It’s Thursday evening in Ancoats’ wining and dining hub Cutting Room Square. The drizzle and darkness outside hasn’t stopped a room full of music heads descending into the basement at 33 Blossom Street.
Everyone is here for the relaunch of a space said to house Manchester’s best listening sound system. Fittingly, tunes match the kit for quality, with four proven experts drafted for the party. Namely rising star Aletha, Unity Radio legends Mikey D.O.N. and DJ Chaise, and Red Laser Records’ Kickin’ Pigeon.
Originally opened in 2018, NAM comprises an upstairs Vietnamese eatery (including what we believe to be Manchester’s only Sunday dinner with pho gravy), while downstairs is an intimate events space. The fact it packs a custom-designed rig put together by London’s revered Brilliant Corners crew, featuring iconic Klipschorn speakers, is a major selling point. After years in the background, though, the team now want to turn the volume up and bring tunes to the fore.
“I think we are miles away from where we used to be, and a lot closer to where we want to be. In terms of music programming, the whole aura downstairs. It has developed and evolved,” NAM’s owner, Nam Tram, tells us over a crisp in-house pilsner. “I mean, it’s always been about the audiophile thing. I grew up with my brothers very much invested in music, the amplifier downstairs was donated by my brother-in-law when myself sister made him have a bit of a clear out.
“But before COVID I had to do everything myself, now we’ve had a little bit of a breather, we’re busier than ever but the break gave us an opportunity to pause and reflect on what was and wasn’t working,” he continues. “If I’m honest it didn’t work that well for the first year and a half. We had loyal followers but it didn’t happen how I’d hoped. I love and really care about the music side of things, so now it’s a case of putting more money into it and really trying to get things established.”
The masterplan relies heavily on Christos Eleftheriades, the man programming who plays NAM’s audiophile setup. Thankfully, he clearly understands the type of DJs will work in the small, perfectly tuned room. Recent bookings have included Reform Radio’s Léna C, Clampdown Records, and renowned experimentalist Maracuya. Meanwhile, forthcoming dates with local heroes Acidhousedeathsquad and Eastern Bloc’s Jim Bane also speak volumes.
“My background is promoting, putting on club nights, that sort of thing. But I’m 37 now and clubbing days are kind of in the past. I can’t hack it, maybe one or two a year — any more I’d be in hospital,” says Eleftheriades. “Nam said to me he wanted to do the audiophile things, and I was just like ‘that will be incredible’. You know, it’s part of a lineage of other audiophile venues that goes way back to David Mancuso and The Loft, Precious Hall in Japan, and closer to home Spiritland and Brilliant Corners in London, Cosmic Slop in Leeds. For a city that beats its chest so loud about musical heritage, there should be something in Manchester.”
Eleftheriades is clear on what NAM can bring to the city — in his words “a new lane” distinct from traditional live music settings, which really fall into either club or gig categories. Nevertheless, he’s also quick to point out Manchester’s current health in terms of homegrown talent and venues for them to play in. “The White Hotel is one of the best clubs in the world right now, in terms of the talent coming through, and names is nurturing,” he says.
Despite being resolutely passionate about the soundtrack, sound quality, and who they charge with selecting the tunes, both Eleftheriades and Tran are adamant this isn’t about authoritative and arrogant posturing. Instead the focus is creating a welcoming, inviting destination. A place for both those who know exactly why those speakers so special, and those who randomly wander in.
“At the minute we are playing it as broad as we can, music wise. I’d say there’s a culture of treating DJs in a very restrictive way, certainly in bars, effectively just making them play a Spotify playlist of big tunes. That’s not what it should be about. We’re not snobby about it, but anyone who comes in to play we want to go as deep or as different as possible. We have researched them and trust they can deliver that, while playing whatever they want,” Eleftheriades says of the NAM attitude, before Tran summarises the overall message. “I just like listening to music on a good sound system.”
Suffice to say, we know exactly where he’s coming from.
November and December dates include:
Friday 19th November — Andrea Trout
Saturday 20th November — Soul Twins
Friday 26th November — Craig Swayward
Saturday 27th November — Irfan Rainy
Friday 3rd December — Laura Jackson
Saturday 4th December — Pablo Blanquito & La Presidenta
Friday 10th December — Tom2Trax
Friday 11th December — Jim Bane
Friday 12th December — acidhousedeathsquad
Saturday 18th December — Talking Drums