Vinyl. You can tell as soon as you walk up to the Henry Hotel cottage where Back2Mono, arguably the most exciting collector’s event of the quarter, is set up. “Nasa harap mo” is one way a friend and digger puts it, that aural presence of the medium, membranous and immediate.
Upstairs there is a high-end audio system set up around a sofa set; Back2Mono feels like crashing someone’s jams night. DJ and collector Shigeki Fukuda, one of the organizers, tells me that that is exactly the feel they want going. Like having friends over, on top of the great titles on display and on sale.
There are three rooms to the event. The first sells Japan-pressed records. The second holds albums on sale by This is Pop!, that Legazpi Village refuge for vinyl-heads set up by the patron of all vinyl-heads, former rave instigator and Terno Records honcho Toti Dalmacion. The third shows music documentaries and concert videos from the personal collection of the third organizer, collector Hiro “Chiga” Kaneko.
The rooms are small but each one is its own time sink, where browsing a crate of records creates a kind of mental hedgerow of wonder (“Wow, Black Flag – The First Four Years!”) and regret (“Damn, I don’t have enough money.”) It’s all a strange combination of cozy and intimidating—thus nothing like the cold, impersonal air of a record store at the mall.
I suspect that the best picks were snapped up the day before I came over. Henry Hotel is already a picker’s haven, with the pop-up shops tucked away in this urban refuge where one can still get a glimpse of the old Pasay. It’s a nice choice for a venue because it evokes the emotional drive of the hobby.
Vinyl collecting used to be a niche thing, with the distinctive Japan-pressed red poly-vinyl records being the holy grail of aficionados. And it’s easy to see the appeal. The records are as much artifacts of design as mere media for songs. See the album art. See the personality of the formats, from the mellow 7’s to the serious 12’s. See the character of each turntable, from the all-business modern direct-drives to the belt-driven relics lovingly maintained by their owners.
Finding records used to be an involved effort too. One had to brave cramped thrift shops, obscure stores, gritty back alleys. No wonder the term is “vinyl dig.”
The medium recently entered a second golden age, thanks to the persistence of collectors and, to a certain degree, the disposable income of hipsters. In an earlier conversation, Fukuda told me that vinyl’s comeback is good not only for the medium, but for the appreciation of music in general. “Because you can’t just click and skip songs, people tend to listen to the whole album,” he said.
It’s a resurgence not only in terms of collecting, but producing. From veteran mainstream acts Pedicab to underground agit-prop cadres Killratio, local artists have been releasing vinyl-only records. And with turntables of varying quality readily available, the medium is no longer quaint throwback but viable distribution channel.
Which is great news for people who are looking to starting their own collection. The Back2Mono guys tell me there’ll be more pop-ups in the coming months. Follow their Instagram and Facebook pages so you don’t show up late and unprepared like I do.
Back2Mono is on Facebook and Instagram at @back2mono.mnl.