Founded in Soho in 2003, Phonica Records quickly became a staple outlet for music lovers, disk jockeys and vinyl fanatics. These ardent champions of a range of styles have gone from strength to strength since establishing their now extensive online presence. They justifiably purport to have stuck to their founding principle of finding cutting-edge music with genuine longevity and purveying it to the masses. After 10 years, the store has lasted incredibly well in such an overpopulated market, so it’s only fitting that they should celebrate their accomplishments with this impressive compilation.
Phonica deliver three CD/LPs, two of which comprise entirely new material, the third being an assortment of re-releases from their own labels. There are some instantly recognisable names on this compilation. Underground familiars are shuffled amongst newer talent. Midland rears his head with a mellow drum and bass number called ‘Play The Game’. Even Henrik Schwarz makes his obligatory appearance with belter, ‘Synthphonica’. Psychemagik’s ‘Triumph of the Gods’ sounds just as good as its name suggests, layering lush strings over a divine drum track. These are contrasted with a few more melancholy pieces from the likes of difficult-to-pigeonhole Dutchman, Legowelt. They even stray into the domain of the all-out crazy with STL’s piece ‘Freaky Fingers’.
Not one track strikes the listener as simplistic, though many are uncomplicated in terms of arrangement. Joakim’s ‘Eahr’ demonstrates, with its simple progression of pleasingly unpredictable musical layers, a theme which runs through all three disks. The carefully mixed and immaculately chosen sounds on each recording are a testament to the artists Phonica have chosen. This selection of Phonica’s best simultaneously manages to visit unforeseen musical ground, as with ‘Chemise Africaine’ by I:Cube, yet also, with tracks like ‘It’s A Lately Thing’ – Massimiliano Pagliara, there is plenty of room for nostalgia – only to be expected from a look back on 10 years of success.
Being London-based, Phonica Records go some of the way to reflecting their city’s multiculturalism. The ferocious tribal drums of Four Tet’s remix of ‘African Drug’ are beautiful and brutal all at once. But plenty of the more relaxed numbers oppose the upbeat. From the laid back house vibes of John Morales ‘Sitting In The Dark’ to the more esoteric ‘Polymath’ by Sad City, there are plenty of opportunities to de-stress. More abstract cuts are a testament to Phonica’s eclectic appeal, such as Juju and Jordash – ‘Quneitre’ and ‘Alpha Marmara’ by the secretive Panoram – an artist steeped in mystery.
What Phonica Records have presented is a far cry from the mass produced, disappointing mimicry that modern electronica can all too often become. This is a carefully selected showcase of some real talent – each track is different, though they all share the same captivating qualities.