empty sleeve

a blog about record shops

Kurgu Books & Records, Istanbul

Ozgu Berksoy

 New Zealand’s Longboss gets lost in Istanbul, and we reap the benefits.

In Turkey, following your nose seems to be a record digger’s prerequisite, as navigation is not easy. Signs in Cyrillic, old men nodding yes to turn left when they are really saying “wrong way son” and the labyrinthine side streets that record stores seem to be invariably be located all combine to make for an interesting experience and one not to undertake if you’re in a hurry.

Following your nose to find Istanbul’s Kurgu Books & Records means first locating the collection of pungent fish restaurants that street. The next step is to look for books, and lots of them. Finding Kurgu means traveling through Istanbul´s giant  book store arcade. Here, the volume of reading material  accumulated by owners literally spills out the doors of every stall. Obsessive compulsive collector types beware: you will get stuck here for a long time.

In amongst all this is the small but perfectly formed store of Yuksel Berksoy, Istanbul’s only serious stop for Anatolian musical treats.  Run by Yuksel and her two lovely daughters Bengi and Ozgu, Kurgu is an all woman musical operation. Combined with a hi-fi store (manned by the token bloke, Yuksel’s son) the Berksoy ladies have Istanbul’s second-hand music scene locked down.

Kurgu's 7's

I simply wanted to find the bin marked “Psychedelic Turkish rock 1976”  but it wasn´t until I got to Turkey that I realised the distinction between Anatolia and Antalya and understood there was much more than just the few names I’d heard of. Anatolia is basically the Turkish heartland, while the latter is the Mediterranean city. The music similarly had been a little misunderstood, but my subsequent travels and listening  revealed that 70s Turkish music spanned an incredibly diverse range, where traditional standards combine with Western covers, the pentatonic scales overlap with American funk and strange (to my ears) otherworldly Eastern instruments combine with fuzz boxes….awesome.

There was a nice selection of LPs however with Okay Temiz and Baris Manco’s prime LPs stocked at international prices it was 7”s in the tin box marked “Anatolian Rock” which grabbed me.  Over an afternoon of complimentary tea Yuksel and I worked our way through the music until I had around 15 pieces to  take back across the Bosphorus.

Worthy mentions should go to Defunkt music and others selling new and secondhand European releases, but if you are going to Constantinople for local flavours, head towards the books…

Kurgu Books & Records, Mesrutiyet Caddesi 18/38 Aslihan Pasaji, Beyoglu, Istanbul, Turkey


Three Stores in Bangkok


Friend, collaborator and committed digger Longboss reports that Thailand isn’t all bootleg DVDs and CDRs…

Bangkok’s Chinatown is where you can find Mr Chokkchai’s Broadway Records as well as Cathay records and an unnamed corner store run by the city’s grumpiest man. These three make up Bangkok’s (and probably Thailand’s) last remaining vinyl record precinct.

Rather than stock CDs, these places sell records as well as various turntables and cartridges. The digital age has seemingly completely passed them by, but Mr C does echo the oft-heard western retail complaint against “Bootlegs/Downloads/Cellphones. Mr Chokkchai’s service won out against the day-glo counter displays of Cathay Records where it wasn’t possible to listen to anything. Still, Cathay had plenty of copies of certain records which suggested “warehouse dead stock discoveries” are not an exclusively American concept.

Cathay Records

Broadway had plenty of jukebox type 7 inches, 80s Thai pop albums and over priced Englebert long players. Cover spotting seemed liked a good way to go considering the Thai language is complete hieroglyphics to me and Chocky was happy enough to pull me out some dusty 7s . The film of street dirt covering everything has led all three shop owners to come up with elaborate plastic coverings for the record bins, but by the time I got to Broadway I let Chocky’s fingers do the dusty work.

I profess to having no knowledge of Thai music beyond a couple of Finders Keepers comps of outsider rock that I haven’t actually listened to. But I did know the word “Molam”, which I think is a traditional Thai song structure/ type that has been compiled recently. So I received six records after explaining I wanted the weirdest traditional records he could excavate. The request was duly fulfilled- I played two of them at a friends that evening and they were indeed odd….even by my standards.

Broadway Record- digging for Molam

The verdict is still out on whether I will actually get any listening mileage out of this stuff but at 50 cents each, if worst comes to worst the covers are still cool and can double as wall mounts.

Emptysleeve note: check out Sublime Frequencies for a journey into Molam!

