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 – Copenhagen, Denmark Style

We arrived in Copenhagen after four days in Berlin, which means that by time we got here my record bag was already pretty full.  As a result of that and our limited amount of time in the city I only made it to a few shops.

Beat Bop Pladeforretning
Peder Hvitfeldts Stræde 14, 1173 København

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Beat Bop is Michael Denner’s record shop, he of guitar virtuoso fame for his work with Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, and Volbeat.  As such you’d probably expect the shop to be dedicated to punk and metal. and while it has some of both, the biggest section may in fact be the one in the back room devoted to jazz.  I didn’t spend a ton of time here, but was pleased to see a lot of interesting 1980s European releases in the punk/new wave section, things I’ve never seen before in the US.  It’s a confined space, even with there being two rooms, so you probably won’t need a ton of time here.  I was primarily focused on trying to find Danish records, and in the end came away with a copy of Alien Force’s 1986 rocker Pain And Pleasure, which seemed like the perfect thing to take away from Beat Bop.

One piece of advice – Beat Bop only takes cash, though Michael was open to currency other than Danish Krone, including Euro.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Dorma 21
Oehlenschlægersgade 70, 1663 København

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After Beat Bop we took a bit of a walk down to the meat packing district to visit Dorma 21, a tiny space that specializes 100% in various electronica subgenres.  Small but well stocked, every single record features a hand-written sticker tag on it with basic info, and 12″ releases generally ran the equivalent of $15-17 US.  The guy working there was very helpful and when I asked for some local stuff pointed me towards two house records by Desos, which I spun on one of the two listening stations and fell for immediately.  In a completely opposite scenario than Beat Bop, Dorma 21 actually prefers you pay in plastic, and it was all I could do not to fill up my entire bag with records here – if it wasn’t for the lack of space in my record bag I’d have easily dropped a few hundred dollars here.  A can’t miss for the electronica enthusiast.

Route 66
Fælledvej 3, 2200 København

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Route 66 focuses on new vinyl – I don’t think I saw anything used packed into its bins and wall displays.  The focus is primarily on rock, and as our trip was winding down I didn’t have any expectations about picking up anything here.  Then I remembered – hey, there are Europe-only Record Store Day releases, and Route 66 had about six bins of RSD titles.  And what did I find?  Prügelknaben:  Prygl På Vinyl, DK Punk 1979-86, a limited edition release of 500 copies.  Any opportunity to get some early punk from a country we’re visiting is a win, even if it’s a re-release

 

Copenhagen actually has quite a few shops, so don’t take this to be any kind of thorough review of the vinyl scene there.  We even walked by a few that didn’t show up on any of the research I’d done prior to the trip, so I suspect more and more are popping up all the time.

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.

Record Shopping – New York City Style

The Life in the Vinyl Lanes took a cross-country trip to the land of my origins, the Five Boroughs, New York City USA. (♠)  We had three full days in the city, excluding travel days, and during that time walked 38 miles.  That is not a typo.  And we never got north of Times Square.  For real.  We walked a lot.

We also ate a lot of pizza and hit up a lot of record stores (♣), and since this is a vinyl blog I figured I’d tell you a bit about the latter.  I actually didn’t do a lot of buying in this trip, which I think was a combination of not wanting to carry a bunch of vinyl all over the Lower East Side and, well, because it’s not like we were in another country where I could dip my toes into its musical scene.  There wasn’t a lot of stuff that I was only likely to find in NYC… though the stores did have way more reggae and hip hop than I’m used to seeing.  Despite only having bought about a dozen records, I came away impressed by the myriad of stores in New York City.

Limited To One
221 East 10th Street

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Nestled away in a little daylight basement spot, Limited To One impressed me with the quality of its selection.  Yeah, it was a small space, but everything in there was in great shape and well packaged to ensure it stayed that way.  The wall had some impressive collectible titles, and the selection was intriguing, but I just never found anything I couldn’t live without (and that I didn’t want to spend the next 4-5 hours carrying around).  Of all the joints we hit up in NYC, this is one of the two I’d most like to go back to and spend some quality time in.  I feel like I could get through the whole place in an hour and would absolutely come away with a few gems, though with my wallet a bit lighter by at least a few Benjamins.

