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 feature we’re rating the latest effort from long-running American avant-garde group Oneida.
Long running experimental rock outfit Oneida have put out their fair share of albums over the past twenty years and ‘Romance’ is the latest of the bunch, having been released back in March. It’s an expansive double LP that pushes both the band themselves and the listener in almost more ways than can be kept track of. It’s an intense album – many of its songs are lengthy (at times extremely so) and the band take repetition to rare levels of intensity. It’s sonically abrasive, too, jostling rhythms backing up buzzing, frothing synthesizers and harsh drones. Vitally, however, the band manages to rein everything in so that the record retains enough focus to remain engaging. Allow yourself to become lost in the web which Oneida weaves and it’s hard to pull yourself out.
Another Joyful Noise release, the version of ‘Romance’ that we’re looking at is very special indeed. There are a few different colour variants to choose from and, in terms of sound quality, all should be broadly the same but the version we’re rating here is described by the label as “translucent magenta and white vinyl with multi-colored splatter”. If that mouthful of a name suggests something rather extraordinary, then the tag line has done its job. We’ve written about a whole lot of coloured vinyl over the time that this series has been running, but this might well be the single most attractive coloured variant we’ve ever featured on Vinyl Corner. It’s hard to fully do justice to the explosion of colour that constitutes these two LPs but, trust us, they’re extremely pretty indeed. Fortunately, though, this pressing is not simply something to be looked and nothing more. Sound quality and playback are excellent, with dynamic fidelity that represents the blistering peaks and ambient troughs of the album well. The records are both clean, as well, with barely a touch of surface noise between them. A treat for the eyes and ears.
Packaging and presentation are also excellent on this release. The albums are presented in a chunky, thick-spined gatefold sleeve, which also boasts a classy, impactful art direction and a clean, attractive layout. Print quality is good throughout and the hand numbering out of 300 copies on the back cover is also a really nice touch (although, to our knowledge, this doesn’t appear on all versions, just the colour variant we’re looking at here). If we were to bring up a couple of small quibbles, we would say that it’s a little disappointing to find that the barcode is printed directly onto the back cover, as Joyful Noise releases usually have the barcode attached via a removable sticker, which is definitely preferable as far as we’re concerned. The records also come in generic, non-polylined paper inner sleeves, which again is a bit surprising as the label’s releases are usually sleeved in superior polylined inners, but neither of those points are anything close to major problems. The labels look good and deliver all the necessary information (tracklist, side numbering etc) and, all in all, this is a slick, well presented release.
Oneida’s ‘Romance’ is an ambitious, broadly encompassing work and one that is well suited to vinyl as a format. Joyful Noise have done a sterling job of making this vinyl version as visually arresting as it is sonically and playback is similarly impressive.