Experimental, independent music seems to exist in a state of flux, constantly vacillating between obscurity and prominence in certain circles. While the internet and dutiful bloggers continue to spread the word about various bands and songs, the beloved record store, once THE go-to spot to learn about new music, is tragically becoming obsolete. And yet, there are a few special spots that continue to survive–and thrive–and Paris is home to one of the best in the world.
I initially learned about Bimbo Tower upon my first explorations into the Coldwave genre. The French variant of dark, post-punk music, it often featured young musicians with access to affordable synthesizers in the late 70s and early 80s and drew comparisons to English-speaking acts such as Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joy Division, Bauhaus, and others. Usually featuring French vocals, the genre managed to further bury itself into obscurity, and we have nothing more than a few choice compilations from the past decade to thank for bringing these gems to our attention.
But now, we also have Bimbo Tower. Located in the 11th arrondisement close to Bastille, the store is hidden in a remote alleyway in Paris that is often neglected in even the most detailed street maps. Photographer Mary-Jane Lee, who captured these images, had to walk down the street a few times to eventually discover that the “seemingly abandoned building was indeed a shop.” She even had to pound on the window to be let in!
But if you are adventurous, this store is a bonafide goldmine with a remarkably knowledgeable and passionate staff to boot. Featuring a wealth of obscure vinyl, it is the ultimate stop for fans of rare electronic and avant garde music. Mary-Jane tells Untapped that “They also had a small collection of CDs, magazines, and graphic novels. Although my husband and I aren’t necessarily vinyl collectors, being in the shop made us feel like we should be.” Further proof that those secret spots off the beaten path continue to be the most enriching.
5 Passage St Antoine
75011 Paris, France
01 49 29 76 70