A Splendid Spectrum of Colors
Updated: Jul 29, 2021
By Derek Howie
If you think all records should be black, then you had a better look away now. LOL! I am only joking. There are a few oddities here on black vinyl on display. As an ex-DJ, it would have always been the preferred colour if there was a choice. It is easier to see the grooves in low light. The science says it is inherently tougher than the other colours, as 'carbon' is an ingredient in the dye and obviously used at its highest ratio in the darkest shade.
As with all our articles on The Vinyl Hole, we try to cater to all levels of collectors, from entry-level to the ancients. Using some of my own records, I will run through some of the different patterns of coloured vinyl, and techniques used to create some of these stunning-looking effects that you will hopefully look out for when next record shopping.
In my younger record-buying days, coloured vinyl was truly few and far between. This was in the 1990s, the decade of full-time employment and the beginning of this encompassing hobby for me. Although my first coloured-vinyl came out of the Grunge & Alternative Rock scene, these simple, single-coloured releases look bland compared to the myriad of multi-coloured discs available today. Back then, these were seen as being unusual.
Therapy? 'Teethgrinder' [Purple 7"] 1992: Paw 'Jessie' [Transparent Red 12"] 1994: Jacob's Mouse 'I'm Scared' [Transparent Green LP] 1993.
Some often talk about the decline in records being released during the 90s and 00s. On the contrary, my own Discogs collection catalogues a very steady influx. For the next 3-decades, all manner of DIY labels flourishes in the deeply unfashionable and largely disrespected movement of 'Dance Music.' As a genre with music from hundreds of sub-genres and styles being released weekly meant there was enough demand that shops could solely specialise in it. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of records, I bought across the underground sounds of early Rave, Techno, I.D.M, Ambient, D&B, Hardcore, Trance, House, Breakbeat, or Trip-Hop very few was not a black disc; however, I have found some.
Caustic Window 'Joyrex J5 EP' [White 12"] 1992: Alex Party' Red My Lips' [Transparent Red 12"] 1994: The Orb' Tower Of Dub/The Blue Room' [Lime Green promo 12"] 1996
V/A' Primate Endangered Species' [Blue Marble 12"] 2001: V/A' Funky Monkey Vol.1' [Green 12"] 2002: Traxster' Flashbacks' [Grey 12"] 2002.
Ultra Naté 'Get It Up (The Feeling)' [Lime promo 12"] 2001: Lars Klein' Wooden Man' [Grey 12"] 2002: Pounding Grooves & RAW 'Dismembered' [Grey 12"] 2003.
A decade on, and records were still a part of my life, like thousands of other amateur DJs. Practicing 'mixing' routinely had earned a regular weekend DJ appearance and slots at Free Parties and working up to owning a trio of 1210s and fancy Allen & Heath mixer, with a Record bag full of 12 "s of 4/4 beat-lead Techno/Hard House/Trance records and 'Locked Grooves' and 'DJ Tools' discs. The glut of records available was still unreal, and I know most of you outside the scene will be largely unaware of the magnitude of this culture on the industry's production side. So, before anyone believes that they stopped pressing records in vast numbers during 1990-2010, then think again; there must be billions and billions of discs, yeah billions of Dance 12s in existence?
V/A' Ergonomic 004' [Black 2x12": 50 Locked Grooves] 2001: My own promotional DJ-Mix CD: V/A' Endless House Tools 4 of 9' [Black 12": 60 Locked Grooves] 2003
The post-2010' Vinyl Resurgence' and a new reliance on the use of The Net have certainly increased the marketplace and availability of all music. Techno and the other 'Electronica' genres of my heart are no different. If anything in the digital domain, it has thrived. With the demand was still there for records, buying directly from the artist was not seen as being only 'for trainspotters' now! Provided you were willing to pay the taxes and shipping, and you could get stuff from anywhere.
Cleared 'Cleared' [White LP] US 2011: Odonis Odonis' Hollandaze' [White LP] Canada 2011: Lorenzo Senni 'Superimpositions' [Silver Metallic LP] UK 2016:
I still only found very few coloured-vinyl were being released, but that was changing. Independent artists were now utilising websites like Bandcamp to integrate music & merch, with digital streaming & downloads and to physical formats. Soon, new things like 2xLP with differing-coloured discs started appearing. I thought this was a great way to prove that certain colours do not sound any better or worse than others. In fact, the Throwing Snow 2xLP album (center photo) instructs the user to mix (play) the record sides in order of A, C, B, D, A, C, B, D, A..... A truly continuous loop of music; fantastic!
Grey Branches' Lower Bounds E.P.' [Transparent Orange 12"] 2014: Throwing Snow' Embers' [Transparent Red & Transparent Orange 2x180g LP] 2017: Stranger/Umwelt' Rave Or Die 13' [Red/Black Marble 10"] 2019.
Nowadays, it is the opposite in terms of coloured-vinyl pressings. A monumental explosion has taken place in the amount of new and old music be released and re-released only on coloured vinyl. Much to the sully of audio purists, it is more unusual to find a new release that has been pressed solely on black vinyl. A minefield of variants in a splendid palate of colours and combinations to choose from that mirrors the number of rumours and myths that circle the Internet on the quality of these so-called 'modern vinyl' or 'digital vinyl' coloured discs. It is important to remember that most records made post-1990 will have been recorded initially digitally or processed with, mastered for, remixed in, some sort of computer.
