5 cool record stores you should visit in Asia Pacific
For the record
I wouldn't necessarily say that I'm an expert at collecting records, but I'm still going to share with you my relatively newfound passion for it. Over the course of two years and in between my busy schedule in music and the arts, I've developed a chronic need for acquiring records from record stores that I have visited around the world.
I have to say again — for the record — that I'm still new to this and continue to find new places all the time, so I'll be banking on the comments section of this article to find the next. Also, as I'm a huge fan of jazz, soul and funk, most of my crate digs cover records from these genres of music. Don't worry though — most of the stores mentioned here cover more than just the genres I prefer. To add to this, being a musician also means I have a musician's budget. So if you're a bargain hunter, my experiences should help your wallet a little.
The Searchers and Northside Records
One of my girlfriend's best friends brought us out to Fitzroy, Northeast of the city centre, to go thrift-shop hunting. I wanted to buy a record or two so she showed us to the intersection between Smith and Gertrude Street, where I began crate-digging at a place called The Searchers. Bought a couple of good ones from here including Earth, Wind and Fire's I Am and The Isley Brothers' Grand Slam, and over the next year I'd visit the shops along these two streets again. I even copped a AUD$3 Eruption Record from a Salvation Army store with their famous song I can't Stand The Rain on it.
The next year I came back for Soulfest and decided to hit the stores again. This time, I spotted one of my favourite singers, Nai Palm from Hiatus Kaiyote (a Melbourne native) who was just outside and next door to Northside Records. Without hesitation, I ran into Northside Records and bought a Tawk Tomahawk record and got her to sign it. Dream come true.
The Searchers. 93 Smith St, Fitzroy VIC 3065. Tel: +61 3 9939 0096
Northside Records. 236 Gertrude St, Fitzroy VIC 3065. Tel: +61 3 9417 7557
I went to Ochanomizu with my buddy JR (TAJ, L.A.B., iNCH) while we were on tour to this famed music gear district. If you didn't know, Ochanomizu is a haven for musicians, with blocks of music stores selling everything that you need to build your music career. I didn't expect to see what I saw when I went up the stairs to diskunion JazzTokyo when JR went to check out drum gear. The speakers at the entrance were playing a live session of Charlie Parker. It arrested me as I was walking by — it sounded like a live jazz gig was going on in the place.
I spent three hours digging crates and spent SGD$160 on 16 records, averaging out a $10 record-spend, with a good balance between used and new records. I managed to score a rare James Brown live recording with The J.B.'s here. I also copped some Ella, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, The Gap Band, Stevie Wonder and more.
New Surugadai Bldg. 2F, 2-1-45 Kanda Surugadai, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0062. Tel: +81 03 3294 2648.
Needless to say, we first came here for the books. But when I reached the top floor I was so excited to find a fifth of the level filled with records! I found my first George Duke record here, which was almost impossible to find a good price for any in places like Melbourne or Tokyo. I also managed to acquire some classical music from here to switch it up from time to time — Dvorak in particular. But of course I had to get my funk fix settled with some Curtis Mayfield and another Isley Brothers record too.
No. 245, Section 1, Dunhua South Road, Taipei.
This enclave is hidden and charmingly so, in one of the alleyways in this low-rise neighbourhood. The record store is run by some of the musicians in the Bandung music scene as well, who have had exchange gigs with some of the underground musicians here in Singapore too.
Beyond its slightly hipster coffee shop façade, the record store boasts a collection that replenishes itself seasonally with some of the best indie records — not just from around the world but even more so from the Indonesian underground. They have a regular programming of live music as well. I wasn't so lucky the time as I visited at the end of stock season, so I didn't manage to make many good picks. I did however snag a Prince record as well as something from Roberta Flack.
17 Jalan Rasamela. Tel: +62 812 2114 4185.
Singapore's record prices are a lot pricier in general than the above-mentioned places, but that's changing slowly and crates are expanding with more and more stores on the hunt for the good stuff worldwide. When I'm in Singapore, I tend to buy records online a lot more but when I do come out to dig, I normally start around Bencoolen and then follow the word-of-mouth trail around the area.
Hear Records has a place in my heart because it's where I bought my first turntable. When it all began, after my first full-on crate-dig in Melbourne, I came back to Singapore and needed to get an entry level turntable. The staff here were really kind and I got served by The Little Giant's drummer, whom I didn't know at the time. Recently their crates have been taking up more of the space on the floor where their customers are supposed to walk — which is an awesome thing.
175B Bencoolen Street. Tel: 9646 0648.
Join Tim De Cotta at ALIWAL PRESENTS: THE ANT-MEN, An Ode to Hip-Hop with NAztyKeys (The Good Life Project, Gentle Bones, 53A), Aaron James Lee (The Steve McQueens) on 19 October from 7 t0 10pm. Get your tickets here.