Friday, May 08, 2009

The Berlin Record Vaults

Berlin is where it indeed starts to get serious. So far on my travels, excluding London this city is the proverbial child-in-a-sweet-shop for crate diggers, record collectors and music enthusiasts in general (or indeed for bargain hunters, fashionistas, night-life fiends and the anarchists of this world). The districts of Schöneberg, Zoologischer Garten, Friedrichshain, Mitte and Kreuzberg have record stores coming out of its ears creating its own problems for record store reviewers like JK and myself. After feeling smug for assembling a list (The List) of 10 record shops to review with 12 hours in which to fully cover the essential independently run music stores in Berlin, the whole plan went flying out of the window when it became apparent that along streets like Oranier Strasse in Kreuzberg or Tor Strasse in Mitte two or three record stores would pop up seemingly like mushrooms on one single street.

In the end we’ve assembled a final list of 7 full shop reviews as well as 2 other establishments to recommend although we had no luck in reviewing the actual stores. Out of these seven stores, most of them will discuss small businesses that specialize either in rock/folk/jazz/soul/hip-hop/reggae vinyl records. For you diggers hungry for the electronic music record scene which Berlin is equally famous for, you’ll be able to find links to these stores at the end of the review.


Being the spiritual home of Berlin’s old city centre, this area boasts as many record stores as it does second-hand thrift stores, cheap fantastic food and hip bars & cafes. We actually spent most of our time roaming the many streets in Mitte popping our heads into stores ranging from those that cater to trance DJs and the Euro techo scene to stores specializing in Polish and Hungarian folk songs (?!). In the end here are the four that top our list in Mitte:

The Record Store - Brunner Strasse 186

This one is hands down the hippest looking vinyl-only record shop I’ve been fortunate enough to dig in with their 12” vinyl albums stacked in smart looking wooden shelves (categorized roughly into ‘Black music’, ‘Rock/Pop’, ‘Jazz’, ‘Female/Male Vocals’, Singer-songwriter’, ‘Hip-Hop’ ‘Latin’, ‘Soundtrack’ and ‘Electronic music’) and the 7” 45s kept in neat looking wooden cupboard divided according to genre (Rock’n’Roll & Rockabilly, Country, Soul/Funk, 50s/60s/70s rock/pop, R’nB, 70s Soul/Funk, Indie/Punk).

They might not have the biggest collection in the world but what they do have does indeed appeal to the eye. A €100 (Rp.1.400.000) Euro copy of a 1970s Fela Kuti album straight away springs to mind as does the super cool Shaft-in-Africa LP for a very decent €11.90 (Rp160.000). Their very impressive collection of Blue Note Jazz records is definitely enough a reason to go back to The Record Store the next time I visit Berlin-Mitte.

Da Copo Vinyl - Kastanien Allee 96

Quite the antithesis of the above mentioned ‘The Record Store’, this homey looking store holds copious amounts of mostly second-hand vinyl in a very cluttered space which makes most dusty fingered record hunters feel right at home. Looking for records here is a challenge and time consuming with records divided quite pedantically into very specific genre categories: modern jazz, (plain old) jazz, latin-jazz, World-music, 60s/70s rock, folk, folk-rock, indie&punk rock, reggae, East-German (DDR) music, classical, theater LPs, hip-hop, old-skool hip-hop, 80s electro hip-hop, 1920s&30s German & French cabaret, etc.

Oye Records - Oderberg Strasse 4

Oye Records is one for the aficionados boasting a neat & clean interior, GREAT record choices, records divided according to labels, stacks of 45s, a shelf dedicated to WaxPoetics, located on a hip street in the middle of town, the works.

Their collection is mostly newly pressed vinyl and specializes in funk, hip-hop, soul, disco, jazz with a super healthy dose of techno, house, drum’n’bass, dubstep and reggae. As far as the hip-hop and funk section is concerned I was indeed spoiled for choice with the rap section divided neatly into label based categories and the funk crates neatly stacked alphabetically. Their CD catalog is mighty impressive to with JK bagging Sound Way’s Nigeria Rock Special. Check out for a more extensive look at the shop (and all in English).

Tons of Records - Brunnen Strasse 10

One of the record stores we weren’t planning on visiting yet were pretty much forced to check it out due to the might interesting records put on the window display (Afrika Bambaataa’s Renegades of Funk, Curtis Mayfield’s Roots and a Nas 12” were the standouts).

