Gallerist Jay Amante unveils his record-breaking vinyl collection
A look into Jay Amante’s melodic sanctum
Jay Amante has been making waves not only in the contemporary art scene but also in the revival of record collecting in the metro. A little drive down from his gallery, Blanc, and across the street from his own record shop, The Grey Market, is a clandestine bar called 78-53-86. The name honors his family’s old telephone number. The space calls out to lovers of smooth whiskey and even smoother acoustics.
Push the inconspicuous wooden door aside and enter a sanctuary where the warmth of jazz reverberates against polished wood and concrete. It’s a gratifying respite from the racket outside. Hanging Edison bulbs wash the narrow space a cozy yellow. To the right, a growing collection of over 9,000 vinyl records lie, waiting for their turn to bring the place to life. The downward slope of the ceiling then guides your gaze—if you can take it away from the sight of the records—towards two handsome speakers. Between them hangs a painting by artist MM Yu, alluring in its abstract silence.
Welcome to 78-53-86, home to Jay Amante’s mighty record collection.
What are your favorite items in your collection?
I am not sure if I have favorites, but I enjoy the physical medium. I love records, art, photographs, furniture—anything I can get my hands on, literally.
How long have you been collecting records? Do you remember the first one you ever bought?
I have been obsessively collecting records for more than a decade. The first record I had was Styx’s “Mr. Roboto” when I was five, but the first record I bought was either Steely Dan’s “Gaucho” or Weather Report’s “Heavy Weather.”
Did you oversee the design of 78-53-86? And how does the overall layout of the bar affect the acoustics?
Yes, I designed it. I was also in charge of
overseeing construction and woodwork. The slant in the ceiling came with the space, but I really like the slanted ceiling so I kept it as is. The idea was to transfer something that would work [in the] outdoors indoor. The space came first so I needed to work around the given constraints of the space to get the best possible sounding audio system.
Can you also tell us more about the audio system? How did you come up with the setup?
The source is comprised of two turntables; both are Garrard 301. I wanted the quiet time when I transfer to another record as quick as possible, thus the two turntables. The speakers are vintage Altec 511 horns, driven by Altec 806 drivers. The woofers are Altec 515b. The speakers are custom-made by our very own Joey Abad Santos of Harana Audio, while the amplifier is a Dynaco ST70 tweaked by audiophile and violinist Joseph Esmilla. At [the age of] 14, [Esmilla] studied at The Juilliard School of music, but that’s another story.
My cousin and I have been organizing the Annual November HiFi show for more than a decade, and that’s how I met those guys. The love for music and records somewhat made the friendship click.
What makes listening to records, as opposed to contemporary digital music consumption, more enriched or special?
I would rather listen to music in any form (live, digital media, CDs, tapes, or records) rather than not have music at all. I think it’s the process of playing a record and the sound that follows that make the experience of listening to records very special. It just feels different—it’s hard to put into words—but a record collector would know exactly what I’m talking about. •
78-53-86, 2nd level, West, 42 Katipunan Ave., Quezon City. Open 3:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m.
A space to ruminate over a well-fashioned drink and vintage music. Opposite page from top: A wide selection of whiskey and gin complements the jazzy music; MM Yu’s abstract painting hangs between vintage Altec speakers.