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The Analog Vault
Photo: The Analog Vault

We explore the vinyl scene in Singapore

The vinyl revival proves the adage that old is gold

Cam Khalid
Written by
Cam Khalid

“Put a needle on a circular plastic disc, a motor turns it around a platter, and that same energy gets pushed from the speakers – can’t get that from a bunch of 1s and 0s on your USB sticks,” points Nick Bong who DJs as Bongomann, on the allure of vinyl.

Lossy compression of audio for portable devices results in diminished sound quality. Vinyl uses lossless data compression. Nothing is lost when pressing a record, allowing the listener to appreciate the album as the producer intended.

Gently dropping the needle onto the groove of a record and hearing that initial crackle before the mahogany-rich sound takes over is an ethereal experience music lovers swear by. It escorts listeners through a rapturous sonic journey in a unique, multi-dimensional way.

Buying records is a lost art rarely practised in this age of digital streaming. I started my own journey with an old Revolver by The Beatles. My hunger for more got me digging through crates of records, paving way for a goldmine of hand-me-downs.

The vinyl format was popular from the 50s until the 90s when compact discs and cassette tapes took over. Then came the game-changers: digital downloads. When the vinyl revival exploded in the late Noughties on the heels of the global vintage trend, vinyl sales rose and more stores opened. The global celebration of vinyl resulted in the birth of the annual Record Store Day (RSD) on April 18 in 2008.

“By celebrating the rich history of music through re-issues of key titles, RSD helps the record industry to a certain extent,” says musician Leon Wan.

Photo: The Analog Vault

Unfortunately, Singapore’s vinyl culture is incomparable to cities like London, New York, and Tokyo. “These cities have long histories of music production and appreciation and larger collectors in the city,” explains Sharon Seet who opened The Analog Vault in 2015 after years of experiencing London’s vinyl culture. “Perhaps one way to make it popular here is to create the culture of wanting to explore different types of music and for record stores to facilitate a safe space for people to discover them,” adds Leon.

This brings us to The Analog Vault’s latest project – TAV Records. Launched recently, it marks the store’s foray as an independent record label for artists to explore the vinyl format for their musical releases.

The Analog Vault carries jazz, electronic, hip-hop, funk and soul, and other eclectic sounds by the heavy-hitters as well as underrated artists. “The reception (of the store) has been overwhelmingly positive,” beams Sharon.

Photo: CK Teo

One such loyal customer is CK Teo who started collecting in 2011. “I am deeply in love with the vinyl format as it offers a warmer sound. It’s also become the greatest bond between my son and I.”

CK usually buys new titles online and used records in physical shops. He has an estimated 6,000 records, all lined on his custom-made shelves. His most treasured records are the Peel Sessions, live recordings of John Peel’s radio show with bands like The Cure and The Smiths.

When you collect, you’re not just buying music. You’re making an investment where you can sell for more. Which begs the question: will CDs eventually become as collectible as vinyl records currently are?

Music makes the world go 'round

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