt links to Asia, there are definite nods towards Japan in the aesthetic presentation, including a few instances of Kanji. The most obvious tribute is the inclusion of a faux Obi strip on the artwork. From the stock images we’d seen online, we had assumed that an actual paper Obi strip would be included in the package, however, in reality, it’s actually printed onto the artwork itself. To be fair, that assumption came from us and was never hinted at in press materials, so perhaps we were expecting a bit much. While an actual Obi strip would have been a nice addition, this is still an interesting concept and a not unattractive addition to the overall presentation. The sleeve itself is a single-pocket affair printed from normal, mid-gauge cardstock. It’s not unusually sturdy, but nor is it flimsy by any stretch of the imagination. Print quality is sharp throughout, and the pale reds and greens look really nice. A big bonus is the inclusion of a generic black poly-lined inner sleeve, which is highly protective and a refreshing addition to the packaging. No download code is included, but those ordering the album from the Soundway Records website will apparently be getting a free MP3 or WAV download with the order.
This is a really great release, both in terms of the high quality pressing and the music itself. The art direction is tasteful, and there’s little to fault with the way the release was packaged, either. Those with an ear for experimental yet mellow soundscapes and instruments really should check this album out, as it’s great stuff. The vinyl version offers the definite way to hear it, as well.
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!