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. Australian composer Luke Howard has released a new LP entitled ‘Open Heart Story’ and it’s the subject of today’s feature.
Neo-classical has enjoyed a huge boom these last few years, with many contemporary composers finding comfortable and successful niches, especially in soundtrack work. Australian composer Luke Howard has put out work at a rapid pace this decade, and ‘Open Heart Story’ marks another solid outing of interest to those with a taste for alternative modern alt-classical.
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‘Open Heart Story’ consists of the kind of nuanced, quiet work that really does need a good, reliable vinyl pressing to remain fully enjoyable. Fortunately, early signs are favourable here; the record is nice and weighty – we don’t know the exact weight but we’re guessing it may well be the full monty at 180gm and, if not, then somewhere not far off. Quality control also seems to have been as tight as you’d want it, as the record sits flat on the platter during playback. It’s also free of pitting, non-fill or scuffing upon visual inspection. We did have a little issue with hairline marks from sleeve removal but that’s more to do with the printed inner sleeve than the record itself (more on that later on). Upon playback, the pressing reveals itself to be solid throughout – the noise floor is very minimal here and run-ins are quiet with no more than a light touch of surface noise that almost entirely disappears during the music. At points we did pick up on the odd crackle here or there and a slight touch of sibilance at the top end of some of the piano parts but, really, nothing here distracts considerably from the music and during normal, less analytical listening any minor flaws we did find could easily pass by unnoticed. A solid pressing, then, with a couple of minor points which don’t mar the overall listening experience.
Presentation is rather attractive on this release, with a sleeve that boasts a clean, minimal layout and an interesting art direction. The sleeve is non-gatefold and, although the spine is only the usual width for such a sleeve, a bold font and monochrome colour scheme ensure that text is easy to make out. All good so far, then, but one problem does lie within the inner sleeve. From an aesthetic perspective it’s a nice inclusion, certainly – giving, as it does, player credits for the whole album as well as artwork – but, unfortunately, as an actual sleeve with which to keep the record safe it’s less successful. As a matter of course, we always store LPs within polylined sleeves rather than printed inners and would always advise this to be done, but in the case of this particular inner we did find initial removal particularly difficult as the paper had a habit of clinging to the record, perhaps due to static build-up. Although we’ve got plenty of experience of properly removing records from inner sleeve (for anyone wondering: always buckle the printed inner so that it bows, theoretically allowing to record to slide out unharmed) in this case even we were unable to remove the record without causing a few light abrasion marks. This is a largely cosmetic concern which didn’t affect playback so it’s not a significant issue but we would certainly have preferred to see the inner sleeve printed on card rather than heavy paper, as card inners are generally less likely to leaving surface marking. Other than that, however, we’ve no complaints in terms of packaging; presentation is slick and a download code is included. Also worth mentioning are the labels, which are refreshingly functional compared with many contemporary releases, which often feature artful but entirely unhelpful labels absent of key information. The labels here are completely different to that, however, with sides A and B clearly marked and a full tracklist for each side also given. All in all, then, we would certainly advise due caution when removing the record from the printed inner sleeve but, other than that, this is a well presented release.
The vinyl released of ‘Open Heart Story’ is solid throughout with a good pressing and attractive presentation. It’s a cinematic slice of modern composition which fans of composers such as Poppy Ackroyd and Max Richter are likely to get a lot from.