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Bangkok's vinyl renaissance: 7 vinyl purveyors pushing an audiophile philosophy

The city's become a vinyl hotspot with listening bars, venues & a pressing plant

  • Rory Kirkham
  • 30 October 2020

The Renaissance was a period of prolific social change across Europe, widely considered to have taken place between the 14th and 17th century. Following the Middle Ages, the continent experienced a rebirth, spurred by the rediscovery of classical art, philosophy and literature. This thinking manifested itself in the form of cultural, political, artistic and economic revolution and the world has never been the same since. For over a decade, the music industry has been experiencing its own renaissance in the reemergence and rediscovery of vinyl as a popular medium. Globally we've seen more labels and venues returning to records as a direct result to cater to this demand. In fact, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), 2020 marks the first year that vinyl has outsold CDs since 1980. This continued embrace of the original music format has also spilled over to the expanding market of listening bars, a demand for Hi-Fi audio sound systems and huge growth in the boutique rotary mixer market — the latter two both due to their ability to complete analogue delivery chains. Bangkok is a prime example of this upward trend, with Hi-Fi listening bars, records shops and even vinyl pressing plants popping up on the scene. Here we present you a short list of the top places in the Big Mango to satisfy your audiophile indulgences.

1 Biscuit Bar & Café

Located in Yarowat's bustling Soi Nana is where you will find this vinyl friendly gem in the form of Biscuit Bar & Café. Highlights of this venue are its analogue based Hi-Fi sound system on which DJs play their records on a Taula Rotary. What you get is a fully analogue chain from record to ear, creating a superbly warm listening experience that provides a hair raising ‘จุใจ’ or ‘satisfying’ experience. Couple that with the close seating and a well-lit space and you have the recipe for a quality mixing pot of strangers to interact with each other. Did we mention all the furniture is handmade? The venue tops their Hi-Fi analogue audio delivery off with tasteful music selection, comfort food and refreshing drinks. A who’s who of Bangkok’s top selectors are on rotation including Tek Harrington, Takamichi, Roni Slama and Mike 'The Butcher' Allin. Genres are wide-ranging and include jazz, soul, funk, disco and deep house, and always stray from anything commercial.

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2 Siwilai Sound Club

If you take Japan's Hi-Fi listening bars, mix it with New York's jazz clubs and sprinkle that with a Thai garnish, you end up with the mixture for Siwilai Sound Club, which we recently discussed in length here. Tucked away in Soi Charoenkrung near the Chao Phraya River, this audiophile’s wet dream is one of Bangkok's newest additions. This venue is tantalizing to multiple senses in that it combines high-end audio delivery with a beautiful aesthetic. The venue features two floors: the downstairs catering to live music with a focus on jazz, and the upstairs a diggers musical paradise. We can thank Konichi Nomura’s Japanese design company Tripster Inc. for the elegant interior, having converted a classic shophouse into a chic music lovers paradise. Devon Turnbull of Public Records NYC notoriety is responsible for the sound build, which pairs OJAS speakers with a classic Urei 1620 mixer. This is not a nightclub experience, booming subs and dance floors are instead replaced with well-designed seating and a perfectly balanced audio spectrum.

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3. Studio Lam

One of Bangkok's oldest vinyl friendly institutions, owner Maft Sai curates a program that features a variety of sounds ranging from Thai Molam to disco to reggae. His worldly tastes can be attributed to his other business, Zudrangma Records, which is located just a couple of doors down from the venue. Studio Lam is a venue for music that exists on the industry's fringes as opposed to the mainstream. The warm wood interior and quality sound insulation combine to offer a splendid listening environment and warm atmosphere all in one. Patrons can be found clustered around the bar or grooving on the dance floor while sipping custom Ya Dong (herbal Thai spirits) cocktail, the venue’s speciality. The music format here takes many twists and turns, playing home to famous residents The Paradise Bangkok Molam Band as well as regular parties from Slum Disco Soundsystem, Nite Ride and Quay Records. The venue has even played host to some notable artists including a packed house that spilled into the streets for Onra, and a speaker blowing evening with the founders of Boiler Room.

