November 30, 2016
Letting the Katze out the bag.
Berlin can seem like a ghost town. There are abandoned spy towers, deserted theme parks, decaying military barracks, forgotten embassies, skeletal architectural relics, and sometimes the streets of Mitte feel eerily quiet. But in this city – as anyone that’s attempted the pilgrimage to Berghain can attest – seemingly derelict corners can transform into unrivalled playgrounds for the young and free. You just need to know the spot.
Like its club scene and art world, Berlin’s record culture knows no bounds. Once you scratch beneath the big hitters – the Hard Waxes, Space Halls, Oyes, Record Lofts – there’s an overwhelming supply of hidden gems in this town. As we said in our definitive guide, Berlin’s plattenläden are among the best in Europe – and to prove it, we’ve selected eight of its best lesser-known shops.
As with our secret London guide, most of these spots boast strong second hand selections and/or sheer quantity of cheap records to dig through. Some are off the beaten track or past the Ring, others are tucked away in the courtyard of an apartment block.
Often the reserve of those in the know, these are the shops that have sustained DJs and collectors for decades and prefer to keep profiles low and quality high. That said, all were receptive to getting a little more shine here and so, while we’re aware of the self-defeating nature of features sharing ‘secret’ tips, we’re convinced helping keep these places ticking over is positive for all concerned.
Location: Hermann-Hesse-Straße 25, 13156
Go for: 35,000 jazz records and hi-fi sound
What’s the story? Head to the deep depths of Pankow for the stuff jazz dreams are made of. Owner Peter Durek claims his shop, which opened in 2013, boasts the biggest jazz collection in Berlin and quite possibly all of Deutschland.
Spread over 130 square meters, upstairs and down, the 35,000-odd collection is organised meticulously by artist. As well as the jazz greats, you can turn out rare and unusual titles if you have the patience – and the cash. In the jazz bar downstairs – where monthly listening parties are held – there’s a large section of shellacs documenting the old jazz world of the early 20th century.
The shop also leads a double life as a hi-fi centre, selling professionally restored vintage decks, as well as new models, tube amps, speaker systems, cleaning machines and accessories. Durek prides himself on offering the best audio advice to customers, whether that’s on buying a first turntable, which cables to use or how to modernise old equipment. Jazz Dreams also offers professional cleaning services for records.
Location: Kastanienallee 96, 10435 Berlin
Go for: Dusty classical, DDR, German records and books
What’s the story? The shop is one of the most charmingly romantic spots in Berlin, a relic of Prenzlauer Berg’s DDR past. There are sections dedicated to State label Amiga, as well as Eastern Europe, Schalergpop and Berlin favourites. There’s also a wide array of soul, jazz, psych, and music from across the world.
In the back room, a large and well-sorted selection of classical records is surrounded by shelves of books, art and ceramics. You can easily lose a few hours in there, sitting on the armchair, cigarette in one hand, glass of red wine in other, listening to old records and reading dusty classics.
Location: Liepaja Str 19, 10245
Go for: Rare and second-hand dance 12″s
What’s the story? Located a couple of stones throws from Berghain, this is one of Berlin’s best kept secrets for used house, techno, electro and d&b.
Martin Rieser founded the store in 2006 after years of selling vinyl in Berlin’s fleamarkets. Ten years later and the shelves carry over five thousand titles. If you’re after original Planet E, Dance Mania, Traxx, Perlon, Plug Research, or Rephlex pressings, look no further. The walls are lined with sought-after, big dollar items but you can also raid the bins of €3 house and techno promo if you’re happy to get on your knees. Riser promises that every single record is cleaned before pricing.
Pro tip: there’s free candy behind the counter.
Location: Marchlewskistraße 107, 10243
Go for: Punk, underground, DIY
What’s the story? Robert and Stefan started Bisauf Messer out of a “schnapsidee”; the pair were joking around one afternoon, unsatisfied with college and working life, and decided to give it a shot.
They had both been running labels and mail-order services out of their living rooms for years, and coming out of the ’90s emo, hardcore scene, they wanted to do things with a punk ethic. A quick tour of the shop and it certainly feels DIY – in a good way. “This is the only work that doesn’t feel like work (most of the time),” says Stefan.
