When you walk down Schaperstraße in Berlin you could be forgiven for walking straight past Gelbe Musik. The leafy road looks just like any one of the hundreds of residential streets that sprawl across the city. But the apartment buildings so typical of this area hide a bit of a gem in Berlin’s already pretty good record shop collection.
Gelbe Musik doesn’t shout about itself. A simple sign just saying ‘Musik’ is the only clue as to the crazy shit you’ll find here once you follow the steps down; but ever since my first visit to the city eight years ago I’ve returned each time.
See if you can spot the record shop hiding on this road.
It contains an incredible collection of avant-garde and experimental music. I can safely say I haven’t even heard the names of 99% of what’s in there, let alone what any of it sounds like, but that’s what the real joy of this place is; discovery.
The shop is clean and minimal. Ursula, the owner, sits in a little back room with her dog, smoking fags in an nonchalant way that only someone who was around to witness a lot of this music being born could. It was in Gelbe Musik that the Subsonic series actually became a collection for me.
My wife and I were in Berlin to see Einsturzende Neubauten play a special ‘supporter’ show in the derelict and stripped-out Palast Der Republik. It was a joyous long weekend of spotting ex-Bad Seeds, saying hello to Blixa Bargeld in his massive fur coat, becoming one of 200 drummers, and getting ripped to the tits at the best aftershow party I’ve been to yet. In fact the poster for the show is hanging behind me as I type >>>
That weekend with my mind open and brimming with creativity and wonder, a trip to Gelbe was more than necessary; it was vital.
Now I should clarify something here. At the time, I probably loved the idea of Gelbe almost more than the reality of it. I’d yet to make the transition from Kerrang reader to pretentious Wire magazine reader, so visits could sometimes be like being in sweet shop without a mouth.
Flicking through the racks of CDs was akin to when I occasionally go through a load of dance 12″ records – not a fucking clue. But then my eye was caught by a green coloured cd case, I pulled it out and found a familiar font and design style. There it was; Justin Broadrick & Andy Hawkins:Azonic’s – Subsonic 3: Skinner’s Black Laboratories.
Ursula put the first track on for me and at first nothing happened, we looked at each other a bit awkwardly. The only Subsonic record I had at that time, Page Hamilton & Caspar Brotzmann’s ‘Zulutime’, explodes out of the speakers as soon as you hit play. Slowly the track faded in, seconds later I was falling over myself to hand the Euros over.
And so now I had two Subsonic CDs, now it had become a collection, a challenge if you will. (Please check out this earlier post for a bit of background about the series.)
I haven’t visited Gelbe Musik for a couple of years now. I feel a real need to go back. If you happen to be in Berlin, and have any interest in a record shop that doesn’t choose to stock a load of pop records in order to pay the rent, check it out.
Next post I’ll talk more about the album in depth…