Commend
172 Forsyth Street

Commend is a bit of a trippy place, with a small collection of mostly (if not exclusively) new vinyl along with some clothing, books, and some generally arty items.  It’s also a label, though the shop didn’t carry too many of its own titles.  The selection appeared to be mostly interesting in the various ambient genres, and I just didn’t know enough about that scene to really get into anything.

House Of Oldies Rare Records
35 Carmine Street

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I was Facebook messaging with our friend Leana while Holly and I enjoyed some Yeunglings in Greenwich Village.  Leana is an American ex-pat who lives in Reykjavik, and one of the things we look forward to every year when we go to Iceland for Airwaves is our annual breakfast with her at Reykjavik’s Cafe Paris.  I know Leana because of the blog, and she also used to work at Seattle’s own Silver Platter Records, a career path made all the more obvious when you consider the fact that her dad used to own House Of Oldies Rare Records in NYC back in the day… which, as I learned, turned out to be a handful of blocks from where we were enjoying our well-deserved afternoon beer.  So we swung by House Of Oldies.  And it was closed.  Thanks Leana.  Thanks for nothing.

In all seriousness though, House Of Oldies gets great reviews online, so it’s probably worth checking out.  Note though the sign in the window that indicates “No CDs”, so don’t even ask.  Don’t touch the mic, baby, don’t go near it.

Generation Records
210 Thompson Street

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Generation was the first store that seemed “familiar”; it just felt like a record store.  Lots of stuff and a massive New Arrivals section.  I felt like there was a decent amount of emphasis on new releases, though the used selection was in decent shape and covered a wide gamut of genres.  This is another place I could have easily spent a few hours, plus as an added bonus they dropped the needle on the Spinal Tap Soundtrack while we were there… and they played the while damn thing.  Which is worth a few extra points in my book.  I’d definitely go back to Generation if I had the time to do some digging.

Rough Trade
64 N. 9th Street (Brooklyn)

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Rough Trade is legendary.  Label… distro… venue… a bit of everything.  We loved it from the moment we walked in the door, and it was the first spot in NYC that took some of my hard earned cash (OK, technically plastic magnetic strip, but still).  A weird Greg Ginn 12″, some OG electro by Chris Carter, dub from Lee “Scratch” Perry, and, perhaps oddest of all, the re-release of Capital Punishment’s Roadkill.  The no-wavish Capital Punishment only put out one album, way back in 1982, but it included guys who are now productive members of society, working as a professor in Czech literature, a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court, and the guy who played Derek Zoolander.  Admit it, that’s a bit intriguing.  I just read about Capital Punishment in the book The Mudd Club, so I was kind of excited to find this one.  I’m sure it’ll make it to the blog soon.

The Brooklyn Record Fair
East River State Park (Brooklyn)

As we were checking out at Rough Trade we were talking about walking over to Academy, and the lady at the lady at the register asked us if we were going to the Brooklyn Record Fair that day.  Uh, what is this magic of which you speak?  How about a 60-table record fair, under tents, down at the beach.  I’m in.  We didn’t spend a ton of time there because it was packed and packed record fairs are annoying as hell, but I did squeeze into a few spots and came away with a sweet Suicide Commandos record, which got me some Facebook props from none other than KEXP’s Kevin Cole.  Plus there was an equally big outdoor food bonanza right next to the record show, so we picked up Argentinian choripans and some duck fat fries.  #winning

Academy Records Annex
85 Oak Street (Brooklyn)

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The Academy Records Annex was the deepest spot we hit up (other than perhaps the record fair).  Tons of vinyl, most of it used, and covering about every genre under the sun.  Did you know Sly and Robbie did a hop hop album produced by KRS One?  I didn’t.  But I own it now.  For five bucks.  Throw in some bizarro private press stuff, some early 1980s metal, and a 12″ by Soviet Sex, and the only surprise was that I got out of there for less than a hundred bucks (barely).  Absolutely worth the visit.

 

 

I feel like I should have come home with more vinyl, but I’ve bought a TON lately and since we did so much walking I just didn’t want to be schlepping stuff all over town.  That being said, there are definitely a lot of great vinyl options in NYC if you’ve got the time.

(♠)  My dad was from Brooklyn, my mom from the Bronx.

(♣)  And fabric stores in the garment district.  Mrs. Life in the Vinyl Lane should have a blog called Life in the Fabric Lane.