The Best of 2020

Like almost everyone else on the planet, I’m glad to see the end of 2020 rapidly approaching. All things considered I certainly can’t complain – we’ve stayed healthy and safe and are both still working. Sure, it’s been stressful. We’re getting a little stir crazy since we’ve both been working from home since March, and we had a number of events and trips cancelled, but with a COVID vaccine coming out maybe, just maybe, we can get back to some semblance of normal in 2021.

If you follow the blog at all, I’m sure you noticed a lot less activity in 2020. I’d have thought lockdown would have made me more prolific, but after something like seven years I sort of lost focus a bit – I just wasn’t sure I had much interesting left to say. I also started playing Dungeons & Dragons again (via Zoom), and that resulted in an entirely new blog that is basically a novelization of our weekly game. It’s called Defenders of Phandalin, so check it out if you’re interested in RPGs or just fantasy-style fiction.

So here’s to hoping your 2020 was safe and as sane as could be, and that maybe I’ll run into you at a record store or concert somewhere in the world in 2021.

Top 5 New Releases In 2020

1. The Ghost Choir – The Ghost Choir (Iceland)
2. Farmacia – Farmacia (Argentina)
3. The Rise of India (Deluxe Edition) – IndiaBoy & Pési-B (Iceland)
4. So When You Gonna… – Dream Wife (UK / Iceland)
5. Neyslutrans – Hatari (Iceland)

Most years selecting my favorite release of the year isn’t hard. Sorting out the rest of the Top 5 can be a bit tricky, but generally there’s one album that hits my like a lightning bolt and rockets right to the top of the list.

That didn’t happen this year. In fact, I didn’t decide on the order of the first three spots until I sat down on Christmas morning and listened to the three albums one more time, and even then it was still tough. What it came down to, ultimately, was this – not only have I played The Ghost Choir a ton, but it’s also the album I recommended to people the most often, and all those folks told me they liked it. Stylistically it reaches across categories – electronic, classical, jazz, soundtracks… there’s something there for almost everyone. It truly is an outstanding record.

Farmacia dropped on December 23, so I have only had a few days with it, but man is it killer. As always, brothers Ariel and Diego Sima stretch the boundaries and expand my mind with their electro compositions. Had this been around for a few months would it have taken the top spot? We’ll never know. My understanding is that this will be coming out in a limited vinyl release soon, so be on the lookout for that, and I’ll likely do a blog about it soon. The Rise of India was probably my biggest surprise Top 5 entrant being that I’d never heard of anyone involved in the album prior to playing it for the first time. It’s a ton of trap fun.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers

1. Disciplinatha
2. King Ani Mal
3. Captain Syrup
4. Latimore
5. Idris Elba

This is a bit of a mix of old school and more contemporary stuff, and it covers a wide range of genres. I feel like i didn’t listen to as much new-to-me stuff in 2020, or at least not as albums. Working from home certainly allowed me to listen to more music than ever before, but much if not most of the time I found myself playing Spotify playlists, in which case I knew almost all the music (80s metal and pop) or I didn’t know any of it (Techno Bunker). I guess the difference between 2019 and 2020 was that I was less intentional about what I played. Plus not traveling meant not exploring new record stores, and new scenes which was a major bummer. All that being said, the above are all excellent and recommended.

Top 5 Purchases/Acquisitions

1. Collection of funk/soul/jazz
2. Live at Red Rocks – Devil Makes Three
3. First Demo 12/29/80 – S.O.A. (signed by Henry Rollins)
4. Music for the Other People Place Part 1 box set
5. Is Anybody Listening? – Cell7

I was lucky enough to be gifted four huge moving boxes of 1960s to 1980s soul, funk, and R&B from a friend’s dad. There was some great stuff in here – James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Brass Construction, etc. Probably 75% of it is still in the garage, but the others were cleaned, played and moved inside. Live at Red Rocks was a fun pick-up since we were at the show a few years back. The S.O.A. demo was something I totally lucked into – Rollins posted about these on his Facebook page and on a whim I just ordered one right then and there. It tuns out they sold out in minutes, so for once an impulse buy paid off. The Music for the Other People Place box set was an interesting project in which electronic artists were given free rein… and we as the purchasers are not told who contributed albums to the collection. The Cell7 record was one I supported via crowd-funding, and not only is the album super cool, so is the amazing poster, which i framed.

