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
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.
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.
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.
Paul-Lincke-Ufer 44a/2. Hof
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 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
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.
Lindenstraße 10, Potsdam
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.