Letter #43

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’ve had a belting week! This week in London it’s felt like spring has sprung. I hope I’m not jinxing it by saying that 🌂. I’ve listened to some brilliant music this week and the mixtape came together really quickly, but I must warn you, listening back to the mixtape earlier, it goes off like a bottle rocket!

Enjoy ❤️

🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: listen to the superb new album from Sons of Kemet; visit 50 of the worlds greatest record shops; listen to Kendrick’s vocals from DAMN. played over The Chronic; preorder the repress of Captain Beefheart classic Trout Mask Replica; read the back story of the Mick Rock photobook on Bowie, The Rise of David Bowie: 1972-1973learn more about how sound can be used as a weapon (and hear the ‘death whistle’) in this great piece from FACT.

Bonus: listen to Marvin Gaye’s classic I Heard It Through The Grapevinein stunning a cappella (big thanks to Louise!).

PLAY
📚 The notes 📚
Since starting this letter, quite a few people have asked why I chose to Spotify as the base for the playlists, rather than Apple Music or another service. I’ve used Spotify for years, and always been a huge fan of the ethos and purpose behind the platform. From the early days, it’s always been about music, rather than using music to sell something else, and for that reason, I will always stay loyal. This week was a huge week, as it went public in a typically Spotify way (not overly vain IPO, but rather straight up listing). There’s loads of coverage on the news, but this piece from MIDIA felt like the best to share. Big love to everyone I know at Spotify (some of which are here with us), huge week for you! 🎉

In more personal news, I broadcast the first ever Love Will Save the Day podcast this week! You’ll notice my very careful use of language. Broadcast. Not recorded. Not saved. Not published. I’m an idiot. Somehow, I managed to broadcast a three hour ‘show’ on my Mixlr page without actually recording or saving the broadcast.

Now, in retrospect, this is most likely a good thing. In those three hours, I learnt a lot. First of all, for my first run, I shouldn’t have promoted that I was doing it, as knowing I had an audience (even a small one) made me feel immediately more self-conscious and really nervous! It was far more technically challenging than I was expecting – learning to talk over the intro’s and outro’s of songs is harder than I’d imagined. Choosing what music to play takes a bit more thinking through than I’d done before, as I got through less music, and it was far too easy to revert to my comfort zone and turn it into a bit of a DJ set (which can be part of it, but I don’t want it to be the whole thing). I probably need to do a bit more preparation on stuff to talk about. Writing is a really natural medium for me, but talking to an empty room is definitely not.

I finished the John Peel book this week, and in the back there were a few people paying homage to his style and passion, and something that stuck out was that everyone commented on how whenever they heard Peel’s shows, it always felt like he was talking to only them. This is my dream.

I’ve had 40+ letters to work on this, and editing a letter is a lot more forgiving than broadcasting a live podcast / radio show. Practice, practice, practice it is!

After finished the Peel book, I pretty much dived straight into Mark Radcliffe’s Thank You for the Days: A Boy’s Own Adventures in Radio and BeyondI’m about a third the way through, and I’ve skipped a few bits as it can get a bit lads lads lads in places (football etc), but I’ve always really like Radcliffe’s style, and his passion for music is wonderful. Early in the book, he talks about being quite shy and needing space to himself, but also having this never-ending passion to share good music with people. Definite Peel parallels, and he summed up the tension nicely here;

“The truth is that you can’t really go on air and front a radio programme unless you’ve got a relatively high opinion of yourself, a basic belief that what you are going to say is worth hearing. This is an entirely different personality trait than being a well-adjusted social animal, however. I know national radio presenters who are almost painfully shy, and I personally find walking into a room of about twenty people to be far more nerve-racking than doing a live show to several million.”

I find the contrast pretty fascinating, and can definitely relate. Faith and trust in your own ability to find good music, but a tendency to be a bit shy sometimes. I read a good article this week on being ‘the quiet type‘. For those that have two sides to them (extroverted and introverted), it’s definitely worth a read, and I found it really relatable. The Radcliffe quote, coupled with knowing more about John Peel, and the article above has helped me to rationalise the tension of being a bit shy sometimes, but having a desire to share stuff that I love, with people that I think will also love it.

If you’d like to follow the live broadcasts for Love Will Save the Day, click here. I’ll link to them here when they’ve been published, but signing up will alert you (I think) when they’re being broadcast live.

In the Radcliffe book, there was also a brilliant quote that I wanted to share that I thought explained the difference between the ‘Great Rock and Roll Swindle’ of the Sex Pistols, and Syco’s X-Factor (which are often compared and suggested as being similar, just of different generations);

“Where McLaren wins out of course is that his aim was to impose change, whereas Cowell’s master plan is to prevent it. McLaren was a true revolutionary in that he didn’t care whether he benefited from the new order, he just wanted to clear the space so that things could grow. It was a kind of benevolent nihilism. In my opinion, Cowell wants us to buy the processed schlock he peddles to make himself ever richer.”

This felt like a really interesting way of breaking down the differences between someone who was after change, and someone who was after money. More to follow on this in the future…

Also this week, there was a brilliant interview with Dave Okumu (from The Invisible) on Vinyl Factory, talking about his love of Gil-Scott Heron (and his upcoming tribute show). There was a lovely quote that caught my eye;  “I’m one of the proponents of the idea that rhythm is the foundation of everything, we all have an innate sense of rhythm that is integral to how we walk and how we breathe and how we speak.” Which reminded me of Letter #21 from last November, which was dedicated to my everlasting obsession with rhythm. I’m so annoyed there isn’t a drum emoji on the Mac keyboard 😫.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #42

Buenos días,

I hope you’ve had a good week! It’s a double bank holiday here in the UK, so it’s an extra long weekend. Where ever you are in the world, I hope this soundtrack lifts you up, makes you dance, and then pops you back down gently again.

There’s a whole load of new people this week, so here’s a quick tour; this bit is the intro, the link to the mixtape is below (big red button), there’s a collection of music and culture stuff that I found interesting this week (TL:DR), and then below that there’s some rambling notes on the letter.

A friend (hi James!) recently joined us and told me that the last three mixtape’s had been really varied, which was nice to hear. I’m always self-conscious people might think it’s becoming a bit ‘colour by numbers’. I hope not. Well, anyway, this week’s mixtape is, I think, different again. Putting it together this week has been more fun than usual (and it’s usually a lot of fun). I’ve found / re-found some brilliant music this week ❤️.

I hope you enjoy it.

🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: listen to Gabriel (one of us!) be interviewed on Nemone’s Electric Ladylandread about the mastering genius behind some of the world’s greatest albums; watch the brilliant artist behind Aphex Twin’s artwork discuss his work; read a brilliant NPR piece about how Dilla was a modern Miles, or Herbie; read about why Questlove needs to join Love Will Save the Day; and watch an amazing film from RA exploring the links between post-punk and no-wave, and electronica (hopefully demonstrated in last week’s letter).

Bonus: after my introvert / extrovert comments last week, here’s a good piece on why making friends as an adult is terrifying but also brilliant (honestly).

Request: if you’re female and you’d like to write a guest letter – please get in touch!

PLAY
📚 The notes 📚
Writing this letter each week is a pretty cathartic act. If I’ve had a tough week, I think you can probably hear it (and usually, I’d imagine you can guess it from the letter). A good week, and I think you’ll notice too. This week was a great week 😊. I consider myself incredibly lucky to do something everyday that I really, properly love. My day is spent trying to understand, analyse, and explain culture. Along with my obsession with finding music and sharing it with people I love, this letter acts as a sort of exhaust to everything I do. This week’s letter and mixtape has been shaped by a week of highs, and there are a number of songs that have soundtracked my week.

