Never thought I would end up record shopping in Aachen. As it happened to be, it was only one hour away from our stay in the Belgian Ardennes and offers a vibrant record collecting community making it too good of an opportunity to pass up. The city itself, outside its large cathedral and small charming back streets, is not something I would rate highly. I must add that I have spent just an afternoon walking through the streets with my eyes keen on spotting the next record store. So, I might not have emerged myself well enough to form a honest opinion, let alone experience what Aachen’s night life has to offer. Me and my brother did enjoyed a delicious cake and coffee on the cathedral square which was lovely, but moreover the city comes across as quite bleak with its concrete walls and industrial setting. Anyhow I’m not hosting a travel blog so we can skip over Aachen as a city and focus on record shopping in Aachen, which is pretty amazing.
First up is High Fidelity which is close to the cathedral square that as a side note offers an abundance of easy and relatively cheap parking options. The store has a nice atmospshere and offers both Vinyl and CD’s. It feels a little more towards a second hand market stall and will require some appetite to turn every stone. In turn you will have a better change of stumbling on something good for a reasonably low price than you would in your average record store. The condition of the records can be a different matter though. I myself quickly stumbled on Billy Cobham’s Life and Times and The Driving Blues Of Smokey Smothers, but unfortunately the records were pretty beat up so I let them go. I was a bit deterred by then and decided to spent more time seeing what else record shopping in Aachen had to offer instead of digging deeper and thus left emptyhanded.
By the time I reached Music Giftland and went on a first exploratory round through the store, I was very happy with my decision of leaving enough time. Record shopping in Aachen simply can’t do without visiting this store. Music Giftland or Giftland Music as it says on the storefront boasts an amazing array of sought after titles in virtually every genre of which some are early or first pressings. In particular the Jazz and R&B second hand bins, I managed to pull out some great records. Also the Punk section seemed to offer a wide range of titles down to the smaller subgenres. Working my way back to the front of the store, I went through the “new in” boxes. In between one of the six boxes I pulled out two original early 12 inch 45’s of Lucky Dube and both happened to be rare South African pressings. As with most of this early stuff you come across, the condition was unfortunately very poor to the point it produces more noise than music. After putting them back I shifted my focus to the tower of plastic boxes standing in the middle of the store. Having a chat with the owner, who spoke Dutch remarkably well, I was allowed to open each one of the boxes which contained only near mint to mint copies. If you wish to complete your Funkadelic collection, chances are you will be able to complete your whole collection in one go. For a moment I was tempted to purchase each and every one of them as they were absolutely impeccable. After taking the time to carefully lift each box from the tower like a giant game of Jenga, I found myself a stool and went through them one by one. I really had to stop myself from pulling out more and more records to set aside if I wanted to leave the store with enough money to pay for gas on the way home and my dignity intact. There are more collectable records stacked in drawers per genre underneath the counter that you would otherwise easily pass by without noticing. In the end, I managed to make some hard decisions and purchased only three records. Professor Longhair’s 1980 Crawfish Fiesta, Taj Mahal’s early masterpiece and a mint copy of The O’Jays Ship Ahoy produced by Allen Toussaint. Happy days!
My last stop before heading back was TAM TAM Recordshop, a great ending to my day record shopping in Aachen. The store only opens at 14:00 during week days, so it worked perfectly at the end of our daytrip to Aachen. This neat looking store mostly focuses on new releases with only a small amount of second hand titles mostly Rock, Pop and Soul orientated. However, I did stumble on an original I Roy’s Cancer Dub which by the looks of it has barely been played at all and picked up a copy of Massive Attack V. Mad Professor Part II (Mezzanine Remix Tapes ’98) as I absolutely love its predecessor No Protection. TAM TAM Recordshop is the right place to find some of the more uncommon reissues by today’s more caring reissue labels that many record stores leave to the side. Overall, the store tends to lean more towards Electronic music than any other style but definitely worthwhile to visit if Electronic music isn’t necessarily what you are looking for. Not even close to being an expert within this wide genre, I did got the feeling they put together a selection that was somewhat different from the norm down to the store’s personal recommendations.
There is another Record Store in Aachen that I really wanted to visit, but I ran out of time and Plattenbau is located on the outskirts of Aachen which would have at least took me an additional 30 minutes walking or by car. Looking at the store’s images and going over some of the reviews I missed out on a good opportunity, but as they say you always need to leave at least something worth coming back for. On our way back to the Belgian Ardennes we managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Peak Brewery and purchased a couple of limited edition rum 1836 barrel aged beer bottles that will pair nicely with the freshly caught Crawfish Fiesta.