Top 5 Live Shows

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Yeah, we didn’t see any live shows in 2020. Because COVID and all that. Which is too bad, because we had tickets to see KMFDM and Ministry, and also had our early bird passes for Iceland Airwaves. Here’s hoping 2021 doesn’t suck as hard.

Top 5 Most Played Songs On Spotify

1. “Balls To The Wall” – Accept
2. “Beepers” – Sir Mix-A-Lot
3. “World Eater” – Bolt Thrower
4. “Speed of Light” – Alex Stein
5. “Realm of Chaos” – Bolt Thrower

We decided to get a Spotify subscription early in the year. Rest assured, I’m still addicted to physical formats and will buy them whenever possible. But there’s a lot of new stuff I’d like to just check out, plus it dawned on me that there are still a lot of classic albums that I’ve never heard in their entirety. I think it was the Music Exists podcast that got me thinking about this when Chuck Klosterman and Chris Ryan were talking about Exile On Main St. and I realized I’d never listened to it.

My list is interesting. I mean, a metal song from 1983 tops it, and perhaps even stranger, I’ve never owned an Accept album in my life. Go figure. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Seattle’s own Sir Mix-A-Lot made the list, though the fact that the track is “Beepers” and not something from Swass is interesting. That being said, “Beepers” was often requested by Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane during backyard evening listening sessions, so it made it to the Top 5. Bolt Thrower’s Realm of Chaos is exactly the kind of reason I got Spotify, and I played the hell out of it for a few months (still looking for a reasonably priced copy on vinyl with the original cover, though). As for Alex Stein’s “Speed of Light”… I was shocked when I saw this because I have no idea who Alex Stein is. I think this track is on the Techno Bunker playlist, which would explain it because we play that one a lot.

Top 5 Places to Buy Records

1. Bandcamp
2. Discogs
3. Karolina Fund
4. Direct from Artists
5. Lucky Records – Reykjavik

We didn’t get to do any travel in 2020, which sucked. We did make some visits to local area shops and have tried to do our part to help them survive all these lock-downs. But 2020 was really the year of mail order music. Bandcamp served up a number of days where all the money went to the artists, and I certainly spent a lot of time there. I also ordered a decent amount from Discogs, particularly from two sellers (who shall remain my little secret) who have some great stuff at reasonable prices and do an amazing job with their packaging and shipping. Karolina Fund is a project-funding site from Iceland, and a lot of Icelandic musicians have used it to do vinyl versions of their releases. I’ve had great success contributing to projects on the site. I also bought stuff direct from artists through their Facebook or Instagram pages. And of course I did three (or was it four?) mail order boxes from my favorite shop in the world, Reykjavik’s Lucky Records. I was bummed I couldn’t shop there in person in November, but if all goes well we’ll be there in 2021.

Top 5 Music Books

1. Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr
2. Sing Backwards and Weep by Mark Lanegan
3. Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 2 by Henry Rollins
4. Rusted Metal: A Guide To Heavy Metal And Hard Rock Music In The Pacific Northwest (1970 – 1995) by James R. Beach, Brian L. Naron, James D. Sutton, and James Tolin
5. Total F*cking Godhead by Corbin Reiff

I think I read seven or eight music books this year, and Burning Down the Haus was the clear winner, a well-written and well-researched history of the punk movement in East Germany. Highly recommended. I also particularly enjoyed vinyl-nerding-out alongside Henry Rollins with Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 2.

So there you have it kids, 2020 in a nutshell. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you in 2021!

Record Shopping, London UK Style (2019)

Ok, first thing first.  Clearly London’s vinyl scene is right up there with anyones – it’s probably one of the Top 3 Vinyl Shopping Cities In The World©®™∞, so it would be quite easy for me to act like a nouveau riche (♠) guy (♣) at a bachelor party, make it rain, and fill my entire DJ bag full of vinyl during our four days here.  But we’re headed to Reykjavik later not his trip for our 10th Iceland Airwaves, and after missing the festival in 2018 for the first time in a decade I have some unfinished business in the city’s record stores, so I need to save some room.  That being said, we made it a point of at least hitting up a bunch of London’s record stores, and I wanted to share a bit of that with you in case you find yourself here.

Stores are listed in the order in which we visited them, at least to the best of my memory, so no ranking is implied.

