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Top five: Record Shops

Nicky Charlish

London's independent record shops are booming - and not just with sound!

We're told that record shops are a thing of the past, that being able to get music from the 
internet has rendered them financially unviable. Like vinyl records (what music was 
available on before we had CDs) they belong to - and are a reminder of - another age. They 
are the dinosaurs of the digital era. That may all be coming true for chain stores, but 
independent record shops are flourishing in the capital and are worth investigating for what 
they have to offer (don't be put off them by the geeky image they've garnered in some 
quarters from Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity). Let's look at what five of them have 
available for their punters.

Rough Trade

The Rough Trade recording and retail brands have been symbolic parts of the West London 
music scene since the 1970s. The recording label has gone through ups and downs but is 
still with us. Meanwhile, the record store in Talbot Road thrives, a potent reminder of the 
pre-gentrification Notting Hill most famously captured by Colin Maclnnes in his novel 
Absolute Beginners, and in Nic Roeg's film Performance. Here can be found all sorts of post- 
punk delights. In 2007, a new branch, Rough Trade East, opened at the old Truman Brewery 
complex in Brick Lane - a stone's throw from the area's vintage fashion shops - complete 
with a cafe and live performance stage, along with a good selection of music-related books. 
Rough Trade produces a handy little leaflet which you can pick up at their shops, called 
Albums of the Month, giving you the low-down on current cool offerings.

Sister Ray

As you enter this shop's wide, dark, almost cavernous interior you feel that good things are 
lurking here, and you'd be right. For some thirty years, this Soho-based shop has been 
supplying a wide range of records including classic albums and rare and second-hand vinyl. 
Serious enthusiasts and casual browsers burrow side by side at the racks. The assistants are 
knowledgeable and shouldn't be fazed by requests for obscure material, whilst there's a 
good selection of publications for specialist interests.

Sounds of the Universe

A few minutes' walk from Sister Ray, this small but perfectly-formed shop specializes in 
reggae, dubstep, jazz, house, disco, funk and Latin sounds. It manages to retain a large, 
clearly-classified stock without feeling cramped. And it also realizes that people want to
engage in solid reading about the music they listen to and love. Clump downstairs into the 
basement and you find a wide selection of books on various musical genres. And the slow, 
mysterious thump of reggae gives a pleasant, tingling sense of expectation as you browse 
the shelves.

Kristina Records

No area of London can claim to be truly bohemian if it lacks independent record stores. 
Dalston has its very own in the form of Kristina Records. Established some three years' ago, 
this shop is not easy to spot, but making the effort to do so is worthwhile. It specializes in 
new and second-hand vinyl and it concentrates mainly on techno, house and experimental 
music. The shop's stock is displayed in attractive white wood shelving, giving the shop a 
relaxing feel. The members of staff are enthusiastic, polite, friendly, and know their stuff.

Harold Moores Records

If your musical tastes run to the classical, this is a must-visit shop for you. Entering this 
Soho-based establishment, the sound of opera may fill your ears, but that's not the only 
genre available here. Easy listening and avant-garde material is also on sale, stock is 
plentiful (there are two floors of it to explore), the shelving is neat but not canyon-like - the 
shop's interior feels light and airy - and the young members of staff dispel any frivolous fear 
of fogeyness that the idea of classical music might arouse.

Happy listening!

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