It’s rare for me to build a playlist around a handful of songs. Usually I’ve got maybe 15-20 must-play songs, I string them together and then as I’m putting them all together I remember other songs that I feel fit right alongside them. This week, there are six stand out songs for me. Each song represents a different part of my week, and each is a brilliant song that I’ve tried to build the mixtape around.

Saturday: listening to The Cure on Huey Morgan’s show on 6 Music with Effie (my daughter).
Monday: watching the sun rise above the sea on the train into work listening to Morcheeba.
Tuesday: walking into a massive client meeting (I work in advertising) on hearing a Gil-Scott Heron track right before I opened the door.
Wednesday: sitting in the back of a cab as I arrive at another big client meeting listening to the amazing Marcus Marr track.
Thursday: thinking about our global agency conference in Edinburgh a few weeks ago and remembering asking someone for a track ID for this Dark Sky track playing behind a mood film 😂.

And finally, listening to Caribou’s Can’t Do Without You as I write this letter. I must’ve heard this song a hundred times, but its impact never lessens. For me, this song represents everything that is brilliant about music. I always get goosebumps, but if I’m being honest, I almost always have a little happy cry. (Like right now.)

As I come to the end of the John Peel book I’m reading, I realise more and more why trying to be ‘cool’ matters so little. I’ve never really been bothered by it (as my friends will attest!), but I’ve always been weary of being too cheesy. I’m now declaring bankruptcy on anything cool. If I want to show the similarities between The Cure and George Michael, I will 😂. Good music is good music (as long as it’s not ‘comedy music’ or country and western 😫).

A lot of what I’m trying to do with this letter is explore different cultures, feelings, and thoughts. That might sound a bit deep, but let me ask you a question: do certain songs give you goosebumps? I’m going to (safely) presume that was a yes. Next question: have you danced with other people before? Again, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to assume a yes. Finally, there is evidence to show that the ‘collective feeling’, or ‘universal vibration’ that people feel on dance floors (usually exemplified by goosebumps) is an actual scientific fact. When we experience something that moves us at the same time, our heartbeats synchronise. David Mancuso was right…

This is all about finding your centre. I found mine on a sweaty dance floor. You might’ve found yours in a moshpit, at a gig, or sat in a concert hall. The most important thing is that you’ve found it. There’s a gentleman called Umair Haque who wrote a lovely article this week on finding your centre. I’d implore you to read it. He believes that;

“The center is the place we that we find it all. Happiness, meaning, purpose, because we are at the center of ourselves. That place, the center, is where we come home, at last. It cost me fifty cents to get there. It took me a lifetime to learn how. That it is only reached with the strength of mercy, the might of gentleness, and the freedom of abandoning all that one never was at all.”

Hopefully this sounds familiar.

On a final note, I’m recording the first Love Will Save the Day show this weekend – I’ll send out a little note when I do, as I’m going to record it live.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #41

Bom dia! 🌞

I hope you’ve had a great week. We’ve had approximately ten minutes of sunshine this week in London, but that’s ten more than last week, so I’ve officially declared summer as here. As well as the sunshine, the Portuguese welcome is also due in part because this week I’ve been listening to a lot of bossa nova and latin music (however looking at the final mixtape, very little has actually made it on). Although, this week’s mixtape is definitely dominated by sunshine songs, so let’s bask ❤️.

Also, there are TWO Edwin’s this week. Big news.

🌪 TL;DR section 🌪

Stuff to do: listen to David Byrne’s Desert Island Discs; read this Young Fathers interview (I’m obsessed with the new album); learn about anti-skate; listen to Four Tet’s excellent (new) Essential Mix; pre-order the Kamaal Williams album; read more about famous sampling of Sly Stone.

Weird bonus: listen to this haunting 👻 edit of Toto’s Africa – trust me…

PLAY
📚 The notes 📚
This week has been undoubtedly influenced by Peel, Gilles, and introspection. I try hardest for this not to become a cheap form of therapy, but sometimes it’s impossible to avoid. This week feels a bit like I’m thinking out loud. Or typing out loud. Gahh, you know what I mean…

I would say that I am, by nature, someone who switches between being extroverted and introverted. The percentages change, usually depending on the circumstances, and usually I struggle to control whatever causes the switch between the two. I’m the sort of person who used to throw a big house party, and then spend the evening choosing music, rather than talking to people. I love being around people, I love showing them things I think they’ll love, but sometimes I find social situations terrifying. Ironically, a massive part of my job involves social situations (but maybe that’s where my ‘social energy’ gets spent). This week at work I had to stand up in front of a group of people I know really well, and talk about something that I feel truly passionate about (culture) – it was exhilarating. Yet for some reason I cannot seem to shake the nerves of recording a podcast for you lot…

Potentially, this has been triggered (this week) by finishing the last half of the John Peel book I mentioned last week (here), and continuing to think about WTF it is that I record as a podcast. I’ve also maybe over-indulged myself in trying to understand what makes a good podcast. Over his tenure, Peel varied his format, style, and output massively – and trying to understand his ‘core’ is really difficult. I’ve spend time trying to understand how Gilles Peterson’s shows work too, listening to loads from his early days, his Radio One days, and his Worldwide.fm shows. Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy (Mancuso’s protege) also started out on radio, then became a DJ, and now DJs as well as running a Worldwide.fm show. Same with Tim Sweeney and Beats in Space. There’s little to thread them all together, but the only thing I can find is their passion for sharing music. This must sound so obvious, but maybe I’m a bit dense. The thread that makes what they do so brilliant is an uncompromising passion for sharing brilliant music. They are all cultural gatekeepers (as mentioned last week), and they do it because they give a shit.

So, I suppose that’s my answer.

This is fine, but then I stumble into the tension of how what I include each week. Feedback is a good way to understand, and maybe the scary aspect of a podcast is the thought of more feedback. For this letter, I maybe get a 10-15 comments a week (which is ~1%, so not representative of everyone here). Those comments usually filter into two distinct categories; the first is variation on either ‘how do you find the time’ or ‘what’s your process’, and the second is usually 2) ‘why did you put *** on this week’s letter?’. These questions are inextricably linked, and, weirdly, linked to my extroversion / introversion. So I thought I’d answer them.

Where’s the time / what’s the process?
‘Where’s the time’ is easy, I’ve always had a pretty daft appetite for finding good new (new, not new new) music, so all this is, is my way of externalising that. Obviously I haven’t always written a rambling essay, or assembled the music I’ve found into a carefully structured mixtape, but that feels like a tiny price to pay for sharing music with you all, and explaining some of the thought process. The process is, boringly, really straight forwards. I read a bunch of music magazines, listen to a lot of radio shows, read books on culture and music, follow loads of Spotify playlists, and go record shopping every week (pretty much). I don’t struggle to find music, but I always struggle to cut it down to 30 tracks. By Wednesday morning, as I get on the train to head into work, I usually have around 250 songs that I’ve found since Friday that I think are ‘absolutely must includes’. Then I use my commute to turn them into 100 ‘absolutely cannot possibly not includes’. Then Thursday I structure them into a 100 song mixtape, and start the process of brutally cutting them to 30 songs. The remaining 70 songs get put into a separate playlist for another time. The letter itself is usually informed by whatever I’ve read that week (saved to Pocket), the work that I’m doing, and the thoughts that I’ve had. Sometimes it’s closely tied to work, sometimes it’s focused on something new I’ve found, and sometimes it’s a bit more introspective. I’m still figuring all this out though (especially letter length).

In the John Peel book, there’s a lot of references to the volume of tapes he received from bands. It started as a few, by the 80s it was 20 a day, then by the 90s 50+ every day (he used to constantly have a car boot full to the brim of tapes). I realised this week that I have about 18 years worth of music on record (if I played them twelve hours per day, every day), which was a bit terrifying. So I’m going to try and limit my buying bit, and dig into what I have a bit more. That said, I’d really like to resurrect the Love Will Save the Day record pool, so please share music that you love here.

