empty sleeve

a blog about record shops

South Melbourne Market: Balearic Goldmine?

Well, probably not. Dim Sim goldmine, sure.  But I did walk out of this textbook music stall with the 12″ dub mix of Womack and Womack’s Life Is Just A Ballgame; the 7″ of Thinking of You by Paul Weller; Tom Tom Club’s The Man With the Four-Way Hips 12″ (already owned but couldn’t leave it behind); Fashion Fabrique; Capella Heylom Halib (for old times’ sake) and the Amii Stewart/Mike Francis outing pictured below. Unfortunately it’s not Mike’s finest hour.

Really feeling the collage vibrations here. It’s like being inside a giant 1980s high-school folder or something. Not what you’d call well-organised, but definitely worth a rummage once you’ve stocked up on witlof.

Collector’s Fair Memorabilia, Stall 255, Corner aisle F and East aisle (opposite Claypots) South Melbourne Market

Tokyo and Osaka Guide

Michael Kucyk of the always excellent Noise In My Head recently returned from some deep excavations in Japan.  The insights he shares into some of the lesser-explored digging spots of Tokyo and Osaka will have you on the next plane.

There really is no place like Japan for digging. With stores tightly clustered in most districts, it’s a wonderland where you can explore every alleyway, basement and above ground level for mint music across all genres and origins. Mine deep for Japan’s amazing domestic music as well as rare Japan-only releases of western artists, plus every other oddity that mysteriously found itself in common circulation and has been well treasured by this devoted audiophile mass community. Just picture a record sleeve and it will magically appear in front of you!

First things first – pick up a copy of Record Map. Updated every year, Record Map is the essential guide to shops in every city and district in Japan, with easy to follow maps and less easy to decipher descriptions of each store’s specialty.

The book will set you back a measly 2,000 yen but will pay immediate dividends as most shops marked with a ‘lucky icon’ will reward you with 10% off (or slightly less). Despite the language barrier, Japanese people are incredibly helpful and generous with their time. Feel free to ask a fellow shopper or the store owner to recommend other places within the area and they can simply mark the maps for your reference.

While I spent a lot of time and money at bulk second-hand chain stores like Disk Union, RECOfan and Yellowpop, I got a real kick out of supporting the smaller independents, which were all run by kind folk who travel abroad regularly, actively sourcing interesting stock for their unique stores. The following is a selection of my favourites.

Rubbergard Record,Tokyo

Specialising in Latin, soul, jazz and rock, Rubbergard lies quietly in the back alleys a few minutes walk from Jinbōchō station. It offers a premium selection lovingly curated by an enthusiast of the Central and South Americas. The beautifully fitted out store is refreshingly open with two listening stations sitting comfortably in the centre and ‘Nice Price’ boxes littering the floor.

Here I salvaged many smooth groove Brazilian relics as well as some hot Japanese discs which the owner kindly recommended – the Nadja OST 7″ (light funky!), Akira Sakata – Tenoch Sakata 10″ (mental avant-electronics on the Better Days label) and Toshiyuki Honda – Opa Com Deus LP (recommended pseudo-Brazilia). Check out their website which is updated regularly with new arrivals.

Rubbergard Records 1F, 1-38-6 Kanda Jinbō-chō, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan

F’lmore Records, Tokyo

One for all of the trippers out there, F’lmore carries psychedelia and counterculture across all eras, in every variety possible. These amazing records are tightly packed with ingenious descriptive labels – “Spiritual Afro”; “Ambient/New Age/ECM/Chill Out/Raga”; “Minimal Electro/Synth Beats/Cosmic”; “Progressive – Spain”; “CTI, Groove Fusion” and “Brazil/Bossa Nova/MPB” to name but a few.

Was impressed to see some rarities filed away in “Progressive – Australia” as well as a Whirlywirld 7” on the wall. Found quite a few records that I’d been desperately seeking including Goblin’s Contamination soundtrack and an esoteric Rinder & Lewis alias, while a few friends blew my mind with some weapons they pulled out for public play. Given that these are not easy finds, prices were reasonable. There were also heaps of cheap boxes filled with random goodies around the counter. The owner made it a friendly experience.

F’lmore Records Sanko Bldg. 3F 2-1-8 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Rare Groove, Osaka

Run by Norio, an all-time nice guy, local party promoter and inspirational DJ, Rare Groove is an absolute must for Osaka visitors. Great records across the board here, thanks to Norio who constantly jets to the States to dig deep and has a trusted network of international dealers. Definitely caters far beyond its “Rock, Disco, Jazz, New Wave, Dance & Strange Music!!!” tagline.

I wisely allocated ample time for this pop in – ended up pulling out around 50 records from the racks, sat down comfortably in the corner and let my ears run wild. The haul was a nice combination of shop suggestions, curious sleeves and desert island discs including many Japanese groovers that I wasn’t aware of previously. Was rapt to finally score an original copy of Batteaux, a wonderful folky free soul LP made by two descendants of a dolphin communicator.