Music and Video Exchange
38 Notting Hill Gate, Kensignton

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Our first stop, so it would have taken something pretty epic to get me to buy anything.  Plus it was raining a bit.  That being said, I was quite tempted.  The inventory leaned heavily towards used and there were some very interesting titles in the punk/new wave/industrial sections.  I was tempted to roll the vinyl dice on a couple of unknowns, but showed some restrain.  The prices looked quite reasonable.  Had they just opened with that inventory in Seattle, I would have probably walked out of there having spent $300 or more.  If I still have space on our last day, I’ll be heading back out here for sure.

Rough Trade West
130 Talbot Road, Notting Hill

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Rough Trade is, of course, well, Rough Trade.  It’s an institution.  The Rough Trade East store (see below) seems to get most of the attention due to its size and live space, but make no mistake – if you’re looking for used vinyl, get your ass over to Rough Trade West. We barely spent any time at all on the main floor, which is given over to new releases, and instead went straight to the basement used vinyl nirvana.  Is there a ton in the basement?  No.  is it sleeved and labeled and awesome?  Yes.

This is where I got my first true taste of the UK experience, because even their row or two of reggae was lightyears better than anything I’ve ever seen at home, and there were a few early 1980s dub records that I mentally marked for possible purchase.  At least, that is, until I got to the industrial section and ran across what appeared to be about half the Chris & Cosey catalog, all first pressings and all in great shape.  I told Holly before we left that Chris & Cosey and 4AD stuff was top of my list, so the reggae records had to stay and I brought copies of Trance (1982) and Songs of Love & Lust (1984) (both originally released on Rough Trade…) to the counter, which elicited a raised eyebrow from the guy working there who had just been dealing with an American who had just bought a turntable and who was complaining about the cost of early Ramones albums (to which the Rough Trade guy rightly observed, “Look, if you really just want the music buy a re-release”).  So I paid with my credit card and got my first interesting UK experience – they absolutely want to match your signature to the back of your card.  And instead of a signature, the back of mine says “See ID” because I want people to make sure my card isn’t stolen.  So he asked if I had ID and I was pulling out my passport he said, “No, I don’t need to really see your ID.  There aren’t a lot of American blokes who have been holding onto their stolen credit cards so they can buy Chris & Cosey records.”  Which frankly is more astute than any VISA fraud algorithm yet designed.

Honest Jon’s Records
278 Portobello Road

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If you want reggae or dub, drop what you’re doing right now, head to the airport, and take a cab straight to Honest Jon’s.  The selection was deep, with strong helpings of Northern Soul, soundtracks, and various kinds of electronica.  It was simply my pure ignorance regarding these genres that kept me from walking out of the store with anything and I’m still kicking myself for, at the very least, not picking up a bunch of dub CDs since I don’t have any dub on my iPod.

Like Rough Trade, Honest Jon’s is also a label, and I probably actually first heard of them because they put out Ghostigital’s “Not Clean” 7″, which is ridiculous because they’ve been doing it for almost 20 years.  Definitely a worthwhile stop.

Blue Groove Soundz
8 Portobello Green Designers, 281 Portobello Road

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We ran across this joint by accident, part of one of those weird little shopping “malls” that have a wide range of stores.  The small space felt extremely DJ-centric, a blend of electronica, funk, soundtracks, library music and the like.  You’re not going to find Revolver or Never Mind the Bollocks here, but you’ll probably find some stuff you’ve never heard of and maybe an Ice-T record or two in the hip hop section, so if you’re in the area you should check them out.

Vintage Vinyl
Vintage Market, 85 Brick Lane

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Our first stop on Day 2 of our London adventure (excluding coffee and pastry, of course) was the Brick Lane Vintage Market, which would be well worth the stop even if Vintage Vinyl didn’t have a booth in the basement.  But fortunately it does.  Vintage Vinyl has a good assortment of genres given the limited space, and prices seemed pretty good.  The whole market was packed and the stall was nearly full of punters, some of who were searching for treasures while others made the obligatory comments like, “oh look, vinyl records”, “I used to have a record player”, and, of course, “I can’t believe this record is twenty quid”.  I didn’t buy anything during our visit, but I could have easily walked out with a dozen or so titles and felt good about doing so.