The interior is minimalist to say the least and judging by the conversation I had with the very friendly owner, it’s a pretty new establishment to boot. This goes halfway explaining the half empty shelves on the wall and the small wooden crates containing the not-so-many records. What they did have though were pretty interesting with a whole category devoted to old East German releases of Western music (Bowie, Beatles, Pink Floyd, etc) and another catering to diggers of Italo-Disco 12” records.

The store looks half completed though so if you do decide to check this store out, I’m predicting it’ll be bigger and better.


Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain is a new adjoined single district from the old East German borough of Friedrichshain with the West German area of Kreuzberg since the wall came tumbling down. It’s also the home of Berlin’s thriving hip counterculture movement with scores of restaurants, snack bars, alternative cafes & bars, cool second hand clothing stores, left wing political groups (apparently Kreuzberg is home to the Kurdish Communist Party), and of course independent record shops due to the countless immigrants, artists, anarchists, musicians, young entrepreneurs and students who call this part of Berlin home.

Space Honda Records - Zossen Strasse 29

Another record store we tumbled into which wasn't on ‘The List’. Although the chap behind the counter tried his best to convince me it probably wasn’t the best idea to take pictures of this store at that moment as it will change its appearance ‘in a week or two’. Still, this place is massive and with the amount of records it holds it deserves a mention and a full review anyway.

We initially thought that it was a store dedicated to electronic music due to the music blaring out of the in-house speakers but soon realized it caters for pretty much any genre you please. And since time was of the essence, we only managed to snoop around the rock, soul, reggae and hip-hop sections and even that took us the good part of an hour to go through the dusty records. If their rock, soul, reggae and hip-hop collections are anything to go by with, their techno vinyls and other electronic music records in general would be well represented.

Scratch/Soul Trade Records - Zossen Strasse 31

Finding this joint was a bit of a challenge as both Scratch Records and Soul Trade Records made ‘The List‘ but were listed under two different addresses (neither were on Zossen Strasse 31). As luck had it the two merged into a single business and was located next door to Space Honda Records.

And yet another of the hip record stores in Berlin sporting a minimalist interior yet features stacks of records both second-hand and brand new categorized under many sub-genres including a very impressive separate room containing specifically jazz, soul, funk and hip-hop records (perhaps the Soul Trade half of the shop). The front part of the store carries all the techno, dubstep, trance and other electronic based music as well as memorabilia (funky t-shirts, Wax Poetics magazines and posters).

Logo Records - Bergman Strasse 10

One of the smallest record shops we entered and definitely the smallest to make it on this review. It also has the smallest amount of vinyl records in stock as the front half of the store is allocated entirely to a respectable collection of CDs.

The back section of the shop houses mostly second hand pop/rock 12” albums, cheap 45s, a single double sided crate/box dedicated to Hip-Hop, Soul and Jazz vinyl as well as a photo proving that Quentin Tarantino is a frequent punter of Logo Records. At the end of the day what really matters is at this shop you can get youself Air Supply’s tear jerking Lost In Love for just €1.

The Ones That Got Away

Time’s a b*tch so unfortunately we were left to leave out the record stores which were just too far away or other similar pathetic excuses for not going. But since we’re nice dudes, here are other stores you should check out when in Berlin:

Digalittledeeper Records - Linien Strasse 13 (formerly Tor Strasse 102)

One of he most hard to find shops and walk in during opening hours on my Berlin sojourn. Located on a non-desrcript corner on a main road having moved from its original location on Tor Strasse, this seemingly very interesting record shop is only open on Wednesdays and Saturdays (see pic) so we only managed to make some laughable pictures of the store’s facade.

Keywax Records - By appointment only

This one really takes the biscuit when it comes to obscurity as you can only visit the store by setting up an appointment with the owner through his Myspace page. We did try though but unfortunately didn’t receive a reply before our time in Berlin ran out. Still, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though as this store was voted by as their favourite records store.


j k said...

nice write up man... btw, i went back to scratch/soul trade and got me that bitchin' soul jazz brazilian post punk comp. also bought that hilarious t-shirt, which i'm giving my brother for his birthday. should've bought that air supply album though.....

Anonymous said...

Great research,well written
I've read while digging in Berlin,
helped A LOT!!

Ffonz said...

glad it helped, anonymous man! just holler if you need similar info for rotterdam or amsterdam based record stores.