Sonic Sanctums: Amit & Aneesh

© Brynley Odu Davies

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Photos: Brynley Odu Davies

From Brilliant Corners to Giant Steps, Amit and Aneesh Patel are on a devoted quest to match exquisite music, impeccable sound and excellent food and drink with the perfect setting.

You would think Amit and Aneesh Patel have enough on their plates already. Their Dalston audiophile bar-cum-Japanese eatery Brilliant Corners continues to lead the way for London’s growing network of high-end listening spaces, while their Idle Moments shop has become a coveted destination for those seeking expertly selected wine, records and hi-fi gear. They also have Giant Steps, which has moonlighted at various festivals and recently took up temporary residence by the canal in Hackney. Giant Steps will soon be hosting a stage at GALA, as the brothers Patel collaborate with accomplished designer Joe Halligan’s JAM studio to create a bespoke space geared towards incredible musical experiences.

As if that wasn’t enough, they’re busy opening a new venue just a short hop down Kingsland Road from Brilliant Corners. Where their first venue is dedicated to the ultimate experience for recorded music played through a near-mythical Kilpschorn sound system, the nearly-completed “mu” is aiming to be the restaurant and live music space we all dream of.

© Brynley Odu Davies

“We want it to appeal to everybody,” says Amit. “Ideally, it would be a pleasant surprise for someone who's just coming for simple meal. We don't want it to be snooty or elitist.”

“Last summer we started to do more live things at Giant Steps,” says Aneesh. “DJ listening bars these days are quite ubiquitous in some ways. But actually, are there enough places for live music, where you can go on a casual basis? Like how it might have been in New York in the old days. You might not know who’s playing, or there might be a band playing the whole week, as opposed to rushing to buy tickets and shows selling out.”

Musically, “mu” looks set to continue down the path laid out by Brilliant Corners. It’s certainly not strictly defined, but amongst the coterie of selectors closely related to the listening bar (think Donna Leake, Cedric Woo, Charlie Dark) there’s a consistent tendency towards jazzy flights of fancy, psychedelically-charged soul, awe-inspiring sounds from distant lands and the most deeply dug obscurities from between the conventional cracks, all shrouded in a pervasive warmth that mirrors the soft amber tones of the lighting in their spaces. Given the rude health and youthful exuberance of London’s live jazz scene, there’s a fully-formed culture ready to align with the space, but the discerning tastes of the team involved suggest a night at “mu” will have a distinct twist.

© Brynley Odu Davies

Space has sat at the heart of the Patel’s endeavours since they started out with intimate album listening sessions in the basement of their friend’s wine bar, and they take the idea of setting seriously. Whether it’s the dimensions of Brilliant Corners in relation to the sonic physics of their prized system or the prevalence of palms in their temporary builds for Giant Steps, the environment is as important as the music in the experiences they seek to create. When it comes to creating such spaces for a fleeting weekend, the endeavour seems even more impressive, even if their dedication sometimes slips into downright impracticality.

“I can’t believe we took the BBC console to a festival,” admits Amit.

“The BBC console is basically what they used to broadcast radio back in the day,” explains Aneesh, “when the BBC spared no expense in terms of the quality of the engineering. It does sound good, but more than that it just looks quite amazing. But it’s supremely heavy and very, very impractical to take to a festival, and I think most of the DJs were like, ‘that thing is very difficult to DJ on.’”

“Just putting in the sound system alone is not what it’s about,” he adds. “For us there always has to be the whole feeling when you walk into a space. That’s a major contributor to this ability to get a bit deeper into the music. If the lighting gives it that right kind of glow, the acoustics of the tent, the palm trees… Sometimes half of the schlep is these 300kg, 10-foot palm trees.”

© Brynley Odu Davies

The design for the Giant Steps space at GALA itself has been developed in collaboration with Turner Prize-winning Joe Halligan, who works across art, architecture and design on a staggering variety of projects. From community-oriented housing designs to exhibition spaces of all shapes and sizes, temporary theatre stages and artistic revamps of tube stations, Halligan’s reputation is rooted in the intersection of art and functionality, and both qualities get elevated wherever possible.



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“Putting aside the design of the space, we just want to present musicians that we’ve been working with and already get along with on a personal level,”explains Amit. “And me and Aneesh will try to play something interesting, or try to take a different angle in a festival setting.”

It’s a salient point Amit raises, because on top of their frankly head-spinning projects and enterprises, the Patels are also serious DJs with fathoms-deep collections and a sharp instinct for selections. At a time when they’re busier than ever creating incredible places to hear music, they’ve had to turn to more practical methods to come across new sounds.

© Brynley Odu Davies

“One of the cool things about Idle Moments is that we have a really tight selection of new releases we work on, which is curated by our friend Cedric [Woo],” explains Aneesh. “He goes in real deep in terms of his research into music. With the new stuff coming in and what we’re going to pick for our monthly record club, we’re trying to focus on interesting records which wouldn’t be obvious purchases. So when I’ve got a moment away from the kids, I know exactly where to go. That’s probably my go-to at the moment, and home listening records that probably won’t help me at a festival.”

© Brynley Odu Davies

They may play down their own role as artists within this sphere, but hearing one of Amit and Aneesh’s sets meets all of the formidable criteria for a Brilliant Corners experience – impassioned, organic music you’ve largely never heard before, and the odd impeccably timed classic. Life commitments and time pressures aside, it’s their own interests which have informed the style many people now associate with their various venues and spaces of that ilk, where the music is played with intense reverence and the emotional, energetic flow of a set is about more than just BPMs and genre definitions.

“I think when you hear music on a great sound system, the synapses start to open up and you say to yourself, ‘oh yeah, I forgot, I actually really love music,’” laughs Amit. “Maybe it’s a bit of a cliche now, but it allows you to hear details in the music you don’t otherwise pick up on. It’s a much more sensory, inspiring experience, and it ends up building on an almost religious pursuit of more, and better, sound.”

Praise be, then, for musical obsessives like these, going further out to create those truly spiritual experiences with sound and space.

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