Why did you put *** on this week’s letter?
This ones a bit more difficult. Usually, everything included has been included because I’ve thought it was excellent and it fit with the overall tone of the letter that week. Sometimes the letter has a certain lean (last week was hip-hop, this week is definitely guitars), but hopefully it’s always music that you find interesting (either in a good or bad way). The weird thing for me is the lack of feedback. I’m so used to playing music to a group of people live, that the lack of reaction when I send this letter out can be a little bit disconcerting. If I’m playing music to you in person, I can very literally see what you do and don’t like by your reaction. When I put this mixtape and letter together, I’m a bit blind to your response. All I ever ask (as per Letter #36) is that you trust me 😊.

Peel has also inspired the music I’ve included this week, and the way I’ve structured the tape. This week I’ve tried to draw a lot of lines between genres, making connections that I thought were interesting. This is why Orange Juice is next to Soul II Soul, and why the hard funk sound of James Blood Ulmer sounds weirdly at home next to Shabaka Hutchings’ The Comet Is Coming. When Peel interviewed Edwyn Collins back in the 80s he actually talked about wanting the debut album to be produced by Chic, so the lines felt very natural. Peel’s subsequent exploration of the lines reminded me of Misshapes and Erol Alkan’s Trash night at Plastic.

I also had an enormously nostalgic moment this week after listening to a lot of bossa nova, and remembering E Samba. When I bought my first (of three) copies of E Samba, I was maybe 14. It was during my US soulful house period, when I was buying up anything by Masters at Work, and starting to get into Armand van Helden too. In fact, Boogie Monster was a song that I first heard aged 13 in a clothes shop in Nottingham. It was amazing, but I was too anxious to ask the DJ (DJ’s in shops was a thing) what it was. It wasn’t until nearly ten years later I found it (turns out it was called Cookie Monster after all!).

Anyway, if you’ve read to here, you definitely deserve a little gift – so this Ricardo Villalobos interview is brilliant, as is this profile on legend Ahmet Ertegun, and the story of Max Martin and his 90s pop empire is worth a read too.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #40

Hello.

I hope you’re already winding up the week, and ready to lock into the weekend. Big thanks to Simon for last week’s guest letter, a superb take on what Love Will Save the Day is all about.

This week’s tape was a real joy to put together, and I’ve found / remembered some amazing songs over the last two weeks. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed putting it together 🔥.

🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: get excited about Herbie Hancock’s forthcoming album with FlyLo, Kendrick, and Kamasi; read this RBMA Francois K interview on his role in the birth of disco; watch this Vinyl Factory documentary on hunting for Iceland funk records; read the latest addition to Resident Advisor’s Art of DJing series with Mumdance; and finally, go to the AVA talks in London Fields this afternoon at 3pm.

Bonus thing to do: get yourself to Ray’s Bar in Dalston tomorrow night, Olly Batho is putting on his Frisson night. The music will be great, and the venue is the old Dance Tunnel, so you know it’s great. Go here for more.

PLAY
📚 The notes 📚

So, some news. If you follow me on Instagram, you might’ve seen I’ve bought (and got subsequently annoyed with) a microphone. Not for singing (don’t panic), but for talking (ok maybe panic). Since starting Love Will Save the Daya lot of people have asked if I’d thought of doing a podcast edition, but to be honest, the thought has always been a bit terrifying. Live streams of DJ sets, running parties, talking to people (endlessly) about music; these things are all fine, but for some reason the idea of doing a podcast was a bit much. However, I’ve done a couple of dummy runs and actually I quite like it. I’m not sure when the first will be yet, and they won’t replace these letters, or be even nearly as regular (the letter is easy to do while commuting, recording a podcast is not). They’ll be vinyl only, follow a similar format to this letter, and I’m thinking guests could be interesting too. Watch this space 😊.

Anyway, as I started to seriously think about setting up a podcast, I started to think what I’d want it to be like. Old timers will know of my pure love for John Peel, so I decided to reread Good Night and Good Riddance. For music geeks, it’s great (it follows his shows across a 35 year period), but for anyone with a broader interest in Peel, his autobiography is much better. Anyway, as I was trying to find some more functional inspiration for the podcast stuff, I actually ended up thinking more about Peel’s role in culture. There are countless examples through the book of Peel ‘discovering’ bands, giving them relentless airtime, and them slowly becoming more and more popular until they hit popular culture, and BOOM. Off they go. The list is pretty staggering; T. Rex, The Faces, Bowie, Roxy Music, the White Stripes. What I thought was really interesting though, was that Peel wasn’t really elitist or snobby when it came to music – he’d happily play a Laurel and Hardy comedy song alongside Captain Beefheart, or Barry Manilow alongside Zeppelin. What he did though, much like Mancuso, or Levan, was reframe what people thought about those songs. (I think) he was trying to present them in different contexts, to show them under a different light, and ease the burden of some of the more surprising new music he was playing. As per my note a few weeks ago, to embed a new idea it needs a blend of familiar and surprising. I keep finding examples everywhere, but maybe that’s confirmation bias.

The second thing that the book sparked, was a thought about the role of cultural gatekeepers. Peel tried his best to avoid being too influenced by other people, and instead focused on finding (and refinding) music that he thought was true, and music that made him feel something. He then dedicates his career to sharing this with others, while often facing criticism from the BBC for being ‘too weird’. Then, his dedication is validated weeks later when the breakfast or drive-time DJ starts playing the same music. He was standing on the edges of culture, taking punts  on songs and artists based on his instincts, and then showing his listeners the results. Some of it worked (Bowie), some of it kind of worked (Beefheart), some of it didn’t. But Peel never carried new ideas or bands to the mainstream himself, he kind of carried them to a cultural middle ground. His platform was limited, but those that followed him had much bigger platforms.

Despite his lack of musical elitism, he still held a certain level of disdain for bands and artists that he felt focused on money rather focused on music;

“‘Nowadays,’ he’ll tell his Top Gear listeners just over a year from now, ‘you hear a lot of very famous bands making LPs which they don’t really seem, when you listen to them, you don’t feel that they really mean it any more.’ […] This is why Nuggets is manna for Peel, who loved most of the groups the first time round and believed they captured the spirit of what music should be about. Live for your day in the studio. Give it everything you’ve got. And then – please, for God’s sake – go away. Get in. Get heard. Get out.”

This reminded me a lot of a Kendrick Lamar lyric;

“I’m not on the outside looking in, I’m not on the inside looking out, I’m in the dead f*cking center, looking around”

It feels like there are two critical roles in how culture develops; there are creators, who sit on the edges, in the middle, and in the mainstream (as per my rant on culture being more alive now than ever, and on the importance of artists on the edges). Then there are gatekeepers (curators might be a better term), who find ideas and innovations on the edges and in the middle and move them forwards by showing them to different (and new) people. Creators are responsible for ideas, and curators are responsible for telling people about them. Both jobs are equally as important, because without an idea there’s nothing to tell people about, but equally without people knowing about the idea, it never advances or evolves. Maybe this seems massively obvious to you, but it’s only just really dawned on me…

Two treats for anyone that’s read this far 😊. The first is a link to the Daft Punk Essential Mix from 1997, which was 21 years old this week. I remember taping this from a friends tape, who’d taped it from another friends older brothers tape. I was 11. The quality was dreadful, but the experience was mind-altering.

The second treat is links to two brilliant photo-essays I found this week – one on the Chicago disco scene, and another on social and political graffiti in the UK.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #38

Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone,

I hope you’ve had a lovely week. We’ve had more snow in the UK than I think we’ve had for years, which has meant lots of time spent on slow trains, staring out of the window. I’ve tried to put the tape together this week to reflect that – it starts contemplative, and hopefully will gently thaw you out. Don’t worry though, the temperature  quickly climbs to tropical ❤️.

🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: watch Op de Bank’s interview with Gilles Peterson; read anything by Ben Ratliff; listen to Kirk Degiorgio’s Afrofuturism show on Red Bull Radio; buy The Story of The Faceread about the tyranny of convenience on the NY Times.
PLAY
📚 The notes 📚
I’ve also spent a lot of this week frustrated. In last week’s letter, I talked about the tension between commitment and evolution, and I’m annoyed. First, because it was an interesting thought, but I think it was badly articulated. Second, I can’t get the stupid thought out of my head now.

One of my friends (thanks Ciarán), sent me a link to a brilliant Gilles Peterson 6 Music show (here), and that sent me down the rabbit hole. Then I found this excellent interview with Peterson from Op de Bank, and at around the thirty minute mark, he hits on what I was talking about last week. He’s asked about his commitment to jazz, and talks about DJs that he was playing with in the late 80s going to Ibiza for the first time. He’d been playing jazz in the back rooms, while they’d been playing soul – until Ibiza…

“Everyone came back from Ibiza, and this thing called acid house just exploded. And I was a little bit frustrated that I’d been too conservative. Maybe I’d been a bit too boring. I was stood on the edge watching it all happen, and I realised then that I didn’t want to be on the edge – I didn’t want to feel like I’m not moving forwards. You’ve always got to keep pushing the boundaries, and never settle into the comfort zone.

It was comforting, in a way, to know that someone who’d spend years by that point feeling left behind, feeling the pinch of comfort, and using that to push himself forwards. It kind of validated what I’d written about last week. I’ve started reading The Jazz Ear by Ben Ratliff (who’s my new favourite writer, if you hadn’t guessed). It’s a collection of intimate interviews with great jazz players, and despite being halfway through, the same theme is emerging; tension between moving forwards, and landing something important. 

A friend of mine (hey Adah!), shared a brilliant article this week that also touched on the same area. A group of researchers have found an accurate model for how innovations occur. It’s built from Kauffman’s theory of the ‘adjacent possible’, and takes into account power laws, complexity, and a lot of maths. What was really interesting is that they’ve managed to validate the theory of the ‘adjacent possible’, which until now had been unproven, but widely believed. The theory is pretty simple; the more we’re exposed to that we’re unfamiliar with, the faster we develop. It’s how vaccines work (cells are exposed to viral cells). It’s how ideas work (we find parallels in non-connected areas to create new things in another area). And I think it’s how taste works too (the more we hear, the greater propensity we have towards that same sound). You can track your own tastes back, and I’m sure there’ll be a connective thread between everything. This got me thinking more about how you can be fully committed to an idea, but by exposing more people to it, it evolves. It becomes enveloped into a culture, and then the actors in that culture move it forwards. The UK jazz scene isn’t controlled by anyone, but some people make it more palatable and give it a sense of familiarity that enables it to become established, at which point ownership spreads, and it’s evolution becomes natural. Some of this harks back to what I was talking about in Letter #32, where I spoke about the idea that new ‘things’ that become popular have a blend of newness and familiarity.

Weird, right? 

So, all of this was whirling around my head, and then I read an article in FADER, on Jai Paul. For those that are unfamiliar, Jai Paul is a bit of an enigma. He has two official singles (the first of which is on this week’s tape), and not much more. He’s only ever done one interview, and remains almost completely anonymous. A few years ago, an album appeared on Bandcampthat claimed to be his debut, and the electronic music world went crackers. It turned out to be either a hoax, or a hack, but either way it was pulled down. If anything, this added even more to the myth of Jai Paul. 

Some of the more obscure forums are still alight with rumours, but while the two singles have seen some success, Paul’s impact outside of electronic music circles is pretty minimal. His impact within them though, was massive. Within the electric music culture, Paul was driving demand by choking supply. He was, in many ways, denying people of the evolution his music promised.

I started thinking that that cultural evolution could be driven in two ways; either by taking what’s already there and shining a light on it (Gilles Peterson), which then draws more people into the culture to help develop it. Or, by sitting on the edges and adding something innovative, but showing little commitment to the existing culture (Jai Paul, Burial, Banksy). The former brings new people in and drives innovation together, whereas the latter becomes about sparks of genius that inspire the whole culture to think differently. 

Maybe we need both, a bit like bonfires and fireworks. 

On that note, I hope you’ve thawed out, and as always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️ .

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #39

Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone,

I hope you’ve had a bloomin’ splendid week. This week we have a very special guest, but I didn’t actually plan to have a guest editor this week. Let me explain. Way back in January, Simon Veaney, one of my friends (and one of our longest serving members), sent through a guest mixtape and letter, and reading through it my immediate thought was ‘this looks like my dream NME cover CD that never was’. So when I heard the sad news this week that the NME is shuttering its print edition, I felt this was a perfect moment for Simon’s mixtape.

Simon has taken the very heart of what Love Will Save the Day is about, and expressed it in his own, and very special way. The songs he’s picked, and the way he’s structured the mixtape is exceptional, and I thought his letter is a joy to read. I hope you think so too.

PS Follow Simon on Instagram, it’ll fill you with gentle envy and huge smiles 😊

🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: watch the FKA Twigs and Spike Jonze Apple ad; listen to Graham Coxon’s soundtrack to The End of the F***ing World; marvel at this amazing map of the UK Jazz scene.
PLAY
📚 The notes 📚

The prospect of a guest slot on Love Will Save the Day brought both shivers of anticipation and also trepidation. As a keen follower of the series I saw that it was essential to echo the themes, flow and spirit of the endeavour, without losing the thread of my own personal perspective. I realised too, that since my formative university days in a classic soul band, my musical tastes had inexorably drifted towards a darker, folkier and less beat-centric vibe, a landscape filled with artists such as Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Bill Callahan, whose bleak world views and middling BPMs could derail the theme of love saving the day.

So, in the course of this compilation I have had the joy of reconnecting with music from a younger, more optimistic personal era, a time where I would rustle through second hand record shop shelves and dusty books to find music suitable for a working brummie funk group. In amongst the old and the new, a discernable narrative started to form – a push and pull between the noise, pressure and anxieties of the city, and the release and euphoria of the inner world of music. Something like a 30 song version of The Flight of the Conchords immortal ‘Inner City Pressure’.

Rather than a full tilt disco party, I see this playlist a little like a low flying bird, majestically striking off the ground, cruising long and free before heading deep and slow into the desert sunset. Enjoy!
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Songbird in a Cage

The journey starts (and ends, but we’ll come to that ) with the Gainsbourg family, specifically with the psychedelic stomp of Songbird in a Cage. Written for Gainsbourg by Paul McCartney and produced by SebastiAn, the singer, turned actor, turned singer again’s clipped delivery against a martial beat eventually breaks into a soaring melodic chorus, like a neat miniature of this entire mix. The song introduces the push and pull between the freedom and the friction of the city, and the escape from tragedy that travel can bring.
Thomas Wydler – Soulsheriff Smells a Rat

I have found a lot of excellent underground music in the past, by tracing the spiderweb of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds who between them represent a sizeable portion of the 80’s best bands. A number of Bad Seeds subsequently pop up in this mix. First up is the Swiss drummer Thomas Wydler, formerly of Berlin post-punk pioneers Die Haut. A clattering, beat strewn instrumental stalked by a prowling bass and wind chime vibes, SoulSheriff introduces some loosely krautrock style syncopation into the mix.

 

Timber Timbre – Floating Cathedrals

Previously a dark alt-folk outfit, on last year’s Sincerely, Future PollutionCanadian brooders Timber Timbre somehow morphed into replicants moulding neon lit Bladerunner torch songs. Having discovered them ahead of the excellent End of the Road Festival in Dorset, I then utterly failed to see their set after a music quiz overran and I got lost in the woods. No matter, the warm analogue synths and iceberg method lyrics pondering ‘death by instagram’ exist on their own plane.

