Brilliant Corners, the creation of two brothers Amit and Aneesh Patel, is a London venue that pioneered the rising interest of audiophile venues in the UK. Skillfully combining food, wine and a unique musical experience, the brothers have recently expanded the concept with their travelling sound system GIANT STEPS. We spoke to them to find out what analogue means to them, how wine relates to hi-fidelity sound and their future plans.
What does analogue mean to you both? What’s the first thing that springs to mind when you hear the word?
Aneesh: When I think of analogue I guess I just think of a smooth waveform curve as opposed to lots of little steps of which form a digital source. In that way, maybe analogue is a more complete and continuous source.
Amit: Analogue to me implies a sense of truth and also a sense of being the most desirable but least convenient method. You have to put in a lot more effort with analogue and a lot more can go wrong, but when it does go right, time after time, we’ve preferred the results.
How long were you working on the concept for Brilliant Corners before opening, and how far back do the roots of this idea go?
Amit: The roots trace back to Beauty and the Beat. This was the first place that we heard this type of sound. We used to go every month without fail and became aware of just how much good sound is a game changer when hosting a party and getting people to dance and enjoy unfamiliar music across all genre and of different tempos. We believed that there needed to exist a permanent home for this type of sound system and approach to music. Beauty & the Beat also lead us to go to the Lucky Cloud Parties (the London outing for David Mancuso's legendary New York-based Loft Parties) which further increased our belief in the key ingredients of a good party and our desire to host more of them.
Tell us how you went about putting together the sound system. What other components did you consider along the way? Were there any surprise challenges you had to overcome?
Aneesh: Putting the system together is really a step by step process, which never really ends. At the beginning, a lot of the stuff we had was borrowed from various different friends. Some of it was our own and whenever we had a bit more money, we'd upgrade something. There's a lot of challenges. We’re always troubleshooting, and it takes a while to really troubleshoot effectively. There have been countless times I've found myself on my knees inside the booth trying to figure out what's wrong like 'where's the hum coming from? why's there no sound?' and so on. We don't have a sound engineer so it's always just us trying to figure out the problems.
To play devil’s advocate for a moment, a lot of people might say that things like Klipsch speakers are outdated now. Why did you decide to go vintage rather than using more modern components with similar characteristics?
Aneesh: For probably many complicated reasons, things that were made a long time ago were made to a much higher standard in terms of quality and durability. Even the old Klipschorns seem to sound better than the new ones and they’re more resilient as well. Everything these days is built to be small, convenient, with USB ports, Bluetooth or with expensive stylistic features, but less manufacturers these days seem to prioritise perfecting the product’s primary purpose i.e to reproduce sound.
Obviously, the music is only one element of the Brilliant Corners experience, alongside the food and drink offerings. There’s an interesting parallel between your focus on natural wines and vintage audio. Both are slightly esoteric worlds that push against more conventional thinking. Do you think there’s a certain type of person who gets drawn to these things? What kind of personality type is it?
Amit: If you have a sensitive, inquisitive, artistic temperament, then yes, it’s likely you might be into both wine and music. I don’t, however, think that the wine we like or our approach to sound should be deemed part of an esoteric world. I think what we present appeals to everyone, no matter how much they privately make the study of wine or audio part of their hobbies or field of expertise.
We often find that people interested in analogue audio also care about quality and workmanship in other aspects of their life, whether it’s an interest in niche fashion, classic design, vintage cars, watches or things along those lines. Does your ‘analogue’ approach cross over into other areas?
Amit: No! It's just wine and music for me. Although I enjoy going to restaurants and experiencing the fruits of someone else’s hard work and dedication.
Aneesh: I like the idea of analogue cameras and stuff, but I've no idea about them. Never actually had the time to pursue any interest in it.
Tell us about Giant Steps. How did that come about and what kind of experience are you hoping to offer people with it?
Aneesh: Giant Steps is like the fantasy version of Brilliant Corners in some way. Giant Steps has got a temporary home in Hackney Wick, but has a bigger vision, it was to create a party which was slightly bigger than what we can do at Brilliant Corners. It basically didn't have the limitations of Brilliant Corners in terms of size, in terms of license restrictions, in terms of restaurant obligations. It was just completely free: this utopia of where you could have a party, maybe outdoors, maybe in this huge yurt as we had at Houghton Festival the last two summers, with palm trees everywhere, a glowing moon, where music goes on for 24 hours and people really can be free to listen to the music with a deeper and more intense appreciation. I think that will always be the vision for it.
What plans do you have for Giant Steps? Will you be taking it to more venues in the future?
Amit: Yeah for sure. We’re happy to bring it to wherever we’re invited.
Aneesh: We recently took Giant Steps overseas for the first time and we want to make sure we do more of these types of things. It was so successful for us that we've got plans to take it further afield for sure.
And how about plans to expand the Brilliant Corners concept? I understand you’re involved with some new openings overseas. Do you think other cities in the UK could also benefit from a local branch of Brilliant Corners in future?
Aneesh: We wouldn't want to create a chain out of Brilliant Corners. It’s particular to a time and place. But we both feel it would be great if there were more places in different cities that presented a comfortable place to hear good music on a good sound system and drink good wine.
Finally, what’s on your analogue wish list? Whether it’s a piece of gear, a record, an experience or anything else, what are you craving most?
Aneesh: I would say that mine is an experience is what I'm craving. An experience of being with just exactly the right amount of people with exactly the right lighting, with a sound system that just sounds exactly how you want it to sound and in a perfect environment. That experience of the perfect party, basically. What else can you really aspire to do in your life?
The thing is, at the same time, I also acknowledge there's no such thing as a perfect anything. Everything will have its faults, so if you try and look for the perfect party, you'll probably never find it. In hindsight, in a more conscious way, I'd like to make Giant Steps to be with 200 of the people that I'm very close with, in a ridiculously spectacular location by water, maybe with an amazing view, and perfect weather and listening to music for 24 hours with those people. That would be good.
Amit: I'm craving more opportunities to hear a set of music that has been carefully thought out and composed by a DJ that is anticipating playing it to an open minded dancefloor that doesn’t have any pre-conceived notions of the type or tempo of music they want to hear, and instead, have arrived to the start of a party with an intention to experience art, as opposed to just energy and euphoria.
words: Eric Brünjes
photography: Ed Mooney
Brilliant Corners is bar and restaurant on Kingsland Road in Hackney, open six days a week, for dinner service only. They serve Japanese and Asian food, alongside cocktails, and natural wine. They house one of London's only audiophile soundsystems, and each night of the week, some of the most searching local and international record collectors select music for the room.