Counter Culture: London's Phonica Records

Counter Culture: Recommendations From London’s Phonica Records

You walk into your local record store and head straight to the unsorted New Arrivals bin. Flipping through seemingly endless copies of ‘Rumours‘ and ‘Aqualung‘ in hopes that someone sold their textured sleeve of ‘Unknown Pleasures‘ to make rent. The girl behind the counter catches your disappointment as you reach the end of the bin empty-handed (again) and the conversation turns to The Cribs’ new release ‘24-7 Rock Star Shit‘. You snatch it up, head home, drop it on the turntable and immediately say, “She was right, this is badass!” If you have a favorite record store you’ve experienced this conversation a million times. If you haven’t we give you our next episode of Counter Culture.

Phonica Records is hyped as London’s leading vinyl specialist, and that may be true, but word on the street is that Phonica is one of the world’s most formidable dance music retailers. Based in Poland St, Soho, the store opened in 2003 and quickly became an institution in London. Phonica is one of the few record shops that has not only weathered the changing seasons of music and vinyl in particular but has continued to grow stronger. Dig deeper below the surface and you’ll find that Phonica manages a variety of in-house record labels and hosts numerous in-store events ultimately hinting at their larger cultural influence across the capital.

Staff recommendations are key to some of the best music finds, and who’s more qualified than the experts at a London vinyl institution?

Let’s hear which records Phonica’s staff want you to check out today…

Zazou Bikaye CY Noir et Blanc Counter Culture: London's Phonica Records

Zazou / Bikaye / Cy 1 – Noir Et Blanc

 Alex – Label Manager

Choosing just one record for this feature seemed like an impossible task, I mean, where to even begin? So I’ve been racking my brain trying to decide on one. In the end, after narrowing down to a handful of potential records, I dropped them all when I got news of a long-awaited repress of one of my favourite albums.

‘Noir Et Blanc’ is a fantastic melting pot of ideas from the minds of legendary French musician, writer and producer Hector Zazou, Congolese singer Bony Bikaye and modular synth duo CY1. While it was hardly overlooked at the time, receiving widespread critical praise and the group touring the world afterwards, it became somewhat tricky to track down on vinyl, with copies trading hands on Discogs for up to £90.

Thankfully Marc Hollander’s Crammed have done the right thing and gone back to this incredible fusion of futuristic electronic rhythms, african spoken word and song, all masterminded by the ever-experimental Zazou. It’s hard to pick one track from the record but I’ll go for the one that first put me onto it in the first place, ‘Lamuka’.

It’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Zazou, so if this has peaked your interest, I strongly recommend diving in his back-catalogue, with records like the amazing ‘La Perversita‘, ZNR’s ‘Barricade 3‘ and number of albums on Made To Measure well worth tracking down. Enjoy!

Dinosaur Kiss Me Again Counter Culture: London's Phonica Records

Dinosaur – Kiss Me Again

Juan – Marketing Manager

What can be said about Arthur Russell that hasn’t been said yet? One of the greatest. Although classically trained, Arthur’s main legacy belongs in the dance genre. Classics like ‘Go Bang!’ and ‘Is It All Over My Face?’ are worldwide hits and still played to this day. His innovative, leftfield dance records were really far ahead of his peers’, and we are talking about one of the most prolific and influential periods of dance music: New York’s downtown avant-garde music scene in the late 70s and early 80s – check Tim Lawrence’s latest book for a great insight on this crucial period.This one is a collaboration with The Gallery and Studio 54 resident Nicky Siano. You can feel the DJ’s touch on this clearly dance floor focused track yet it has enough arrangements to distress any modern producer. My favourite mix is Arthur’s remix as Dinosaur L on the B side of the 12” version of the first US pressing, the 12:42 one. In typical Arthur’s fashion, his mix is a bit messier and lose than Jimmy Simpson‘s on the flip. Works a treat on the floor and makes me want to buy a bass every time I play it.

Human Software El Voyage Counter Culture: London's Phonica Records

Human Software – El Voyage

Callum – Logistics Director

A good friend gave me this record and said one of the tracks reminds him of me, but he told me this when we were drunk and I can’t remember which one, so listening back makes me wonder what he actually thinks of me… some of it sounds like it would fit right into the KLF‘s chillout album while other parts sound like a Nash the slash fiddle freak out. Dreamy Dutch pop (with great artwork too!) what could go wrong eh?

Womack & Womack MPB Counter Culture: London's Phonica Records

Womack & Womack – MPB

Tom – Post Master

This record has been in my wantlist for a long time and I finally acquired a copy from Japan this week. Only two versions of this single contain a ‘Paradise Ballroom Mix’, courtesy of one Frankie Knuckles. Perfection.

Thread Goldhawke EP Counter Culture: London's Phonica Records

Thread – Goldhawk EP

Soho – Content Manager

A project close to my heart, Reach Recordz is a label that I established in 2017 to put out music by friends that I was really into. Already on the second release by the duo Thread, who were also responsible for the first release on the label. This second EP that I’ve chosen by Thread has 4 distinctive tracks, everything from cosmic dreamy techno through to deeper and subtler tracks. Something for everyone.

Pick up these Phonica Records staff recommendations in store, or shop wax at Phonica Records on Discogs!

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