 

Heliocentrics, Mulatu Astatke – Anglo Ethio Suit

I stumbled on this recording in a small bar in Budapest and managed to ask who it was. Answer: Ethno-Jazz founder Mulatu Astatke, backed by Love Will Save the Day favourites The Heliocentrics. The creaking violin (straight out of Wu Tang Forever’s Wu Revolution) and the languid flute curling around the drums like smoke, gives a real sense of space and place, and just the vaguest threat of jazz freakout around the corner.
Tindersticks – Say Goodbye to the City

Tension in music alongside the abstract notion of ‘space’ and ‘the notes you don’t play’ is one of the defining characteristics of a certain type of jazzy rock. As the Tindersticks have got deeper into soundtracking Claire Denis films, tension and space have become their defining characteristics. This version is taken from the gloriously unnecessary album ‘Across Six Light Years’ in which the band, born again with a funky new rhythm section, re-recorded live in the studio versions of deep cuts that they ‘never got right the first time’. To the untrained ear of course, the majority of songs were practically identical. For this song however, the band’s trademark languid style was noticeably reshaped into a coiled groove – delivering finally the intense climax promised but evaded earlier by the Heliocentrics.

 

Roots Manuva – Don’t Breathe Out

Continuing the theme of ‘city sickness’ from the Tindersticks but imbuing it with a hard fought edge of sweet salvation, Roots Manuva delivers this uplifting slice from 2015’s Bleeds. Rodney Smith’s struggles both on stage and off are well documented (he recently had to persuade his doctor that he was indeed a well known rapper and not delusional), but his mix of heartfelt flow and ‘poor people funky soul clap’ always lifts the spirits, especially with the entry of Sylas’ James Blakian falsetto.

 

Christine and the Queens – Tilted (live for Spotify)

I completely missed the initial hype around Christine and the Queens, mainly because too many people kept pointing her in my direction. However this Spotify exclusive live version of Tilted (the English version of ‘Christine’) picks up the pace nicely.

 

Lou Reed – Disco Mystic

Reed’s much underrated 1979 opus The Bells contains not only his best front cover, but also an unholy fusion of literary lyrics, rock & roll and discordant jazz. Matching the feedback and distortion of the recently maligned Metal Machine Music with a swinging jazz band led by the legendary Don Cherry, Lou Reed’s sole lyric was the croaked refrain of ‘Disco, Disco Mystic.’ It’s like the evil sibling of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme drowned out in Studio 54.

As Lester Bangs wrote: “There’s a real band on this record, and these musicians are giving us the only true jazz-rock fusion anybody’s come up with since Miles Davis’ On the Corner period.”

 

Tamikrest – Imanin Bas Zihoun

Last year I was intoxicated by the remarkable music memoir by Hugo Race, Road Series. After leaving the original 1984 lineup of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, the young Melbournian traces his subsequent journeys across East Europe, Sicily, Mali and Brazil in a hypnotic beat poetry style that has the same cadence and mystical blues vibe as his loop based work with the True Spirit. One of the key chapters describes a chance musical encounter with the Malian Tuareg group Tamikrest in the Sahara desert. Out of these ‘tent sessions’ came both the first ‘Dirtmusic’ collaboration (more of that later) and the production of Tamikrest’s debut album. Coming on like Tinariwen’s rambunctious younger cousins, with the lustiest handclaps you’ll ever hear, Tamikrest seethe with the unbridled energy of a freak sandstorm.
Barry Adamson – I Got Clothes (ACR:MCR remix)

Since he swapped Hansa Studios in Berlin for the mean streets of Moss Side Manchester, Adamson has become known as much for his excellent soundtrack work for David Lynch as for his 80s bass playing with Nick Cave and Magazine. Adamson has continued to remain relevant, as seen with this burbling, squelching remix which comes on like a Mancunian Dr John haunting the Hacienda.

 

Red Snapper – Get Some Sleep, Tiger

One of the standouts from the ’90s drum & bass scene, and a personal inspiration back in my drumming days, Red Snapper made dance music using a basis of real, honest to goodness acoustic instruments, specifically live drums, brass and frantic double bass.

 

Calexico – Under the Wheels

Having seen these Tuscan tex-mex masters captivate a dancing, uninhibited festival crowd in Lisbon recently, it makes some sense that the band has pivoted from dusty Americana into a global feel good party band. As they accurately wrote on Instagram, the song sounds like “a character wandering the city streets on their skateboard.. swerving in and out of themes of anxiety and worldy stresses.”

 

Jens Lekman – Wedding in Finistère

A recent set stand out by the Swedish electro-balladeer, who despite being reviewed in Pitchfork and Mojo and the like, still has to keep a side job as a wedding singer in Sweden to pay the rent. The chorus turns a bride’s last minute cold feet into a Paul Simon style celebration of the inevitable passage of time, and as in all good wedding stories at the end “we all danced and got drunk”.

 

Beirut – No No No

Last year I was lucky enough to visit the Gŭca Festival deep in the mountains of Serbia. One of the world’s biggest Balkan horn festivals, a tiny remote town with a permanent population of 3,000 suddenly becomes the destination for a crowd of over 300,000 music loving Serbians who descend for a battle of the orkestras carnival that sounds like a full blown military conflict (with trombones instead of bombs). This bouncy little number by Beirut brings all those memories flooding back, summoning visuals straight out of Emir Kusturica’s Time of the Gypsies.

 

Sheila & B.Devotion – Spacer

Trying to avoid the obvious disco anthems while searching for something shiny, I turned to St Etienne’s Bob Stanley and his imposingly authoritative tome Yeah Yeah Yeah, the Story of Pop Music. This Niles Rodgers produced gem was the result.
Kiasmos – Lit

Talking of magic, one of the more beautiful nights I’ve enjoyed was at the Airwaves Festival in Reykjavik. Having spent a week chasing the Northern Lights across the black beaches of the Hringvegur highway, we ended up at the beautiful harbour-side Harpa building, filled with electronic artists playing in every room. A highlight was Erased Tape’s Kiasmos, blending Olafur Arnald’s meditative piano stillness with huge beats and flashing blue and purple lights. A true journey into inner space shared by a dancing room of happy Scandinavians.

 

Yoko Ono – Walking on Thin Ice (PSB remix)

Maybe most famous as the song John Lennon was working on when he was assassinated, this Bjork like disco hymn has a chilly power that is undeniably haunting. There’s a catch in Ono’s voice which sounds eerily prophetic.

 

LCD Soundsystem – Pulse v.1

A respite from the pressure of vocal communication, this ‘pulse’ was released ahead of LCD Soundsystem’s excellent but wordy American Dream album. As James Murphy described: “it’s super wonky, and i really didn’t want to square the human-ness off of it, but just let it be what it is. so you don’t have to tell me that it sounds super f*cked up. i know.”

 

Lykkie Li – I Follow Rivers (Magician remix)

What a song. While I listen more to her last album I Never Learn, with its themes of dislocation and New York City as a decadent release from pain, I just can’t escape the deep black pull of this particular river.

 

GusGus – Crossfade (Maceo Plex mix)

There is nothing more euphorically Icelandic than the sight of their mighty (now ex member) blonde haired Viking Högni Egilsson leading the crowd from the front of the stage into frosty dance euphoria.

 

Dirtmusic – Paix

This is a recent tune from the Hugo Race x Mali musician collective mentioned earlier. Race’s snaking, noir guitar is perfectly offset on this one by rising Malian star Aminata Wassidje Traore’s soaring vocals and the rhythms of Baba Zula.