Rough Trade East
Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane

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A short walk from Vintage Vinyl is one of London’s most famous record stores, Rough Trade East.  In addition to coffee the location hosts live performances and even appears to have a small recording area.  If there’s a down side, it’s that this location only traffics in new (sealed) releases – so if you’re a used junkie you’ll want to hit up the Rough Trade West location instead.  Regardless, we did quite well here, as the shop carries a wide range of genres and is surprisingly deep in some areas.  We continued with the Chris & Cosey theme we’d established on Day 1, picking up a vinyl re-release of their 1987 album Exotika, as well as two of Chris Carter’s solo efforts, re-releases of Mondo Beat (1985) and Small Moon (1999).  And just to prove I’m not a (total) vinyl snob, we also snagged a handful of CDs, most notably Japanese import versions of the first two This Mortal Coil albums, the new one from Test Dept, and yes, more Chris Carter in the form of CCCL Volume One.  While I’d have loved for them to carry used stuff, there was plenty here to keep me busy in just about every musical format plus a large selection of books.

Love Vinyl
5 Pearson Street

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This store is aptly named, because I loved our brief visit.  A small but well curated shop specializing in DJ vinyl, it offered up four listening stations and an inventory that was about half new and half used with emphasis on various electronic genres, hip hop, and reggae.  As often I the case when I go into electronica-focused stores I felt totally lost because my knowledge of the various genres, sub-genres, and sub-sub-genres is so anemic. That didn’t stop me, though, from picking up the new one from Paranoid London, PL, and as an added bonus it’s the clear version.  If you’re into electronic music, add Love Vinyl to your short list of shops to visit.

Sister Ray
75 Berwick Street

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Day 3 in London started at one of the city’s most famous shops, Sister Ray.  And it lived up to the hype.  The vinyl is housed down in the basement, and while not massive in surface area there was plenty of room to move around and lots of great records.  For whatever reason our Chris & Cosey direction took a hard left into the world of On-U, and we walked out of there with three titles that I’m excited about.  We kind of bookended Adrian Sherwood and On-U with Singles & Players’ Revenge of the Underdog (1982) and Sherwood & Pinch’s more recent Late Night Endless (2015), but the pièce de résistance was Sensational’s debut LP Loaded with Power (1997).  I love the Brooklyn rapper, and we’ve had way more success finding his stuff in Europe than we have in the US.

Reckless Records
30 Berwick Street

 

Because I’d just picked up a bunch of stuff at Sister Ray, I didn’t spend too much time in nearby Reckless Records.  Don’t take that as a snub, though – I only have so much space to bring stuff home.  Reckless had a decent selection of used CDs, but also a healthy stock of used vinyl across a range of genres – they even had a section devoted specifically to black metal, if that says anything.  Certainly some good potential here, and it’s basically across the street from Sister Ray, offering a good two-for if your digging time is limited.

Phonica Records
51 Poland Street

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We almost didn’t go to Phonica, since we’d already done pretty well on the trip and had just wrapped up at Sister Ray.  But Phonica wasn’t too far away and Holly is a big fan of dance music, so off we went.  And I’m glad we did, because this still KILLS.  Once again I was left felling like I was tossed into the deep end wearing concrete boots, but we rallied hard and turned our focus to the relatively small but very intriguing selection of CDs, including yet another Chris & Cosey title (technically Carter Tutti Void…) Triumvirate and also a label comp (Phonica is also a label) from 2014 called Ten Years of Phonica.  We picked a few more for good measure and came away very satisfied.  The team there was very cool, and there are multiple listening stations set up for DJs.

 

London is awash in record stores.  In addition to those above, we tried to stop by two others but they were closed despite being scheduled to be open.  We also walked by at least a half a dozen more that I didn’t wander into, both due to space constraints and, frankly, because this trip isn’t all about record shopping.  I’ll be brining nine records and about a dozen CDs to Iceland with me tomorrow for the start of Iceland Airwaves 2019, and I expect both my DJ back and suitcase will be bursting at the seams on the flight home to Seattle.  And then begins the long process of cleaning and mentally preparing myself to go back to work.  Fifty two weeks until Iceland Airwaves 2020…

(♠)  Of course, as the character of Jim Williams says in Midnight of the Garden of Good and Evil, “It’s the riche that counts”…

(♣)  Or the ass clown who was tearing up and down the residential streets up where we’re staying in his yellow Lamborghini, never managing to get it out of second great, running it up and down the same street, and backfiring on the shift like a toolshed (♥).  You know.  “That guy”.  

(♥)  This guy was more like a SnapOn Tool Truck than a toolshed.