 Broadway and Cathay Records  Saphan Tek & Worachek Intersection, Charoen Krung Road, Bangkok, Thailand

Cathay's Gerard 501

Public Possession, Munich


Launched earlier this year, Public Possession is a project of Valentino Betz and Marvin Schuhmann – who, alongside Bartellow also comprise DJ/production outfit Tambien.

Encompassing a record label and a boutique retail operation, Public Possession is all class. Both shop and imprint are carefully curated and dedicated to quality leftfield club/house/techno vibrations.


The store specialises in labels such as L.I.E.S, Golf Channel, Themes for Great Cities, Discos Capablanca and so on.  There is also a small but excellent selection of secondhand hand records. DJ equipment is also available.



Marvin and Valentino have plans to run regular in-store happenings with visiting international DJs; these will take place “in the late afternoon or early evening in a non-club relaxed atmosphere”.  Sounds ideal.

The Public Possession record label – also launched in early 2013 – has come out fighting with releases from Tambien, Bartellow and Australians Matthew Brown and Bell Towers. Expect a repress of the brilliant first Tambien 12″ in the not so distant future.

Thanks to Melbourne DJ, producer and friend Les Level for facilitating this post.

Public Possession, Klenzestrasse 16, 80469, Munich, Bavaria




Red Light Records, Amsterdam

The recently Europe-relocated Gordy Zola  changed the colour of my day with this inspiring description of a new store recently opened in the ‘Dam. Red Light Records guarantees a happy ending…

Imagine if you will, your favourite DJs opening a record store together. For myself and a whole lot of others this came true as the opening of Red Light Records introduced us to a stellar mix of weird and wonderful records dug throughout Europe as well as taken directly from the collections of the three co-owners, Tako Reyenga, Abel Nagengast and Jamie Tiller.

Digging through basements in Greece and flea markets in Antwerp, to the most unassuming music shops on desolate German highways, Reyenga, Nagengast and Tiller are in a league of their own with their knowledge matched only by their taste. Unlike many DJs who strive to keep discoveries “secret”, the trio has created a sharing environment in the store where the customer can feel comfortable to peruse as well as be introduced to the unknown.

While RLR was full of records from my wantlist, I was actually more excited to hear things in the store that I didn’t know before and Tako, the main store clerk who makes sure the speakers are always warm, was more than happy to introduce and expand my mind.

It really is a “world music” store with well organised crates categorised by country and then by genre, spanning from ambient and folk to electronic and funk. Conditions are very nice throughout and the prices fair.

The district itself is going through a cleansing process, scrubbing itself of its unsalubrious past and bringing some culture to the centre. RLR’s neighbour Red Light Radio has had an extremely positive effect on the area and the whole city since its launch over a year ago, and the record store is seldom quiet with local and visiting DJs dropping in before or after their sets on the radio station next door. When you’re there, make sure you check out Vintage Voudou directly next door which specialises in exotic vinyl. I caught the owner spinning at a party in Amsterdam when I was there and it was positively infectious music that struck you hips first!

I’m already looking forward to my next visit and to see the areas transformation into something closer to its surrounding laneways, streets and canals which really are charming.

Keep an ear out for Red Light Records’ soon to be launched label Music for Memory which will release comps and unreleased material from incredible music makers. Meanwhile here’s some mixes from the guys that will have you booking the next flight to Amsterdam.

Red Light Records Oudekerksplein 26 , Amsterdam, 1012GZ, Netherlands

Big City Records, Manhattan

“New York, New York is where we live and we’re thorough
Never taking shorts cuz Brooklyn’s the borough”

Having come of age to a walkman-delivered soundtrack of golden-era hip hop jams I’m a sucker for the romance and mythology of New York city. My own time record shopping there was an all too brief period in 2007 and I’ve been itchy to get back ever since. The following look at some of NY’s lesser-documented digging spots, contributed (again!) by Noise In My Head’s Michael K hasn’t helped. A libation of gratitude to him.

New York City – the big smoke. The birthplace of hip hop and disco and many booming generations of DJ culture. A great spot for you and thousands of record buyers. Things get competitive and shops have a fast turnaround. If you’re looking for a digger’s guide, the comprehensive breakdown over at Discogs’ International Record Store Index is an essential starting point. Though on a recent trip I observed that this is getting a little outdated so here’s a walk-through of some new or neglected second hand dealers. I’m again avoiding covering the A1 and Academy institutions as they’ve been documented so many times before. However, they’re still worth hitting daily!

