Record store lockdown: UK and Singapore

These are difficult times for record stores around the world. On Cosmic Jazz we have always supported independent shops and suppliers. For them, Record Store Day is an important event in the calendar but this year the scheduled date of 18 April passed by with online orders only. Although a new date of 20 June has been scheduled, it’s unlikely that this will be able to be celebrated worldwide. For this post, Derek and Neil have selected three suppliers – for Derek that means two record stores in East Anglia, UK and one online record supplier while for Neil it’s three record stores in Singapore.

Steve’s Jazz Sounds has been a great supporter of the show over many years. It’s an online order source for many types of jazz but has a particular specialism in East European and Scandinavian jazz. Here you will discover many exciting artists you may never have heard of before and you will soon learn that excellent jazz is produced in countries all over Europe and beyond. We’ve found that out for ourselves and have made many discoveries resulting in artists that we now feature regularly on the show. Steve also runs an online soul music store too – not unsurprisingly called Steve’s Soul Sounds – with a similarly eclectic mix of music.

Derek has been a regular visitor to Soundclash in Norwich, a thriving independent record store. Currently closed as a result of the Coronanvirus outbreak, online orders can still be made through the website. Soundclash stocks a wide selection of left field music and vinyl is a speciality. The owner Paul has run the shop since 1991, working in another independent store before then. He has a wide knowledge of the music and is great at tracking down records not in store. Check out the queues outside the shop from a previous Record Store Day!

We last featured Vinyl Hunter on Cosmic Jazz in 2016 not long after the store had opened. Established by Rosie Hunter, it’s a family run record store and cafe. Following the success of the original store in Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, Vinyl Hunter now has three outlets with a further store at the family home near Colchester and an urban specialist store in Tottenham, North London. All the staff are enthusiasts who love the music and it was, for example, quite a surprise to find such a rich selection of Brazilian vinyl in the Bury St. Edmunds store. Again, the shops are closed for now but online orders is the way to go. Vinyl Hunter also stock a range of turntables and vinyl systems, including from UK turntable specialists, Rega – based locally in Essex.

Meanwhile, in Singapore the interest in vinyl probably never went away. When he arrived here in 2016, Neil was involved in supporting a new listening cocktail bar called LongPlay. Located in the hippest corner of the city, LongPlay was the vision of a local hotelier and record collector and boasted an excellent sound system. Sadly ahead of its time, it became an (excellent) Japanese restaurant last year. But there are dozens of thriving record shops in the city and Neil has visited most of them. Some are dedicated to ‘previously loved’ discs while others focus on new vinyl and may well stock turntables or include a cafe too.

Neil’s favourite place to spend an afternoon is The Jazz Loft – a specialist jazz floor in the excellent Retrocrates vinyl store. Owner Cliff Yeo opened up The Jazz Loft in 2018 and this section specialises in jazz vinyl both old and new. If you’re looking for the best selection of classic jazz labels like Blue Note, Prestige, Muse and more then this is the place to come. Cliff is incredibly knowledgeable about jazz and makes regular forays to Japan’s independent record stores to replenish his stocks. There’s a current focus on the Blue Note Tone Poet and Blue Note 80 series of reissues, which we have promoted in Cosmic Jazz recently.

Like some other good record stores in Singapore, Cliff can provide new vinylistas with a complete turntable set up, again focusing on the excellent Rega turntables. The atmosphere is chilled and designed to focus on the music. You literally kick off your shoes (no outer footwear is allowed in the store) and enjoy the great music on a good playback system. Of course, like all the record stores we are focusing on in this feature, the Coronavirus outbreak has ensured that The Jazz Loft is currently closed but if you visit their Facebook page, you’ll currently get a daily update on what Cliff is playing at home along with a little of his jazz knowledge too.

One of the most high profile record stores in Singapore is the Analog Vault, located in the Esplanade concert hall complex. The Vault has a superb playback system – including a Linn LP12 turntable and Audio Note amplification and speakers and so you’d expect a good range of audiophile labels on display. Established by Singapore businesswoman Sharon Seet in 2015, the store also has occasional DJ sets and hifi promotions. If you’ve got a vinyl addiction, then the Bencoolen and Coleman Street areas of the city make good places to start your crate digging but, if you’re after a good coffee and an excellent choice of new hiphop wax, then head for Choice Cuts, the brainchild of DJ collective Matteblacc. It’s just up the road from The Jazz Loft and there’s also a good selection of contemporary jazz, Brazilian and African vinyl too. DJ Drem also cooks up some fine DJ sets, exhibitions and live bands.

London and other European cities have seen the recent rise of the jazz kissu – a longtime feature of life in Tokyo. We have featured these specialist jazz bars previously on Cosmic Jazz (see here) and have also included a recent Japanese jazz playlist, but you can also check out the excellent Tokyo Jazz Joints site for more on this deep aspect of Japanese culture. If you’re looking to find a good jazz kissu in London then try Brilliant Corners or Spiritland, which has recently expanded to include an outlet on the South Bank arts complex. For similar music bars around the world, check out those listed in this feature in the UK’s Independent newspaper.

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