Retro groove

Retro groove

You often hear audiophiles preaching the vinyl gospel and extolling the virtues of the format; the unconverted can now hear (and judge) things for themselves at LongPlay, a newly opened bar and lounge that will play music exclusively from its library of 3,000 (and counting) vintage records spanning all genres from jazz to Motown, blues to glam-rock, and everything else in between.

Located between Haji Lane and Arab Street, it's the latest addition to hotelier-restaurateur Loh Lik Peng's Unlisted Collection ventures. "There's a certain romantic allure to vinyl; not only does it evoke a sense of nostalgia, vinyl connects a listener to the music in a way that digital sound will never be able to," he says.

The bar's moniker LongPlay is another term for phonograph records and coincidentally, its unit number is 33 - the revolutions-per- minute speed which conventional vinyls are played at. The name is also a play on the space's long-ish layout which comes from two connecting units on Arab Street and Haji Lane.

The wing on the former houses the music lounge where state-of-the-art Wilson Benesch turntables powered by Jadis amplifiers will spin tunes through wide-dispersion ATC speakers - a set-up that is an audiophile's wet dream come true and costs a neat "six-figure sum".

On the Haji Lane end is an open-concept kitchen and bar that will give patrons a full view of the staff in action.

The music is what connects both wings and allows patrons to enjoy a seamless experience at LongPlay no matter which end they find themselves at.

Naturally, the drinks menu is inspired by music with names of cocktails playfully punning iconic musicians or musical works.

They include concoctions such as Rock Island Iced Tea, LongPlay's spin on the classic Long Island cocktail and named after crooner Bobby Darin's debut hit single, Rock Island Life; Hit The Road Jack, a multi-spirit mix that takes its name from the title of the swing standard; as well as Bob Barley and Fred Ast'air'e, two original concoctions inspired by reggae legend Bob Marley and actor-dancer- choreographer Fred Astaire respectively.

Food-wise, the kitchen serves up bar snacks like the two-day marinated deep-fried Buttermilk Chicken; spicy Togarashi Squid that is given an extra kick with Harissa sauce; open-faced sandwich served with freshly prepared spreads; Sweet Potato Chips with yogurt dip; and the all-time favourite Mac & Cheese.

Designed by acclaimed Shanghai-based interdisciplinary collective Neri&Hu, the use of dark wood, steel and concrete gives LongPlay a raw edge while also exuding a cool underground vibe that helps it blend in perfectly with the free-spirited nature of the Kampong Glam enclave.

The leather upholstered seats and vinyl-inspired steel tables give the place an old-school charm, much like the tunes which are mostly from the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

The music is curated by Marvin Kam, a veteran DJ who also runs Third Ear, a consultancy firm that designs playlists for bars and F&B establishments, including those from Unlisted Collection such as Bincho and Esquina in the Tiong Bahru and Keong Saik neighbourhoods respectively.

"The place is like a living room where you can hang out and listen to your favourite records," explains Kam, "It's also for people to reminisce and discover genres like jazz and the blues which you won't normally hear on the radio." Though nothing is written in hot wax (if you must) yet, LongPlay might play a whole album from start to end, or a selection of different tracks from various artistes. It all boils down to the day of the week, the crowd mix and the vibe that is being created.

So step in after a work day and you might hear the soothing strains of Miles Davis's 1959 masterpiece Kind of Blue; but closer to the weekend, expect the "selector" (not DJ) to break out something a bit more uptempo from the likes of David Bowie or The Rolling Stones.

Lest anybody surmise the music might not go down well with the slightly younger hipster set that frequents the neighbourhood, Kam adds, "It's also a great way for young music lovers to come in and discover old music in a new way."

LongPlay is located at 33 Arab Street/4 Haji Lane. For more information, check LongPlaySG on Facebook


This article was first published on Feb 13, 2015.
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