Modern Vintage #1: *shels ‘Plains of the Purple Buffalo’ Vinyl

The Vinyl disc for sides C & D of 'Plains of the Purple Buffalo'

So here’s the first of our new series of Modern Vintage:  a series of articles dedicated to the ‘vintage’ format of vinyl as adopted by the ‘modern’ artist. It also serves as an excellent excuse for me to play with my instagram app for an actual purpose. This isn’t just a review of the album, it’s an M&S review, and by that I mean we talk about the presentation as much as we do the taste. And then we talk about the sound because vinyl doesn’t taste half as tasty as it sounds.

For the first post I chose to discuss one of my favorite albums of late, which truly does sound so much better and, for lack of a better word, right on vinyl : ‘Plains of the Purple Buffalo’ by *shels.

To get your first indication as to the nature of this album you need only look at the beautiful cover and the album title.

'Plains of the Purple Buffalo' cover

The simple images and purple centered colour scheme give a real sense of unity to the album art, as well as that it elicits a sense of warmth and optimism which is something I always associated with *shels music. Their songs so often make me feel euphoric in an almost melancholic way. I’m not sure if that’s deep and insightful or just an insight into my own tortured pysche…but either way it sounds pretty cool. As does every song on this album.

Tracks such as the heart wrenchingly beautiful ‘Butterflies on Luci’s Way’ only benefit from the warmth and depth of the vinyl sound when compared to the compressed digital versions, in fact this is so much the case I find myself ripping the vinyl version of the album to MP3 to put on my iPod just so I can get something closer to the sounds I hear when watching the purple discs spin on the turn table. The sparse lyrical content is one of my favorite aspects of this album, which given I’m a vocalist myself strikes me as somewhat odd, but you don’t need a thousand words when ten will say just as much. That is just one of the more unique dynamics to be found in *shels music, its rare to find acoustic guitar, brass sections and female vocals in the company of post-rock crescendos, walls of guitars and the occasional ferocious screams. Thus this an LP that feels truly organic and human in nature, nothing seems forced, or overtly digitized and yet the album’s production is every bit as professional as the modern music world, especially that of alternative music, requires.

Speaking of organic I love the spidery writing that composes the albums credits and track listing, that resembles the hair that covers the buffalos that plaster the cover of the LP. But the intricacy of the text belies the more chaotic nature of it as well. A perfectly apt analogy for much of *shels music, regardless as to whether its deliberate analogy or just a coincidence of aesthetics.

The album credits for 'Plains of the Purple Buffalo'

Track listing for 'Plains of the Purple Buffalo'

Hopefully by this point I’ve entirely convinced you that this vinyl version of ‘Plains of the Purple Buffalo’ is an incredible piece of art, and more than a collection of sounds. It’s an album in the sense ‘Swordfishtrombones’, ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, ‘Live and Dangerous’ and ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’ is an album. And it looks prettier than any Jewel case or Digi-pack that I can think. Certainly better than a string of 1s and 0s. I can’t think of any higher praise than that.

I belive there are still limited numbers of this LP available from the Shelsmusic website online store. Click here to be taken to the store. And click here to ‘like’ *shels on Facebook and here to ‘like’ Shelsmusic on Facebook to be kept up to date on thier future releases.

C.McMillan 

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