 

Corona – The Rhythm of the Night

One final push into oblivion with the deathless polyrhythms of ‘Rhythm of the Night’. The song has stayed with me since it stuck out in the Claire Denis movie Beau Travail (1999), an example of how even the most famous songs can be revisited by a change of context. Imagine as The Quietus writes a scene “populated with the collective movements of girls’ shoulders against soldiers’ chests, camera sidling into the nooks between bodies and Latin American rhythms jostling limbs.”

 

Low Roar – Waiting (10 Years)

We watched Low Roar perform in the centre of a Icelandic brewery amongst the huge conical tanks and pressure gauges. They formed a gleaming, fjörd wedged somewhere between the twin glaciers of Sigur Ros and Radiohead. A glacial trombone at the end ties the song to it’s spiritual home in the volcanic Icelandic landscape.

 

Fokatelep – Indulj El

This Hungarian group melded the sounds of Magyar and Bulgarian folk and roma influences with beats and waves of hypnotic guitar. Liked a funked up version of Bowie’s Warsawa from Low, the song seeps with memories of crumbling old towns flashing by on the huge inter country motorways that criss-cross central Europe.

 

Einsturzende Neubautan – Perpetuum Mobile (single edit)

A clatter of metal heralds the entry point of that musical motorway into the harsh lights of Berlin. Perpetuum Mobile sets a distorted dialogue by our final Bad Seed, the inimitable baronesque Blixa Bargeld detailing the rock star travel experience (‘moving walkway, elevator, hotel room’) to music revelling in the concept of Perpetuum Mobile or ‘perpetual motion’. The primary instrument is, uniquely, a homemade turntable powered wind turbine.

 

Zagar feat. Underground Divas – Wings of Love (Radio edit)

A full throated climax to this mix, and a hymn to the majesty of love, this Hungarian radio hit was a collaboration by a introverted electronica act which brought in pretty much every female vocalist in the Budapest underground music scene into one joyful crescendo.

 

Jane Birkin – Le Moi et Le Je

And after the storm, the calm. Finishing as we started with the Gainsbourg dynasty, this time with Charlotte Gainsbourg’s mother Jane Birkin, and a beautiful song produced by Serge Gainsbourg. I’ve been haunted ever since I saw the Agnes Varda film Jane B par Agnes V. As Birkin is brought to tears by her inability to sing with the necessary emotion, Gainsbourg caresses a performance out of her, the final result forever infused with their chemistry. A victory over “the cruel and tender game between the me and the I.”

If you’ve made it this far, you are my hero, thanks for indulging me ♥️.
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #37

Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone,

I hope you’re week was a cracker. This week I went to Denmark and saw a pizza with spaghetti bolognese on it. It’s been a wild one.

Big thanks for all those that got in touch to say nice things about last week’s letter – feels a bit daunting changing things, so it was reassuring to see more people read the letter, and more people listen to the tape than ever before.

❤️ If you know someone who’d like to join us, please send them this link ❤️
🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Stuff to do: book an appointment at Hi Tackle in Manchester; read about how the producer behind Awaken, My Love! hadn’t heard of Parliament until he started making the album; watch Moxie trace the path between UK garage and dubstep; listen to We Out Here. On repeat.
PLAY
📚 The notes 📚
This week I’ve been travelling quite a lot, so my reading patterns have been a bit different. I’ve read lots of articles, and had less time for reading books. I’ve also decided to reread a couple of books (this is rare) – they were two books that started two different explorations for me; The History of Jazz, and Love Saves the Day. I’ve mentioned both at length a few times, so I won’t drone on, but I like the idea of revisiting them both now I feel a tiny bit more immersed in the areas that they cover. I’ve liked jazz for years, and I’ve loved disco and soul for longer, but writing this letter and digging deeper than I ever have has given me a sense that I might’ve missed something in them that a second read might reveal. Much like you can listen to a song twice, but in different contexts, and hear a different song each time…

I’ve also been thinking a lot this week about the tension between commitment and evolution. It all started (as a lot of these thoughts do), with a conversation with my dad. We were talking about jazz, and the rise and rise of the current UK jazz scene, and we were talking about hearing jazz in lots of forms of music. In my mind, jazz is kind of a sensibility, as well as a genre. It’s a way of playing, thinking, and expressing yourself, but takes incredible commitment. Every improvisation that sounds improvised can be replayed, there are accidents and mini-evolutions, but the commitment to craft and focus on expression is unwavering. It feels like jazz has continued to evolve because of the commitment that players have to their craft, and repeatedly exposing audiences to new ideas frequently (the exposure effect is a thing). So there’s the tension that exists between commitment to craft and ‘landing’ an idea, while also pushing on the art form at the same time. It feels like a mixture of repeated improvisations, that act as musical breadcrumbs, and help balance the old with the new, the innovative with the classic.

This was echoed a little by Gilles Peterson this week, who spoke to the Guardian as part of the We Out Here launch. Peterson has been the driving force behind jazz in the UK for decades now, and spoke about the collapse of any barriers between jazz and the dancefloor. Again, it feels like there’s a tension between the commitment to bringing jazz to audiences, while still helping to nudge its evolution forwards.

On a seemingly (but not actually) radical tangent, there’s a brilliant long pieceon Resident Advisor this week on the rise and fall of Dutch hardcore and gabber collective Thunderdome. If you’ve got an interest in hardcore, you’ll of course find it fascinating, but what I found fascinating was the account of the rise of the Dutch culture of gabber. Born as an extreme evolution of hardcore, gabber’s became a national phenomena, changing the way the whole country thought about hardcore, fashion, youth, and politics. The rise (and fall) shows the same tension at play again; commitment to being part of a sometimes demonised subculture, but the collective improvisations to push it’s evolution. If gabber had started with 1,000 bpm tracks, I’d guess it would of had less success; the final destination was quite different from the beginning, but commitment to the culture was rock solid.

PItchfork published a good piece a few years ago on John Cage, and different artists interpretation of his influence and his work. Cage definitely displayed both commitment, and dedicated to evolution. I suppose you could argue that his work blurs the lines between art and music more than many artists, but his impact on many major artists has been profound, and while his work remains (relatively) niche, the impact his commitment had can be felt across the worlds of both art and music. In my simple mind, I’ve always thought of culture as a massive patchwork quilt, and some artists move the centre of the quilt and find mass popularity, but some stay on the edges, push the boundaries, and influence from a distance, never quite reaching the mass themselves, but their ideas having an impact all the same. Cage feels like one of those influential contributors.

This has definitely shaped some of the music that I’ve chosen this week, and while there’s a lot of jazz, soul, and funk, the specific tracks I’ve chosen are songs that I think demonstrate both a commitment to craft, but really pushed things on when they were released. Q-Tip’s work with Janet Jackson, Roy Ayers, Prince, FaltyDL, Luke Vibert, Thom Yorke – these are all artists that pushed the boundaries, while staying true to their core. As such, this week’s mixtape has a sometimes ‘futuristic’ feel, and while there are more songs with vocals than I think I’ve ever included, I think the whole tape together sounds a little bit like a film score, or maybe atmospheric music. Hopefully you’ll see what I mean.

I’m also halfway through this great piece from The New Yorker on Questlove, and it feels like it’s telling the same story; incredible commitment and belief, and the ability to naturally chart the evolution while bringing in new audiences.

What’s really interesting is when you see artists get it wrong – when they show little (if any) commitment to something, yet try to incorporate it into their evolution and co-opt it in order to appeal to new audiences. This piece on The Guardian on artists that suddenly found a social conscience this year was good. Authenticity and commitment are definitely close partners.

Anyway, I’m not sure I’m articulating this thought particularly well, but I think there’s something in it. How do you establish a strong culture, while continuously evolving it. Maybe it’s about keeping the same values, and beliefs, but letting everything else grow naturally. I suppose after all that’s what connects Peterson, Gabber, Cage, and Questlove.

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️ .

