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Belgium: The Vinyl Frontier

"Vinyl is very much alive in Kortrijk"

"Vinyl is very much alive in Kortrijk"

It’s nice that every shop has different things on offer

Interview Diederik Decroix
Photographs Bruno Sortino

Vinyl lovers in Kortrijk and surroundings better block their monthly VISA limit. Next to the GTO Distroy and Popcenter record stores, newcomers RAYS and Kortom are here to join the assault on your savings. Yay! It’s not all peace, love and unicorns, though, as the upcoming closure of Komma in de Lucht sadly demonstrates. But we’re the kinds of people who like to focus on the good news, so we went and had a look at Kortom.

Bruno Sortino is an artist and is now the proud owner of vinyl shop Kortom. Sortino: “Vinyl and painting. In a word: those are my two passions. Hence the name: ‘kortom’, meaning ‘in short’.”

Sortino: “Just like everywhere else, vinyl is very much alive in Kortrijk, more so now than ever. It’s nice that every shop has different things on offer. I like to focus on vinyl, art and drinks. So it’s a shop/café/exhibition kind of thing. For now, the emphasis is on exhibiting my own work, but in the future, I’d like to make some room for young artists from the area.”

Sortino: “I have a degree in woodworking, which proved a blessing when decorating the shop. I made the most part myself: the bar, the vinyl racks, the shelves, etcetera. You’ll find the shop at Overbekeplein, a somewhat forgotten yet charming square. Centrally located, but nice and quiet. There’s a lot on offer: Blues, Soul, a large assortment of Rock, Hip-hop, a lot of electronic music. These are the genres I have a feel for myself. The shop is open every Thursday and Saturday until 20.00, and until 22.00 on Fridays. That way, there’s plenty of time to enjoy some records and a beer after work.”

As a teenager, I was lucky enough to inherit of my parents’ record collection.

Sortino: “As a teenager, I started buying drum and bass records on vinyl. Then I was lucky enough to inherit of my parents’ record collection. From then on, my love for Rock, Blues, Soul etcetera started to grow. Back then I used to take the train to go to record stores in Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp, just to enlarge my collection. I amassed quite a lot of albums that way. A very special one, to me, is Bowie’s Hunky Dory, a special limited edition picture disc from ’84. I bought in Brussels about seven years ago. I hadn’t really been looking for it, it’s not like it was on my wish list or anything like that. But suddenly I had it in my hands and my gut told me to buy it. In the meantime, I’ve grown less in love with picture discs and coloured vinyl. Another one in my collection is Replicas by Tubeway Army, a record that used to belong to my parents. I found it between the rest of their records in the attic. For years, I used to only listen to the one song on that record, Are 'Friends' Electric?. After hearing it only once, I was crazy about it. I used to play it all the time, later on, when I was DJ’ing. But it took me years to listen to the rest of the record and start appreciating the other tracks. I’ve spun that record more times than I can count.”

The opening of his own vinyl shop is a dream come true for Sortino, even though it will only be a complete success if he manages to turn his business into a full-time venture. For now, he combines his hours at the shop with a regular day job, which is nicely workable thanks to the opening hours. This Summer, Sortino plans on adding a terrace to the café. “I want to go for cosiness while expanding the vinyl collection at the same time. On April 22nd, Kortom will celebrate its first Record Store Day. There will new releases, of course, but also a DJ and a snug atmosphere.”

The place already feels very homey. There’s a few people sitting at the bar, others are digging through crates and the pre-listening pick-up hasn’t stopped spinning ever since we’ve walked in. Looks like this formula’s got some magic to it. A month after opening, Sortino considers himself a happy man. When asked about the best-selling record, Sortino proudly answers: “Bring It On by Goose. What else?”

In need of more black gold? Check out our utterly complete list of all of Belgium’s record stores.