One shelf was lined with signed 12″ sleeves with glowing shop endorsements from DJ celebrities Peanut Butter Wolf, Mark E, Tim Sweeney and Prins Thomas. If you’re searching for clues on nightlife then this is a great spot to start – Norio knows where the real parties are at!

Rare Groove, 409 Lee Structure Nishi-shinsaibashi, 1-9-28 Nishi-shinsaibashi, Chuo-ku, Osaka, Japan

Revelation Time, Osaka

Within walking distance of Rare Groove, Revelation Time is a magical store that I’ll never forget. Its owner Eiji speaks fluent English, having previously lived in London and travels to Utrecht twice a year.

Eiji’s stock stands alone as being very Euro-centric but also accommodates a lot of US, Canadian, Bollywood and South American music. Whether it’s new age, Turkish, electronic, psych rock, Balearic or fusion, each category boasts deep knowledge. Even Theo Parrish, Harvey and the Idjut Boys have their own sections.

A quarter of the store specialises in roots, lovers’ rock and digital dancehall in bulk quantities of quality. Revelation Time sets the bar high, almost as if a board of directors had to rigorously judge each record before granting it entry. Just like in dreams, I found many long desired discs here as well as making many exciting new discoveries thanks to Eiji’s recommendations. Just ask him about Japanese new age, cosmic and psychedelic groove and again, allow lots of time for listening. Take a glimpse inside online with audio samples of choice cuts.

Revelation Time, NOA Bld, 4F-A, 4-9-5 Minamisenba, Tyuo-Ku Osaka-Shi, Osaka, Japan

Maru Ka Batsu, Shinsaibashi, Osaka

I had great memories of discovering this store by accident in the final hours of a previous visit to Osaka. Three years later, it certainly lived up to my recollections. This is an absolute must for fans of progressive rock with sections marked for French, Italian, Dutch, German, Japanese and general Euro. Strange continuity of prices in this department so keep flicking for random bargains.

I also got heavily amongst their AOR (always a hidden spot for Balearics!), industrial, French, Brazilian and Latin records as well as their expansive offering of J-pop and black music. I should have pillaged through their 45s but sometimes it’s hard to find the inspiration required to look through 1000s of 7”s with Japanese only sleeves and no English shortcuts. Very happy to find Pecker’s 10” here, recorded in Jamaica with Sly, Robbie, Augustus Pablo and ‘Minnie’ Yoshida.

No listening station but the owner will let you listen to one record on shop speakers – make it count!

Maru Ka Batsu Records & CDs, Yotsubashi Shin-Kosan Building 1-5-2, Kitahorie, Nishi-ku, Osaka-shi, Japan

If you’ve got a J-Rail pass and time permits, consider jumping a train to Kobe. I had much success here only a flat battery prevented me from documenting the experience. Heaps of amazing and cheap stores within close vicinity of Motomachi station, some of which were located in a long mall under the rail tracks including one that was like playing Tetris with floor to ceiling columns of records (it was a wonder how the owner actually got in and out everyday). Hangesha  was a great boutique of cosmic, electronic, outer funk, psychedelic, wave and general weird, while Rhythm Kings was the motherlode of world music covering all corners of the globe. This day trip from Osaka comes highly recommended! Just be prepared as most stores are cash only.

Zoltan, Istanbul

Large scale thanks go out to world traveler, DJ, occasional poncho-wearer and record collector Gordy Zola who has contributed the following amazing store reviews plus photographs from his recent Euro trip…

Zzzzzoltan!! The best shop ever! This place was closed when I first got to Istanbul. When I came back two weeks later I checked again and lucky I did. I found everything I hoped for in the one crate. So happy. Was just pulling out stuff and quietly imploding with joy and elation. Okay Temiz, Özdemir Erdoğan, Mazhar ve Fuat, Elias Rahbani and more!

The dude who ran the place was so cool, very knowledgeable and has been the business for some time. Smoked cigarette after cigarette while popping on some crazy sounds. We just sat there and listened and chatted and smoked for ages. Think I was in the store for nearly 3 hours?! If I was there any longer I would have suggested getting some beers…

Zoltan Records, Caferaga Mahallesi, Sak ız Sokak 15/D Kadikoy Istanbul, Turkey

Antik Teknik, Istanbul

This place is round the corner from Vintage and Rainbow 45. Worth hunting down as it has a couple of hundred records inside. I found a Euro-disco LP I’d had on my wantlist for a while but the super cool thing about the store was all the electronics. Walls of them. I don’t know much about this stuff but anyone who does is bound to find some cool vintage gear in there.

Plakhane, Istanbul

Whoa! Plakhane is a super nice store. Air conditioning, polished floor boards, great racks, listening table, sweet Turkish cuts! Thought I was never going to find it and had almost given up after a good half hour of fruitless laneway wandering, then I found it opposite a kind of car park.

The dude behind the jump was playing crazy records the whole time. He even picked out some funky Turkish jams for me after I asked him if he could recommend any.

Found a Turkish record here for a lovely price that was at the top of my wantlist. Happy customer! Recommended store.

Plakhane, Hocazade sokak 22, Beyoğlu Istanbul, Turkey