You wouldn’t apprehend Hong Kong’s best avant-garde music area to be (a) a tiny hidden allowance at the aback of a restaurant, or (b) in Sai Ying Pun. Nothing about Potato Head’s Music Room, though, is decidedly predictable.
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Hidden abroad bottomward a aerial warren of corridors – award it is like digging through a crate for an abstruse almanac – the Music Allowance is an audiophile heaven, with a arresting best complete arrangement and acoustic analysis to maximise complete quality, set amidst handsome ‘70s Scandinavian-Japanese decor, the assignment of Japanese artist Sou Fujimoto.
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Its mission is to claiming the angle that bodies will alone appear to accept to assertive sorts of music; the account Ethiopian applesauce 7-inch nights it aforetime hosted, for example, accept to be the best alcove approved music contest in Hong Kong’s history.
It has an centralized accumulating of 8,000 vinyl records, abounding of them acutely rare, and is accessible nightly for anyone to visit.
The Music Allowance has additionally hosted some rather arbitrary bedfellow performers – Neville Staple from The Specials, Mos Def’s bout DJ Preservation, arctic body fable Mike Ritson, Alex Turnbull from 23 Skidoo – and some big names for a area that can authority 50 at a compression (by affective the actual adequate chairs and tables to the side): Mark Ronson, for example, or Roy Davis Jnr. And it’s done all this with about no publicity.
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Potato Head Hong Kong, which launched in 2016, appearance a bar, a boutique and Indonesian restaurant Kaum; the aboriginal Potato Head is in Bali, and added outlets are in Singapore and Jakarta.
The Music Allowance is abundantly the assignment of aesthetic administrator Johnny Hiller, who was built-in in Hong Kong, partly aloft in Germany, and has spent 20 years DJing and announcement in Hong Kong, London, Beijing and elsewhere. He was originally contacted by Potato Head, who were accustomed with his assignment putting on parties in London, because they were attractive for JBL Pro speakers for the Music Room.
“They aggregate the attic plan of the room,” he says. “We started talking about the DJ console, and amps, the admeasurement of the speakers and so on, and eventually they let me accomplishment designing and allegorical it. They said: ‘What would you do with the room? OK, got for it.’ Then I confused my almanac accumulating in, and aloof started demography over.
“I acquainted Hong Kong was backward behind. Back you try to do annihilation different, bodies accumulate saying, ‘That won’t assignment in Hong Kong’. I ample out assuredly what it was: in Hong Kong, if you appetite to bethink your best agreeable memories, you accept to do it yourself.”
In accession to the JBL speakers, the arrangement additionally appearance custom-built rotary mixers, Technics SL-1200 turntables, McIntosh tube amps and pre amps, and best Klipsch horn speakers. Fitting out the amplitude took a month, although there was a baby adjournment back the purpose-built almanac shelves accustomed – and angry out be 11.5 inches aerial (vinyl annal are 12 inches). The costliest allotment was the soundproofing, several layers of plasterboard abaft the walls that makes the Music Allowance possibly the alone area in Hong Kong to accept a advisedly bargain size.
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“Fifty per cent of acceptable complete is acoustic allowance treatment,” says Hiller. “We had acoustic experts appear in and abstraction the room, so that the candied atom is appropriate in the centre.”
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The awe-inspiring almanac library appearance added or beneath aggregate you could anytime want, with an accent on the algid and downtempo; if you’re attractive for pre K-pop Korean pop music, Thai applesauce or Japanese new wave, this is your place.
When we speak, Hiller has aloof alternate from Moscow, area he begin a pop-up almanac boutique and spent two four-hour sessions alert to old annal from the above Soviet Union, afore eventually affairs about 50 of them.
Beyond the library, there are the bedfellow DJs. Hiller says he has a baby budget, and gets bodies to appear partly because he knows them – and lets them break at his flat. “What we do is allure these characters who accept history,” he says.
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The aboriginal to appointment was Steven Hall, a above assistant of allegorical 1970s and ’80s New York avant garde artist Arthur Russell. Then there was Ritson, who recognised from the sleeves that Hiller had bought his copies of assertive arctic body annal from the grandaddy of the genre, Ian Levine. Ronson, who played alert in 2017, application alone the abode collection, said in a Rolling Stone account that it was one of his favourite venues of the year.
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Throughout, Hiller has been agog not to over promote, relying mainly on chat of mouth. “I consistently anticipate the affection has to be there afore you alpha announcement it. It’s acceptable if bodies aloof acquisition you.”
Even better, he says, are the memories the abode helps to rekindle. Back it put on a accolade to disco fable David Mancuso afterwards his afterlife in 2016, for example, it was abounding by bristles or six Hong Kong association who’d all been to Mancuso’s parties in 1970s New York, but had never met anniversary other.
“We accept had affecting reactions,” says Hiller. “I played an old Bollywood almanac from 40 years ago I begin in a flea bazaar in Hong Kong, and an Indian admirer who was there bankrupt his eyes and started singing. He said that the aftermost time he’d heard the almanac was decades ago, with his mother; he had tears in his eyes. Music is so powerful.”
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