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #36

Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone,

I hope you’ve had an absolutely sterling week. Last week I was away with work, so had the treat of waking up Friday morning to Olly’s guest letter. Big thanks Olly. I have to confess, although it can sometimes feel like a huge effort to put this letter together every week, I do miss doing it when there are guest editors!

This week’s letter is a bit different, but please read on.

The break in putting these letters together does me some good, and the last two weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about the format of the letter, and the way the mixtape is presented. It’s brilliant that we continue to grow, but it’s easy for me to forget that we have a huge number of people who are on their 30+ letter. I never want this to get tired, or predictable – for either you, or for me. While I know that around 65% of you read the full letter, and even more listen to the mixtape, I’ve now written enough of these to see trends occurring and one of them worries me a bit. Namely, if I include more ‘popular’ artists in the first ten tracks (or better, mention them in the TL:DR section) then the number of you clicking to listen goes up.

It’s clickbait, effectively.

– 🎣  –
It lures you in, and this is fine. I understand that sometimes some of the musical choices might be a bit left-field or downright odd (the sounds of Texas bullfrogs in letter #7 was probably a step too far 😂 ). But most of you have now listened to enough of these mixtapes to hopefully trust me. So I’m going to remove the track list, and unless it absolutely calls for it, I’m going to only reference genres or artists in the notes. There will still be a TL:DR section of interesting links, and there will always be a set of notes, but in a perfect world each week I’d like you to click the link, press play, and continue reading the letter.

There are a few reasons why I think this is important, which I’ll explain in a second, but let’s start as we mean to go on. I’ve found a new flashy button, so please click below for the playlist, and hit ‘play’.

PLAY
So, why is this important? Well, it’s not you, it’s me. You see, when I see more people clicking the links, I attribute that to more people enjoying the mixtape (this is a false proxy, I know), and by nature I’m a bit of an unnecessary crowdpleaser. Actually, that’s putting it too politely, let me go again; the increase in clicks feeds my vanity. So, from now on I’m going to focus on finding interesting new (new, not ‘new’) music, and not worry about having to ‘play the hits’. If ‘the hits’ come up naturally, fine, but otherwise it should be about exploring new music. When I first set this up, it was about sharing interesting music and cultural stuff that I’d found that week, with people who I thought would appreciate it. The promise remains, but I have to keep myself in check a little. I hope you understand.

Now, it is actually also a bit you, as well as me.

I’ve read two books in the last few weeks that have had a pretty profound effect on how I think about culture, music, and curating and writing about them. The books were Hit Makers, and Every Song Ever.

One of the core ideas that I took Hit Makers was that for something to become popular, it has to have the right balance of familiarity, and surprise. Too familiar, and it’s conventional and boring, too surprising and it’s intimidating or unrealistic. Now, I’m not about to write an album, or a book, so I had to twist this a bit to think about what it meant for sharing music (and specifically mixtapes) with people. My take is that there has to be something familiar or recognisable somewhere within the mixtape, but importantly it doesn’t need to be at the start. You have to trust me that I’m not going to play thirty John Cale or Steve Reich tracks, and that what I put together will feel familiar, even if you’re not sure why (the original songs behind famous samples is a good example – and a pertinent one for the first track this week – it’s from The Next Episode). Secondly, you have to trust that when I put something weird in, that I’m going to pull it back to normality before you lose interest (hopefully). This type of trust is best typified by some of the worlds finest radio and club DJs; I am not one of those (and never will be), but I do feel like if I explain this to you, that I might shortcut my way to earning the same level of trust you might have in one of those DJs. (I can hope, at least.)

Now, in Every Song Ever, the penultimate chapter talks about community and exclusivity. That feeling of being part of something, and how music can stimulate that feeling. Often, that feeling begins with being exposed to something new. Ratliff explains far better than I do:

“Some of the best listening experiences are the most alienating. You might be a reasonably knowledgeable and well-traveled person (whatever that means), living in a major metropolitan city (whatever that means). You might have a passing familiarity with a few languages, and you might be basically unafraid of looking like you’re in the wrong place. You’ve been the only whatever in the room plenty of times. Yet you will step into a community temporarily redefined and strengthened by ecstasy in a music that, it turns out, you haven’t learned enough about. Essentially you are a child waiting for a stranger to have pity on you and explain the map. You are worrying that you have gotten lost. But being lost is not an absolute condition. It only means that you haven’t received enough cultural information yet. Everyone knows the critical moment, whatever the circumstances, when confusion ends and understanding begins: I’m not lost anymore; I can see the way ahead.”

While I know I have to keep feeding a sense of familiarity, what I really desire is to ease you into feeling totally alienated. One of my ambitions with this whole project is to expose myself to new things. To alienate myself, and throw myself into the unknown, and then come back and hopefully show you what I found and drag you in with me. Over the last thirty five letters a number of people have gotten in touch to talk about new music they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole with; UK jazz, disco, jazz funk, avant garde classical, no wave. I think these experiences are formative. They help us to continue learning, and being exposed to different cultures makes us stronger – don’t let the music you heard when you were 13 dictate your tastes for the rest of your life. The feeling of discovering, and exploring something new is what drives us forwards. It’s what drives culture forwards. Let’s never stop.

This might all seem a bit self-indulgent, but I think as a group of people that I share music and ideas with each week, you deserve to know my thought process on why, what, and how I put this together. I genuinely believe in the power of music, culture, people, and love. I think when these things come together, amazing things can happen – that’s why I put this together. The what and the how will inevitably change and (hopefully) evolve over time, and I’d like to think however passive, that you’re involved in that evolution too. We’re in this together, and the feedback (either expressed as words or clicks) matters to me – but I have to keep myself in check, otherwise I’ll lose sight of why we’re all here.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #35

Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone,

I hope you’ve had a great week. This week we’re all in for a treat – we have a brilliant guest editor, Olly Batho from Frisson, who’s put together a great mixtape and a love letter to dub.

HERE’S THE MIXTAPE

–  🎼 –
As well as regular spots at Spiritland, having his record collection profiled onThe Vinyl Factory, and being an all-round lovely guy, Olly runs the excellentFrisson daily mixtape. It’s a constant source of brilliant music, and lovely accompanying stories too. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to Olly for this week’s guest letter, without further ado…

– ✏️ –

I want to thank Jed for putting me in the driving seat for this week’s list, what an honour. Friday’s for me are now synonymous with Love Will Save the Day, and I would add that whittling this list down to 30 was very challenging indeed.

I’ve themed this list around ‘dub’ and its mutant variants, whilst keeping an eye on the three part Leary / Mancuso / Love Will Save the Day ‘bardos’…

I realised recently just how much dub has influenced my musical outlook. Growing up attending sessions such as the University of Dub, Jah Shaka and Channel One events, alongside the Notting Hill Carnival, has shaped my perception of many other genres beyond the original source (roots, reggae etc). This list aims to chart the way in which dub has infiltrated my tastes and show its influence amongst other musical backdrops.

I’ve built it from the foundations up, starting with the original pioneers and masters of vintage studio trickery. King Tubby, Mittoo, The Revolutionaries and Mad Professor all feature early on, and its Scratch Perry that kicks things off, he’ll return throughout the list, but here we find him at his most playful. Inviting bullfrog, alligator, and music lovers alike to join him on the journey. I think that’s all of us then? Warrior Stance is a shout to Jah Shaka and representative of early digi dub that was / is so prominent within UK sound system culture.

From here things go further East, and more transcendental, with material from Sahel Sounds pushing things into North African desert territory, and Digital Mystikz presenting Scratch Perry’s return in a more haunting role. The Rhythm and Sound track is probably the deepest we go, bringing that German dub techno aesthetic to simmer underneath vocals from Jamaican royalty Cornel Campbell. I’ve also included a deadly track by Ramadanman, with brooding bass and the beginnings of those drums that would later form the basis of his Pearson Sound alter ego. Following this, dub infected dancehall / reggaeton rhythms in the form of DJ Python, and Elite Beat, then Latin American influenced productions by Mala who definitely knows his way around low end frequencies. Qawwali brings that immersive and sparse type of dubstep that was incredible in pushing the genre in all the right directions in 2006.