I never walk out of this East Village spot empty handed. Ideal for buyers of soul, jazz, disco and hip hop, with splatterings of soundtracks, latin, rock, libraries etc. Crammed dollar bins beneath the racks. Scored a Brazilian lazy disco LP while my wingman filled a bag of soul LPs for practically donuts.

They have a sister store in Jersey which I’m yet to visit but some of the records warehoused here are listed on their discogs profile  (if there’s anything of interest they’ll apparently send it over to this East Village location). Barely a block away from Academy (415 East 12th St) which never disappoints.

 Big City Records, 521 E 12th St, Manhattan, NY 10009

Good Records, Manhattan

One of the many tightly clustered spots on E 5th St, Good Records is always well stocked with secondhand jazz, rock, soul, disco, rap, house, latin, reggae, blues, folk and soundtrack LPs, 12″s and 45s. Top rarities behind the counter too.

The owner was once clearing a stash of sealed Bob Chance – It’s Broken originals and must either frequently travel to the African continent or have a great hookup there because he’s always dealing premium highlife, afrobeat and obscure Nigerian/Ghanan boogie titles on eBay. I had a nice bump into psych-hip hop MC/DJ Edan who was having some luck scouring the racks on a sunny afternoon.

Good Records, 218 E 5th St, Manhattan, NY 10003

Tropicalia In Furs, Manhattan

Feel constant positive vibrations at Tropicalia In Furs. The staff always seem to be having a good time, blaring music and having a laugh out back. Predominately a Brazilian specialty store with a healthy serving of other genres. A pretty overstimulating space with orange walls coated with records, including a cool display of sleeves designs based around the image of an eye.

Tropicalia In Furs is a treasure trove of 60s/70s/80s Brazilian funk, folk, revolutionary rock and bossa nova. Sadly these aren’t cheap and often in rough condition, but this is not indicative of the whole store. Worth going for a rummage as there’s something in there for everyone.

 I also highly recommend walking across the road to Gimme Gimme Records (325 East 5th St). The owner teaches piano in the building so its only open Fri-Sun. While the hours didn’t work out for me this time around, I’ve had golden runs here in the past.

Tropicalia In Furs, 304 East 5th Street, Manhattan, NY 10003

Deadly Dragon Sound, Manhattan

Reggae, roots, dancehall, ska and rocksteady specialists in the skirts of Chinatown. A shop for the heads, the small space has 45s packed floor to ceiling, stocking current releases and tracing all the way back to the 1950s. Daunting for infrequent dabblers like myself though the staff are more than happy to pile up suggestions based on your interests.

Prices are perhaps marked for their Japanese collector market which is a little disheartening given the city’s large Jamaican population and NY’s close proximity to Jamaica and the UK, but deeper diggers are destined to uncover some gaps here. I’m surveying the non-purist disco reggae sound at the moment so at least walked out with a free knowledge expansion. Worth checking out if you’re in the neighbourhood eating dumplings. The crew also run regular parties at a bar around the corner called Happy Ending.

 Deadly Dragon Sound, 102 Forsyth St # B, Manhattan, NY 10002

CO-OP 87, Brooklyn

Hot tip from Mikey Young of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and Total Control. Not sure how I’ve missed this spot during previous visits but it’s been open since 2009. Run by two former managers of Academy Records, CO-OP 87 has an amazing selection of new and used across the board.

You’d expect it to be well picked over considering its Greenpoint location, but this is hardly the case – regularly flushed with enough new arrivals to go round. A massive offering of disco singles (no junk, just the icing!), reasonable prices, tempting wall relics and a tonne of dollar bits out the front. Hauled some great dancefloor 12″s and some $4 soft rock LPs. Staff had a positive attitude. Wishing this was my local!

CO-OP 87, Guernsey St, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Record Grouch, Brooklyn

This store used to be a lesser known spot lurking below a vintage store in Williamsburg. Their new Greenpoint site is less dingy basement and more welcoming open plan. I went the opening day and it was too packed to photograph, but customers were walking out with big grins and 30 record piles in tow.

Loaded with cheap staples, Record Grouch is the ideal place to affordably start a collection from scratch. Close to the infamous Thing (1001 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222) and also Permanent Records (181 Franklin Street  Brooklyn, NY 11222).

Record Grouch, 986 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222