 

Record Shopping Bend, Oregon Style

Oregon is less than a three hour drive from our house (♠), but once you get off the I-5 corridor it gets dicey – there aren’t a lot of straight routes into the state’s interior.  So when we were invited to our friend The Bossiest’s (♥) wedding in lovely Bend, Oregon, we had a choice to make – drive or fly.  By car it’s 6+ hours.  By plane?  40 minutes.  Plus driving to the airport (almost an hour) and getting to the airport early (two hours)… Decisions, decisions.  But we had enough points for some free tickets and a rental car so figured we’d luxuriate in the tiny Embraer E175 jet (“we don’t serve alcohol on this flight, sir”) and go in style.  I also made sure to pack our bigger hard case suitcase, because Bend has a record store that I wanted to check out, and I’d need a sturdy bag to get my treasures home safely. (♦)

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Ranch Records
117 NW Oregon Ave

Right in the heart of historic downtown Bend, Oregon, and right next door to what is literally an old school arcade complete with bubble hockey, lies Ranch Records, a surprisingly spacious and well-stocked store for little old Bend.  On the plus side Ranch had a nice selection of new vinyl.  On the not-quite-as-plus side the used selection was pretty limited.  But…. I found some tremendous stuff on the wall, some punk business I’ve never seen before.

During our first visit I picked a couple of dollar bin gems, super-clean copies of Steve Martin’s A Wild and Crazy Guy and Barry Manilow Live.  I also found a pair of obscure nuggets, the self-released records by whack-job punks Dr. Sadistic and the Silverking Crybabies (Pyramid Punk and Maroon Balls, and if you must know the copy of Pyramid Punk was still sealed).  After a sleepless night filled with regret for the things I left behind at Ranch, I returned the next day for Judas Priest’s Hero, Hero and an OG pressing of Poison Idea’s Kings of Punk.  No a bad haul if I do say so myself.

So if you find yourself in bend, definitely drink some beer at one of the seemingly hundreds of brew pubs, then stroll on down to Ranch Records and wrap your day up with a stop at the arcade to beat those pesky Ruskies at hockey…

(♠) At least it is when I’m driving…

(♥) Not her real name, but it is her real nickname

(♦) Actually two, but we only made it to one

Record Shopping – Berlin, Germany Style

Despite the fact that I’ve been to over two dozen countries and have about the most German last name you can have, I’ve never visit the ancestral home of my people.  Now, to be clear I’m not someone who strolls around in lederhosen and wakes up at ungodly hours to drink early morning beers and watch Bundesliga matches.  The only ways you’d know I come from German stock are my last name and genetic predisposition towards things being orderly.  I always knew I’d get to the country eventually, and since Holly had never been to Berlin we figured we could pull off a relatively short eight-day trip to Berlin and Copenhagen, which is how I now find myself sitting here in a Berlin apartment with a stack of recently purchased vinyl, most of it local.

The vinyl scene here is pretty off the charts – there are three main clusterings of record shops, so if you get to any one area you’ll be able to hit at least five stops within about a five minute walk of one another.   Berlin’s electronica scene has a well-deserved reputation and a number of stores that cater specifically to fans of the bleeps and bloops, but there are also shops specializing in punk, metal, and a variety of other genres.  There’s even a joint that supposedly has a substantial selection of Turkish artists, so it isn’t hard to find a place that will allow you to scratch that vinyl itch.  Of the five shops I visited (and a sixth in Potsdam) much of the selection was new/unopened, though where I did find used it was generally in very good shape, almost on par with the quality of used records in Japan.  And the biggest bonus was that it was all relatively well-priced.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Pretty much every shop is closed on Sunday
  • Places usually don’t open before Noon
  • Some shops don’t take credit cards – cash is king!

Flea Market Finds

Not sure if this is a weekly thing, but we ran across a Sunday flea/art/book market along the banks of the Spree.  It ran about 3-4 blocks in length and there were a few guys set up  selling vinyl.  This was the one place during the trip where stuff was NOT reasonably priced, which is odd given that it’s also where the condition and selection were the worst.  CDs?  Cheap as hell.  Vinyl?  My turds are made of gold, mein herr!  I did pick up one item, a three-band label comp called Kleeblatt №. 22 – Hard & Heavy featuring Plattform, MCB, and the hair-metal-looking Cobra.  Since the title included both the words “hard” and “heavy”, and since the bands were German (I believe at least two of the three were from East Germany), I figured why not.  I considered a few others, but when things are priced at €15 in marginal condition and yet sell for less than a buck on Discogs in VG sometimes you just need to hold onto your Euro.  But that’s flea living.

