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.
The past few years have seen All Them Witches rise from self-released Bandcamp obscurity to become an underground success with a niche but not inconsiderable fanbase; partially thanks to their rigorous work ethic (the group have released four core albums in the past five years) but more down to simply how good they are at what they do. Trading in a woozy brand of psychedelic blues rock, the group’s latest effort – this year’s ‘Sleeping Through The War’ – sees them tread ground that, although not unfamiliar to those who’ve followed the band’s past efforts, still impresses with it’s heady atmosphere and compulsively gritty licks. The album nods to everyone from The Doors to The Black Angels and whilst the band’s chosen trajectory isn’t unheard of, All Them Witches stand out in a busy field primarily because they know craft far better than many worthwhile but ultimately less accomplished peers. Never afraid to make the most of a good thing, the band here stretch out their often trance-inducing grooves long enough that a salient, convincing atmosphere is built; the 7 minute ‘Alabaster’ stands out as a panoramic highlight but the whole album delivers on the group’s by now signature brew of stoned ambience and dusty, desert rock riffs.
We’re looking at the black vinyl single LP version here; worth nothing as there are double LP deluxe and coloured vinyl configurations available for those who seek such things out. The pressing itself is largely excellent, with clean playback mostly free of any sort of surface noise. Whilst the album is fairly loud generally – certainly loud enough that a touch of noise would likely go unnoticed – there are plenty of moderately quiet passages used to reinforce the album’s drugular atmosphere and it’s in those places that any surface noise be apparent. Luckily, however, no such issues arise and playback is clean and punchy. It’s a very solid slab of wax – we would guess perhaps 150g to 160g – however our copy does have some light edge warping which seems to have led to light ticking for the first few rotations of the disc. This is likely a one-off manufacturing error rather than a consistent issue and a minor enough one that enjoyment isn’t impacted during playback. Indeed, aside from this relatively minor scruple, playback is great throughout and certainly serves as a great way to hear the album. There’s a certain something about the gritty atmosphere that All Them Witches create, in fact, that lends itself well to vinyl and means that this is the ideal way to hear ‘Sleeping Through The War’.
Packaging and presentation is very fetching on this release; housed in a chunky, well made gatefold sleeve, the album’s striking avant-watercolour art looks great and the sleeve boasts a slightly rough finish that adds an interesting textural element to the presentation. The record is housed in a paper art inner sleeve that continues the album’s unique aesthetics; it’s a nice inclusion however in the long run storing the LP in a polylined inner sleeve is advisable. Also included is a download code redeemable in MP3 – a useful addition for those looking to hear the album even when parted from their record decks. One thoughtful choice made here is the omission of a barcode – never exactly a welcome addition to album art, the cohesion of the art direction would doubtless have been rather scuppered by the addition of a big, obnoxious barcode on the back cover, so it’s thankful such an addition was instead relegated to the status of sticker attached to the shrinkwrap.
One of the year’s most striking stoner/psych rock records, ‘Sleeping Through The War’ is a record very much made with vinyl in mind; it’s fitting, therefore, that this a pressing that lives up such expectations. Packaging and presentation is attractive and the record sounds great.