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4. 12x12

Another Bangkok institution for vinyl friendly patrons in the know is a hidden treasure called 12x12. This quirky Japanese bar resides in a sneaky sub-soi of Thong Lor — blink and you might miss it as you drive by. But party goers and promoters have been choosing this safe haven for its warm atmosphere, cosy vibe and friendly owner Hiroshi, who is constantly playing with their sound system to deliver a unique audio experience. The music can be darker and more experimental here with edgy promoters like 555, Transport, Final Frontier, Music Makes Me High and Giant Swing playing everything from disco and house to leftfield techno. A favourite among expat teachers and younger party going Thais, 12x12 serves up some of the most reasonably priced beers and mixed drinks on the scene. For a taste of Japan, select one of their shōchū cocktails, a mix of Japanese spirits and juice or soda. On occasion, the venue even opens in the daytime allowing promoters to organize long-running events with a broad range of genres being presented. Notable guests have include DJ Bowlcut from Seoul and Licaxxx from Tokyo.

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5. Strange Fruit

Located in the hip and central Thonglor district, this bar puts the emphasis on music selection with a regular rotating list of DJs spinning — you guessed it — vinyl. Operating out of the former Sugar Ray house, an ultra-cool yet under-the-radar cocktail bar, and found in combination by DJ Tob, DJ Aopsher and local rapper TwoPee, the genre focus ranges from funk, soul, R'n'B and hip hop, but always with a classic edge to it. The venue feels more like you are hanging out at a friends house as opposed to a bar, and that’s a welcome addition to the nightlife spectrum. The venue displays a quality selection of records while rotating DJs who bring their own collections along with them. The single-page cocktail menu simplifies your choices but offers enough variety to keep picky drinkers satisfied. They also house a decent selection of beers if that’s more to your palette. With Bangkok's top hip hop DJs on rotation, like Tob, Mud Nasa and Aopsher, there's really only one appropriate word to describe Strange Fruit — swag.

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6. Iconic Studios

Pushing the vinyl movement forward requires more than just places to play records and that's exactly where Iconic finds its niche. The four-floor venue houses a DJ school, an equipment shop, a record store and a wide range of high-end sound systems listening rooms to choose from including Urei and Funktion-One. You can learn how to scratch from Thai Red Bull 3Style champion DJ Bomber Selecta or learn the art of mixing vinyl from venue owner KK. Lessons are available in all ranges from children to adults and beginners to experts. If you need equipment then step into their shop for a range of Pioneer DJ controllers, CDJs, mixers, turntables, needles, headphones, control vinyl and the like. All the bits and pieces you need to build your set-up can be purchased here. They even offer a range of used equipment on rotation. To top it off, the venue is also the distribution hub for Funktion-One sound sales and rentals, powering events such as B2TG Festival, Disco Diaries, Wonderfruit and just announced for Mystic Valley Festival. The space is always changing and in constant flux, but if you are a lover of vinyl then this is a must-stop destination in Bangkok.

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7. ResurRec Vinyl

One of Bangkok's single greatest accomplishments in this vinyl renaissance is the creation of the city's very own boutique vinyl pressing plant located in the outskirts of Bangkok. Thailand now houses the only vinyl press outside of Hong Kong in Southeast Asia and that is no small feat. On the city limits, you can find the warehouse where they press everything from classic Thai records, Thai bands, rappers and even some electronic music releases. Everyone from TwoPee to Srirajah Rockers are currently pressing the releases here with mastering services also available. ResurRec also specializes in colour and splatter vinyl pressing, to add a unique touch to your release. The space has also recently been used as a recording space for the P14 Podcast Series as well as a venue for the Esc. crew's all-vinyl party featuring DJ Dragon, Fishmonger and Slum Disco Soundsystem.

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