“Music is a language, you see, a universal language”—Sun Ra
Upon embarking on a cosmic exploration across the “Sounds of the Universe”, one enters with a sense of trepidation. The vastness of the musical spectrum invites a sense of challenge within the mind; each idiosyncratic sound has room to breathe and reverberate within the explorer. Although independent music stores are typecast as places which foster pretentious attitudes, Sounds of the Universe greatly separates itself from such assumptions; instead, the passer-by is welcomed into a space filled with conviviality, curiosity and charm. The cavern-like wonderland contains cultural artefacts from the past to the present, encompassing the various sounds of Bossa Nova, Funk, Soul, Reggae and Hip-Hop. An astute blend of world music widens the scope of our understanding, greatly moving beyond the framework of our Euro-centric culture.
The wide selection of music is excellently sourced, as it reflects the cultivated tastes of the employees who each have a particular niche. At first, it is intimidating to approach the obscure, as the lack of knowledge leads to feelings of inadequacy; however, let the lack of discernment be your guide as you navigate between the experimental and fantastical creations of inspired musicians. By decoding and appreciating the complex nuances of music, it reveals how it interlaces within the fabric of socio-cultural identity. The wilderness of sound may cast us adrift, but the compactness of the store serves as a reminder of the presence of structure within disorder. On the first floor, you are welcomed by a mixture of new releases and classic reissues of iconic artists; however, whilst stepping down the rickety stairs, a haven of books and original records awaits the fervent eye. It is a cave worthy of the tales of the Arabian Nights, in its plentiful sounds, stories and jewels of the past.
The process of exploration becomes steadily refined the further you burrow through the varied, contrasting sounds; indeed, there is a great sense of comradery due to the symbiotic relationship established between the inquisitive visitors and employees. The initial randomness of obscure music transforms into a careful network of artists, whose influences interlink with one another; the ear becomes increasingly astute, yet it is free to be drawn into the vortex of sound. The formation of cross-cultural bonds through music is a thing of wonder, which becomes magnified in a cosmopolitan city such as London. The vibrancy of differences is enhanced by Sounds of the Universe, as they strive to compile a treasure trove of music that spans across the corners of the globe. A movement towards enlightenment is encouraged, as the intricate weaving of diverse musical textures form a glorious tapestry of sound.
Where: Sounds of the Universe, 7 Broadwick Street, Soho, London, W1F ODA