To show how far my relationship with coloured vinyl has come negatively, I was a little disappointed with one of my most recent coloured additions (below-left photo). Elder' Reflections Of A Floating World' is a stunning album I have coveted but only Streamed since first hearing it a couple of years earlier. Unfortunately, however, I had failed to find any of the 12-different US multi-coloured pressings and had to settle for my least preferred option, the only European pressing from Germany that came in a plain seafoam green colour; at least I know when I buy another pressing, it will be one of the more vivid variants; you should check them out on Discogs!
Elder' Reflections Of A Floating World' [Seafoam Green 2xLP] 2017: Daniel Avery' More Light' [Milky Clear 10"] 2021: Man Of Moon' Dark Sea' [Grey Marble LP] 2020
Clear/Crystal-Clear – You might not know that the material records are made from, which we call 'vinyl' (often referred to as PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride), is clear. A coloured dye is added to it at the manufacturing stage to give its base colour.
Here are some of my clear and crystal-clear records. Some regard the pure, undyed material as the best sounding, while others openly stay away from clear vinyl pressings. As I do not ever recall having to return a faulty record, I honestly believe that it is not the material at fault but the pressing itself because there are vastly different options.
The S.L.P.' The S.L.P.' [Clear LP] 2019: 65daysofstatic' replicr,2019' [Clear LP] 2019: Odonis Odonis' Hard Boiled Soft Boiled' [Clear LP] 2014
Solid Colour – This one is the most common variety available due to, as I said, you must include black vinyl here. Pressed from a single solid-coloured piece of molten plastic, also known as a 'puck.'
The Amorphous Androgynous 'We Persuade Ourselves We Are Immortal' [Black LP] 2020: B12' Electro-Soma' [Orange 2xLP] 1993: Polinski' Labyrinths' [White LP] 2011.
Transparent Colour – Made in the same way as solid-coloured records but lowering the ratio of dye to base PVC gives you a see-through, transparent effect.
Chapterhouse' Blood Music' [Transparent Red 2xLP] 2020: Sleep' Sleep's Holy Mountain' [Transparent Purple LP] 2017: Tiny Fingers' Megafauna' [Transparent Orange LP] 2016
The reason I am aware of the ratio of colour dye to base PVC construction is that I own an initial solid black pressing with a manufacturing defect. This US 12"-single was supposed to be a standard black vinyl press, but as you can see from the middle photo, by shining a torch from behind, it is ever so slightly transparent. This flaw is not unique to this release. I am aware of a few others that this has occurred to.
The Stone Roses 'I Wanna Be Adored' [Black 12" Manufacturing fault] 1989.
Colour on Colour – A very seldom seen version. Simply, a small piece of contrasting coloured vinyl is placed in the centre of the 'puck,' then pressed to give a rather unusual look. This is the only one of these variants I have.
Gideon 'Cold' [Transparent Blue Green and Black Colour on Colour] 2017
Marble Colour – By under-mixing, a few dark coloured pellets to a lighter base colour gives you this subtle ripple effect.
Moon Duo' Occult Architecture Vol.2' [White/Blue Marble LP] 2017: The Dead Weather' Dodge And Burn' [Yellow/Black Marble LP] 2015: Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow' Annihilation' [Purple/Blue Marble 2xLP] 2018
Splatter Colour – Made by coating the molten base colour 'puck' with coloured-pellets just before pressing. The heat and pressure melt them together to form that unique splatter effect.
Saturndust' RLC' [Red, Black & White Splatter LP] 2020: Monolord 'No Comfort' [Halloween Orange and Swamp Green Merge with Metallic Gold, White, and Orange Krush Splatter 2xLP] 2019: Wooden Shjips' Shjips In The Night-Live In San Francisco, June 8, 2018' [Translucent Purple and Electric Blue with Coke-bottle Green, Milky White and Ultra-clear Splatter LP] 2019
With such a huge demand for the format, pressing plants are coming up with new coloured variations and patterns all the time. Here are just a few of the more interesting combos I have received over the last few years. But, of course, the more you look at something, the more you see.
Galvano' Trails of The Serpent' [Gold/ Black Haze LP] 2015: Monolord' Fairies Wear Boots' [Red/Black Marble single-sided 12": etched B-Side] 2019: Ancestor 'Ancestro' [Black/Green Liquid LP] 2020
Metallic colour – I have recently obtained a few of these rather stunning-looking variants. A clever technique of using two similar shades of PVC with metallic gold/silver/bronze dyes. The result is a clever, molten-metal effect.
Liquid Colour – Again, the fluid-like appearance on what I think should be called Liquid Colour has become a firm favourite to my eyes.
Double Circle – Another new coloured-variant
Run The Jewels 'Run The Jewels 4' [Magenta & Gold Metallic 4xLP] 2020: El Jefazo' Simbiosis' [Black/Blue Liquid LP] 2020: Gideon' Out Of Control' [Green & Blue Double Circle Vinyl] 2019.
There are plenty of other variations out there that I must find, be on the lookout for records pressed into 2 or 3 distinct sections, known as Bi or Tri-Coloured pressings. Unfortunately, they are quite a scarce occurrence, and you never know what you will find behind the next record in those crates and racks. Speaking of not knowing what you will find next, if you head over to our Facebook page, The Vinyl Hole, you will get some exclusive "Bonus Content."
Words and photos by Derek Howie.