Skull Dub is a prime example of a track that I instantly loved largely due to its dub stylings, it also provides the perfect jump off into some skippy two-step and the third part of the Mancuso / Leary mantra; re-entry. Alongside the stripped back swagger there is something slightly punk-funk about the Laps track that paves the way neatly into some favourite disco dub material. To finish I’ve gone full circle back to where we started in Jah, Scientist with his dub version of the Tamlins / Nina Simone classic – Baltimore. I really hope you enjoy, and please do listen in order – that is important!

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️ .

– 📄 –
  1. Lee “Scratch” Perry – Music & Science Madness
  2. Bob Andy & Mad Professor – Brothers’ Faith (dub)
  3. King Tubby – King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown
  4. The Revolutionaries – Kunta Kinte Dub
  5. Dread and Fred – Warrior Stance
  6. Jackie Mittoo – Russian Satellite
  7. abu AMA – Kufi Wood Art
  8. Hama & Krucial Kuts – Imidiwan N’assouf (dub mix)
  9. DJ Khalab & Baba Sissoko – Tata
  10. Seekers International – RunComeTest
  11. Golden Teacher – Instigator (dub)
  12. Lee “Scratch” Perry – Like The Way You Should (Digital Mystikz remix)
  13. Rhythm & Sound – King in My Empire
  14. Jay Glass Dubs – Sieben Dub
  15. Ramadanman – Bass Drums
  16. Len Leise – Stepping
  17. DJ Python – Las Palmas
  18. Elite Beat – Budget
  19. Mala – Calle F
  20. Pinch – Qawwali
  21. Sherwood & Pinch – Lies
  22. Guerilla Toss – Skull Dub
  23. Burial – Unite
  24. Smith & Mighty – B Line Fi Blo
  25. Cooly G – Love Dub
  26. Laps – Who Me?
  27. Roxy Music – Love Is the Drug (Todd Terje disco dub)
  28. Disco Dub Band – For the Love of Money
  29. Sheila Hylton – Falling in Love (Waxist edit)
  30. Scientist – Taxi to Baltimore Dub

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #34

Good morning / afternoon / evening everyone,

I hope you’ve had a brilliant week. Lots of great stuff to share this week, and I’m reading an excellent book that’s filled my head with thoughts too. Music-wise, this week’s mixtape is vintage Love Will Save the Day 🍾. .

HERE’S THE MIXTAPE

–  🎼 –
TL:DR section…

Stuff to click: read this excellent Quincy Jones interview; order this children’s synth; if you’ve bought a turntable recently read this tech set up guide; and if you haven’t already, watch Straight Outta Compton 👊🏼.

Music from: Darondo, Khruangbin, Danny Brown, Snoop, Parliament, Mary Clark, Crown Heights Affair, Red Rack’Em, Lone, Daniel Avery, Jesu, and Jonny Greenwood.

– ✏️ –

First things first, I watched Straight Outta Compton this week (I know, I’m probably the last person on Earth to watch it). It’s brilliant. The film is a brilliant (if slightly exaggerated) story of a subculture going mainstream and taking with it a whole host of new symbols, language, and beliefs – much to the shock of late 80s America. The soundtrack is, as you’d expect, phenomenal, and as you’d also expect, it had an influence over some of the music this week. Also, Ice Cube’s son plays his father in the film, and is absolutely mesmerising – such a total doppelgänger for his dad. 

I was talking to some friends earlier this week who mentioned to me that Hedi Slimane had taken over at CélineI’ve not really read any fashion press for ages, so it had passed me by. I used to work on CHANEL, and my ‘keeping-up-with-clients’ reading lead me to become totally fascinated by that world, and in particular, Hedi Slimane. Way back in the early 00s, Slimane was  creative director at Dior Homme, and singlehandedly reinvented the skinny jeans, skinny suits, skinny boys look. He’s the reason bootcuts were retired (and should be knighted for that alone). He then went on to relaunch YSL as Saint Laurent (and turn its fortunes around), and now he’s joining Céline. The reason I think this is important, is because Slimane isn’t just a creative director of a fashion brand – he’s at the nexus of so many subcultures, and has over the years earned a reputation of being able to both take from and add to those cultures. He borrows from the edges, and makes something brilliant. He’s also been responsible for helping many, many bands break into new audiences.

He is, in many ways, the Quincy Jones or Pharrell of fashion. This quote from the Hypebeast article above made me think of the power of subcultures to make people feel like they belong; “broken sequins, pointed toes,  secret trademarks embellished on back pockets of jeans and hems of tee shirts. When you see it on the street, if you know, then you’re invited into a world where conversation is held in whispers.” This feeling of being in the know, and part of a secret club is powerful – and I think music is the spine to it all.

Back to music. 

This week I’ve started reading an amazing book a friend recommended, called Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen to Music Now. The premise of the book is pretty straight forwards; we’ve now got so much choice when it comes to music, that we’re faced with a tyranny of choice, and so we either  listen to what we already know, or we subcontract our discovery process to curators (either robot or human – ahem). However the way that music is categorised and labelled makes it really difficult to break away from that framework – so we never stray far from our comfort zones. This is, along with a few other reasons, one of my main motivations for starting Love Will Save the Day. I love sharing music, and finding new things that I think people might like, but also; it forces me to find new music. 

Ratliff says “we build an autobiography and a self-image with music, and we know, even as we’re building them, that they’re going to change”. So when music plays such a fundamental role in our personal development, should we pay more attention to how we find it?

This has had my head spinning all week. The more I thought about how I find music, the more I realised the butterfly effect was at play – everything came back to rhythm (as mentioned way back in November in Letter #21). But rhythm is only one facet or structural aspect of music, and the only one that I’ve pretty much dedicated my life to using as a guide for finding new music; what if Ratliff is right, and there are nineteen others?!

I’ve got about half way through the book, and there are some brilliant methods for pushing out of your comfort zone, some of which I’ll be trying to apply in the coming weeks (watch out for the mixtapes getting weirder and weirder 😂 ). If you’ve any interest, then I highly recommend buying a copy. 

As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ♥️ .

– 📄 –
  1. Darondo – The Wolf
  2. Khruangbin – Evan Finds the Third Room
  3. Blockhead – Grape Nuts and Chalk Sauce
  4. Souleance – Jazz at the Vert
  5. Danny Brown – Grown Up
  6. MED – Knock Knock
  7. Snoop Dogg (ft. Nancy Fletcher) – Gz and Hustlas
  8. Parliament – Flash Light
  9. Cymande – Pon de Dungle
  10. Oumou Sangare (ft. Tony Allen) – Yere Faga 
  11. Hailu Mergia – Yegle Nesh
  12. Streetboxxer – Tear Down Level 22
  13. Alan Tew – Total Silence 
  14. Monty Alexander – Love and Happiness 
  15. Mary Clark – Take Me I’m Yours (12” mix)
  16. The Whispers – And the Beat Goes On
  17. Risco Connection – Ain’t No Stopping Us Now
  18. Crown Heights Affair – Say A Prayer for Two
  19. Red Rack’Em – Place for Me
  20. HNNY – Trummor
  21. Gerd Janson – Surrender 
  22. Bakey Ustl – A Tender Places
  23. Crackazat – Sundial 
  24. Lone – Mind’s Eye Melody 
  25. The Dead Rose Music Company – Just a Bitter Love
  26. Mariah – Shinzo No Tobira
  27. Rhye – Song for You
  28. Daniel Avery – Slow Fade
  29. Jesu – Comforter 
  30. Jonny Greenwood – The Hem

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day