The stock of c.10, 000 titles span a range of underground scenes including punk, garage, hardcore, metal, noise, experimental, synth, folk, global sounds and electronica. As well as vinyl, there’s also tapes, CDs, a few DVDs, merchandise, books, magazines, fanzines, art stuff, nick-nacks and even an own-brand coffee roast connected to their ADAGIO830 label.
Bikini Waxx Records
Location: Manteuffelstraße 48, 10999
Go for: House and techno
What’s the story? When the techno sub-sections include ‘Sci-Fi’, ‘Dubby & Atmospheric’, ‘Abstract Industrial & Lo-Fi’, and ‘Immortal Techno Tools’, you know you’re in good hands.
A secret shop in more ways than one, you’ll need to ring on the buzzer of a Manteuffelstraße apartment block and walk through into the courtyard to find the yellow house of Bikini Waxx. It definitely feels like home once you’re in: the atmosphere is super welcoming and the staff are delightful, and there’s beer. There’s a loft room upstairs with swivel chairs and decks for listening – a great place to work through all those €1 techno and house shelves.
Location: Tegeler Weg 102, 10589
Go for: A 100,000-record treasure trove
What’s the story? Forty-six years ago, Peter Patzek aka Platten Pedro and his wife decided they would open a record store. Six years later they found a spot on Tegler Weg in the west of the city and he’s been there ever since. Building a business in what was then West Berlin wasn’t easy but having survived flogging 78s in the early days, Pedro was able to expand the collection rapidly with singles and LPs across all genres to the point now where he has more records than he knows what to do with.
Organised alphabetically and measured by the metre, Pedro estimates he has over 100,000 second hand records in total (or 112,436 exactly according to his site).
Nestled on the banks of the Spree between Jungfernheide and the western ring road, it’s not surprising he’s managed to keep a low profile. Check out the visitor hours online and you might think he was being wilfully eccentric, as Platten Pedro is open for business between 10.07 and 16.53 on week days or between 09.59 and 13.07 on Saturdays.
Galactic Supermarket Records
Location: Petersburger Str 89, 10247
Go for: Incredible used vinyl
What’s the story? Whilst the shop is strong on all things cosmic – the clues in the name – the 35,000-odd inventory is a phenomenal journey through all kinds of music history.
The shop is expertly organised into key genre sections and then further divided into sections by artists or sub-genres as diverse as ‘Belly Dance’ and ‘American Indian Folk’. The jazz, krautrock and psychedelic section are particularly eye-watering – be careful with your savings in here! Be sure to check out the mezzanine section in the back room and to say hi to Bobby, the shop’s pet dog.
Ghost Town Records
Location: Holteistraße 12, 10245
Go for: Reggae 7″s
What’s the story? This spectre of a record store is on very few people’s radars and yet is one of Berlin’s most unique offerings. The key USP is its enormous collection of reggae 45s that sit in one long rack like a water trough waiting to be devoured. From Studio One to African Museum, the selection is unrivalled in Berlin, so much so that they’ve plastered the walls with 45s.
The rest of the shop is stacked with a tight selection of long players. As you’d expect, there are strong doses of rocksteady, ska, dance, dub and digi-dub but you can also find some cracking Latin, garage, punk, new wave and rock’n’roll here. It might be off the beaten track, but this shop deserves your attention.
Location: Krossener Str. 24, 10245
Go for: Jazz, reggae, soundtracks, oddities
What’s the story? Andreas Klemmer was 13 when the wall came down. Having grown up in a small East German town, this was the first moment he could freely absorb international sounds. By ’95 he had moved to Berlin, began DJ’ing and buying up records of every style. He would sell excess records at fleamarkets before co-launching Piatto Forte in Kreuzberg in 2006 which is now closed – “fucked by gentrification” he says. A few years later, in 2009, he found his own spot, Vinyl-a-GoGo, in Friedrichshain, which he now runs with his brother.
Shop inventory here tots up to around 15,000 LPs and 3,000 7-inches. The Blue Note section is simply jaw-dropping, and in few other places will you find well-stocked sections dedicated in their entirety to things like On-U Sound, Amiga, French pop 45s, Morricone and Popul Vuh. “You could say I am focused on some underrated music styles instead of all Pink Floyd LPs from A to Z,” Andreas tells us.