Sound Vinyl Store
Nostitzstraße 18, 10961 Berlin

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Any time you see one of those “Best XXX Record Stories In The World That You Absolutely Must See Before You Die Or Go Broke” lists it inevitably includes Berlin’s Space Hall.  And since they open at 11AM, we figured we’d make that our first stop of the day.  So when we got there at 11:15 we were surprised to see it closed, as were two other dudes loitering around confusedly outside and asking each other what was going on.  But we figured, hey, we’ll pop down to Holy’s Hit (HolysHit… Holy Shit…) Records and then come back.  Only to find Holy’s Hit doesn’t open until 1PM.  So it was yet another detour a few more blocks to Sound Vinyl Store, which was both open and well-stocked with interesting and mostly used vinyl, as well as a cute shop dog who wanted nothing whatsoever to do with me despite my best efforts.  I looked around a bit but eventually focused my attention onto one box of new wave/darkwave/goth records where I scored Swiss band Blue China’s 1982 EP Tomorrow Never Knows, 1982s NDW classic Jeder Tag Wunderbar by Direktion, and a Russian album from 1990 that I can’t find on Discogs.  All were in great shape and the guy even knocked a couple of Euro off the total without my asking.  A good stop for just about any genre, particularly if you’re looking for used stuff.  Dude does smoke in the shop, though, so keep that in mind if it’s something that bothers you.

Space Hall
Zossener Str. 33

After that it was back to Space Hall.  And friends, let me tell you something right now.

Space Hall lives up to the hype.

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Space Hall is basically three separate rooms.  You walk into the smaller CD area.  Then walk into the massive hallway-like main room, then in the back is an impressively large room filled with nothing but electronica.  Nothing.  But.  Electronica.  Broken down into subgenres I’ve never heard of.  Much of it grouped not by artist, but but label.  And the listening stations?  The listening stations… there has to be $5-10K worth of equipment just tied up there, where DJs and producers will stand for hours going through stacks of records looking for that perfect beat or break.

Frankly to a relative electronica novice like me that back room was impossibly overwhelming.  But we gave it a try and walked out of Space Hall with some interesting selections.  The On-U section (!) yielded a Gary Clail 12″ I didn’t have (“Beef”), while other parts of the main room served up German duo Reifenstahl’s 1981 Die Wunderwaffe and a new label comp from Tropical Goth Records.  Meanwhile we rolled the dice in the back room and came away with Marcel Dettmann and Ben Klock’s 2017s collaboration Phantom Studies.  I can’t wait to get this stuff on the Rega.  While there I remembered that rapper Sensational put out a bit of stuff on German labels and Holly found a CD of his called Acid & Bass, which was like icing on our music cake.

Note – Space Hall doesn’t take plastic, so bring your folding paper money big baller.  And if you’re planning on stopping by, make sure to leave yourself enough time – I could have easily spent 2+ hours there without batting an eye.

Hard Wax
Paul-Lincke-Ufer 44a/2. Hof

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A few subway stops later we were walking the streets looking for Hard Wax.  It’s a bit of work to find, and with three flights of steps it’s a bit of work to get to as well, but definitely worth the effort.  I wish I had a photo of the inside of this place because it was near-perfect, but they have a sort of no photos policy and I could tell the folks working were annoyed by the massive bro group that invaded the space right after we arrived (only one of whom was a actually looking for records).  Things are first broken down by genre, then by region, then by label.  The smaller floor space makes it easier to navigate than the overwhelming Space Hall, plus they have a ton of stuff loaded onto their iPads so that you can listen to sealed records without opening them.  If you’re looking for electronica, this is a must-visit.

I took a chance on recent re-release of the entire Second Layer discography called World Of Rubber, as well as a recently released 12″ by Mark named Integriert Euch Nicht, but the best surprise of the trip was waiting for me in the (European) New Arrivals section where I found the brand new 12″ by Icelander Kuldaboli.  I just learned about this release on Facebook, and as near as I could tell from the label’s Bandcamp site it was only available as a download, but here it was in my hot little hands for about €10.  Super stoked and can’t wait to spin this one.  And good news, kids – credit cards accepted with ID.  Major props for Hard Wax.

