Sheer quality
Martin Leitch
10:52 7th July 2021

If a record label's chief goal is to cultivate a stable of musical releases bonded by some shared quality - be it sonic, geographical or ideological - then it would seem that few have been more successful than Germany's Analog Africa. Their catalogue - one which, at this point, seems almost overwhelmingly large - can be relied upon to provide a certain level of consistency.

Indeed, if the prospective listener might find themselves enjoying any one of the label's numerous compilations and reissues, then it seems almost certain they'll find the same worth in their entire catalogue. That isn't something that can be said about many record labels - but, then again, Analog Africa doesn't so much represent a business venture as an ethos. The foremost impetus which underpins their every release is to highlight brilliant, imaginative music that has all-too-often gone unheard by global audiences - due in large part to a prior lack of international distribution. Their compilations bring together a diverse range of musicians - mostly, though not exclusively, hailing from Africa - working across numerous decades and a broad range of styles. Indeed, such is the scope of their output that - as often as not - the sole commonality between the acts they tend to foreground is the sheer quality of their work.

If, then, such archival tendencies lay at the heart of Analog Africa's operations, it should be no surprise that they're keen to keep their own ever-expanding back-catalogue in print on vinyl - an admirable aspiration, considering that a number of their scarcer titles change hands for hefty sums. The latest in this series of re-releases is 2013's Angola Soundtrack 2 - a compilation which collates a diverse range of artists active in the titular country between 1968 and 1978. That decade-spanning period of activity evidently bore witness to a truly impressive creative boon in Angola, as the prospective listener will be hard-put to find a single weak track amongst the twenty offered here. As a title which - until recently - would have cost the buyer a considerable sum, it's great to see this excellent compilation back in print and readily available on vinyl once more.

Analog Africa have a longstanding relationship with Optimal Media, a dependably popular pressing plant who - though not above the occasional instance of lax quality control - do tend to produce high-quality output. True to this, both of Angola Soundtrack 2's LPs have been manufactured to very impressive standards, with low noise floors boasting clean sound throughout.

We were unable to discern any surface noise or other audible defects during our playthrough of the compilation and, indeed, even the four surfaces boast the kind of lustrous sheens that are always desirable when examining new vinyl but that are all-too-often lost to the scuffing which can appear on records even straight out of the shrinkwrap.

In the case of our copy, the records were also flat and free of warpage - though such a trait should be commonplace for all new vinyl LPs, it's frustratingly common to find new releases plagued by widespread warping issues; so full marks should be awarded to Analog Africa for applying a rigorous degree of quality control to their Angola Soundtrack 2 reissue. The quality of the mastering is similarly impressive; those already familiar with Analog Africa's output will know that the label never fail to enhance the sonic footprint of their source material and, in keeping with that, this compilation boasts crisp audio with plenty of sonic definition and oomph.

As is the case with any truly great archival reissue label, Analog Africa can be relied upon to place the music they reissue into the broader historical and cultural context from which it first emerged. Reflective of that, a stunning LP-sized booklet is included with Angola Soundtrack 2 - boasting not only numerous images of the artists highlighted on the compilation but also highly informative English-language liner notes which illustrate the broader cultural zeitgeist from which these songs were born. The cover itself is not amongst the most extravagant we've seen for a double LP release - it's a single-pocket, wide-spined design which eschews the gatefold format that most two disc releases adopt. The cardstock used to produce the cover nevertheless feels solid when handled and its print quality is also excellent throughout. To top it all off, a download code is included as a sticker attached to one of the inner sleeves; redeemable through bandcamp, it offers the listener access to the album in a wide range of filetypes.

Angola Soundtrack 2 is another excellent compilation from one of modern music's most consistently interesting archival record labels. That they've taken the time to bring this previously elusive title back into print after years of unavailability is testament to their enduring commitment to the music they've released thus far and the sheer quality control on display here marks their desire to ensure that each vinyl enthusiast gets the best from their purchase.


Photo: Press