17 April | Places

We spent an afternoon at Phonica Records, exploring a world of vinyl, hidden in the heart of Soho.

Phonica RecordsFounded in 2003, Phonica, a record store in the heart of Soho, has already seen a lot of change in the music industry. When they opened their doors 13 years ago, the music industry was entering a state of flux in which it still exists today. The talk was of doom and gloom and record stores, so the experts suggested, would soon be a thing of the past.

Fast forward to the present day, and record stores like Pie & Vinyl in Southsea have taken the concept on and made it viable again. Shops like Phonica have helped boost vinyl sales to the point that, once again, vinyl is a genuinely popular medium in which to buy music. 

We headed into town, Johnson watch on our wrist. The first thing to say is that, regardless of your musical taste, record stores - and Phonica in particular - are fascinating and peculiarly beautiful places. They are little microcosms of a larger world, and simultaneously suggestive of an entire universe waiting to be explored.

We saw pale-faced bedroom producers flicking quickly through records. We saw muscular gym bunnies posing and browsing. We saw more records than it is even possible to listen to, and all just asking to be discovered.

There is, for the uninitiated, a feeling that record shops are the last preserve of the pretentious muso, a sort of modern day Wild West Saloon bar where the music stops when someone unsuitable pushes through the swing doors.

That may have been the case in the past. It may still be the case elsewhere, but not at Phonica. It's not a tourist spot, but it is a place to browse and people-watch and snoop. The staff are friendly and passionate, the atmosphere relaxed.

Whatever the myriad reasons for vinyl's resurgence - sound quality, a desire for a tactile music experience, a rebellion against the growth of digital-only consumption - as long as there are places like Phonica, then the music industry, at street level at least, is in rude health.

Whether the world of dance music is known to you or not, if you're in Soho soon with half-an-hour to spare, pop inside, and marvel at the sheer architectural achievement that is that many records assembled in one place. Just don't ask if they've got any Lighthouse Family.