Coretex Records
Oranienstraße 3

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Coretex was only about a five minute walk from Hard Wax, and things took a major turn in the punk and metal direction.  Most of the inventory was new, including two full walls of t-shirts.  While I would have liked some separate German-only sections, there was no shortage of German bands here and I picked up recent releases from punks Egotronic and the latest from the hip hop crew Waving the Guns (Das Muss Eine Demokratie Aushalten Können).  I also found a potential nugget in the small used section, PVC’s self-titled 1982 debut.

If you’re down with punk, and particularly hardcore, you’ll dig Coretex.  Get a shirt and some patches while you’re there too.

Bis Auf Messer Records
Marchlewskistraße 107

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Our last stop of the day was another well-known punk shop, Bis Auf Messer.  To be fair, though, their selection ran deeper than just punk, with at least a smattering of a wide range of genres (though hip hop and reggae shared one box… which was mostly reggae, so not a great stop for urban music).  A relatively small space filled with almost exclusively new material and a healthy selection of new cassettes, it’s still a worthwhile visit and yielded the latest from Schwund (Technik Und Gefühl) and a 2010 album by Vancouver’s Terror Bird called Human Culture.

Silverspeed Records
Lindenstraße 10, Potsdam

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For our last full day in Germany we took a 40 minute tram ride to Potsdam to see Sanssouci, the palace and grounds of Frederick the Great and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It’s well worth the trip both for the park and the town itself.  Plus, as an added bonus it’s the home to the fantastic metal shop Silverspeed Records.

We almost passed Silverspeed by given that I’d already picked up quite a bit of stuff, but I’m glad we circled back.  The store is pretty small and completely packed with records (and a smattering of CDs).  I spent all my time in the six bins of metal, which held a combination of new and used stuff, quite a lot of it from the 1980s.  Frankly if I’d hit Silverspeed earlier in the trip I’d probably have bought more here, much to the dismay of some unlucky shop.  In fact I actually put back a few things I’d originally pulled.  At the end of the visit I came away with a trio of 80s rockers,  Gravestone’s Victim of Chains (1984), Iron Angel’s Hellish Crossfire (1985), and Kreator’s Terrible Certainty (1987), plus the 2010 2XLP compilation Necronomicon’s self-titled debut and early demos, the originals of which also came out in the 80s.  Prices were reasonable and almost everything I looked at was in solid shape.  Silverspeed is probably worth a special trip of you’re looking for early German metal, and probably punk as well.

 

Berlin is definitely a haven for vinyl lovers.  If I could only make it to one shop it would definitely be Space Hall – there’s something for everyone there, and if you want to get a sense of why the city is thought of as an Electronica Mecca, the evidence is right there to be seen.

Record Shopping, Chicago Style

With my current employer I don’t travel nearly as much as I used to.  And trust me, I’m perfectly good with that.  There’s a lot to be said for having dinner with your spouse and spending the night in your own bed.  But when I do take a work trip, one of the first things I do is look up my destination’s record stores to see if I might be able to sneak in a few.

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Last week I was in Chicago.  On the surface this was not an exciting prospect because (A) it’s January and will be cold as hell and (B) the TSA is in their second week of being forced to work unpaid.  But the stars were aligned, and while it was cold in Chicago (it never got above freezing during the three day trip) we didn’t get any bad weather and the airport security lines were reasonable.  The good news was that one of the city’s three Reckless Records stores (26 E. Madison) was only a block from my hotel.  Even with the below-freezing weather I managed two cold walks to Reckless when time permitted.

Reckless has a  surprisingly good selection for such a small space.  I went through the sections for Punk, Metal, Experimental, Dance, Hip Hop, Reggae, and Soundtracks, and there were titles in each I considered buying.  I came away with a small armful of old and new, all of it reasonably priced.  One unique thing about Reckless is that none of the records were in their jackets – you had to go to the counter and have them pull the actual disc from the back shelves if you wanted to look at it.  On a positive note, however, I found the grading listed on the price stickers to be very accurate.

Normally I don’t look at the CDs, but in this case I was glad I did.  Their Goth and Experimental sections had a surprising number of titles by some hard-to-find artists like Nurse With Wound, Coil, Current 93, and Diamanda Galás.  Coincidentally I was reading England’s Hidden Reverse, an in-depth history of some of the UK’s early industrial artists, so that helped me make a few Nurse With Wound CD selections to bring home.

I can’t speak to the other two Reckless locations in Chicago, but if there anywhere near as good as the Madison store they’re definitely worth a visit.  And don’t take my word for it, because Rolling Stone included Reckless on its recent list of the 10 Best Record Stores in America.