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Off The Radar Record Shops Around The World You Should Visit

April 19, 2013

GP drops knowledge on lesser known record stores the World over that you won’t find in the guidebook.

1.Elena de San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Gilles helped start the tango revival playing the likes of Astor Piazolla and the Gotan Project before it was fashionable, so it is appropriate to start this list in Buenos Aires.

When visiting Buenos Aires, most tourists head to the main market in San Telmo for its famous Sunday fare of paintings, jewellery and bric-a-brac. Goods, including records are expensive though. Much better in terms of selections and considerably cheaper is Estados Unidos. Discreetly located in the corner of a working fruit and veg market, the tables outside full of records lure you to the real gems that lie inside. The interior of the shop has bold, bright Art Noveau-style paintings; bizarrely, artists materials; an old turntable and crates and crates of records. Come here for your Argentine pressings of The Beatles, and albums by the aforementioned tango god Astor Piazolla and Nestor Marconi, the Herbie Hancock of tango. One of the best shops in the world.

Estados Unidos 460 – Loc 134
Antiguo Mercado de San Telmo

2.The David White Gallery, Wellington

Chaos galore

The David White Gallery typifies everything that is so enjoyable about record shops, and shops that sell records. Located off the beaten path behind the popular Cuba Street, the shop is a disorganised bedlam of odds n’ ends, curios, memories from yesteryear and lots of records. Some are stocked, in no order, in boxes. The rest form vertical piles defying gravity. The delightful owner David White, full of stories and mugs of coffee for regulars, makes the shop a must. You have not really been digging unless you have paid a visit.

88 Abel Smith Street
Te Aro
New Zealand

3. Rick’s Records, Hastings

Local DJ, Ade P, tipped me off about this discreet establishment. Located at the back of a lock up, walk underneath shutters, and into an indoor market selling various wares. At one end of the market is Rick’s, marked with two oversized records protruding from the window. The large shop stocks everything from Sixties psychedelia to New York disco. The friendly owner – I assume Rick – guided me through a large section of Isaac Hayes’ records, all in good condition and reasonably priced, which sum up what the shop is all about.

Courthouse Street Mews
East Sussex
TN34 3AU

4. Aquarius Records, San Francisco

I love Aquarius Records. It has a big glass façade full of alluring records and a weekly display of album covers. Is there anything better than going into a record shop for the first time and seeing tens of brightly coloured Cal Tjader albums? It is this attention to detail which makes Aquarius a winner. And the shop has records to die for. I luckily visited in the days of two dollars to the pound sterling, and duly bought the whole Wayne Shorter section. I hit the previously mentioned Cal Tjader section next, a big Gilles Peterson favourite. There were rare live albums I have never seen as well as cheap, cheerful and very good Fantasy label re-issues. I bought the whole lot.

Every genre is stocked at Aquarius, from West African funk to French pop, but the shop is not too big to be overwhelming. Again the shop is made by the friendly and eccentric owner, a sixties musical veteran, who fingered each Shorter album I bought and told a story around it. Wonderful.

1055 Valencia Street
San Francisco

5. Conch Records, Auckland

Conch Records is a de facto stop for visiting DJs, including the likes of DJ Premier, Carl Craig and Gilles, stocking as it does the more discernible side of house and techno and a host of releases from the jazz tinged club world. The shop is spacious with lots of natural light, boasts an excellent courtyard cafe and also stocks a range of t-shirts, books and posters.

Owner Cian, and if he is around his friend DJ Sam E, are wonderful hosts. On my last visit they spent considerable time listing a number of records by local artists I should check out, and if the records were not in stock, even going as far as recommending other shops I should go to. My record shopping experience was made complete with an invitation to join them for a drink at a secret bar opposite. There I was introduced to most of Auckland’s music players. I then let it be known to Cian and Sam E, I was writing a book, The Secret List, on record shops around the world…

115a Ponsonby Road

Sanjiv Ahluwalia, author of the forthcoming record shop guide, The Secret List