Letter #105

07.02.20
Hello! Hello! Hello!

How are you? Have you had a good few weeks? Did you enjoy the last letter? Judging by the emails that came flooding in; lots of you did, which is great. Big thank you to Caspar, for putting together one of our best guest letters ever (if you missed it, it’s here).

Now onto this week, and an update. Plans for a party are coming along very nicely (more on that soon – but it’ll likely be in March, in London), plus all that extra stuff I mentioned before Christmas (totes, t-shirts, stickers etc) are also in the pipeline too. Watch this space.

And right now? Well, I’m back, so you’re stuck with me for a while. The TL;DR Section is back this week and brimming with brilliant stuff to check out. The mixtape is a real gem this week – over the Christmas break I went back and listened to a lot of the albums I’d not given much time to last year. I also finished reading Memphis ’68 (which is great), so there’s a soulful edge to the songs I’ve chosen. Matt sent me the beautiful Norm Talley track, which sent me into a deep house tailspin, and there’s a lot of music that’s good to run to too (I’ve started running again). I think it’s a real treat, and I’m excited to hear what you think.

This week there isn’t a set of notes. I chickened out. Let me explain… I’d written something deeply personal, and while I know this isn’t supposed to be my personal diary / therapy session, there were some vague weak links into what this is supposed to be about (culture and music). I’d written about imposter syndrome, trying to find a sense of belonging, and how culture and music consistently rescue me.

The reason I’ve decided against including it this week is because I want to make sure I do the subject justice. I can’t be the only person who feels like I do, and if there’s even one person out there who empathises, then it will be worth sharing. Just not this week. Next time I’ll try to be braver.

Anyway, click play, have a read, and enjoy ❤️

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

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🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
  1. Bruce Tantum has put together a brilliant piece on Marshall Jefferson for DJ Mag, which is an absolute must-read.
  2. There’s a new Theo Parrish interview, I repeat, there’s a new Theo Parrish interview. (And he does not hold back one bit.)
  3. Steve Jobs, John Cooper Clarke, Ghandi – if a capsule wardrobe that’s persistent for decades is good for them, it’s good for me 😂
  4. This feature on Danny Daze from Shawn Reynaldo from a few years ago has hit me pretty deep.
  5. There’s also a really good interview with Reynaldo on his own history here, from Todd Burns). Both of their newsletters are must-reads for me each week – Reynaldo’s is here, and Burns’ is here.
  6. The Cut has a series of images from Dana Lixenberg’s upcoming exhibition American Images, and they’re excellent.
  7. You might’ve read this already (it’s definitely been doing the rounds), but I’m sharing it in case you haven’t. Ellen Barry’s story, The Jungle Prince Of Delhi for NYTimes is absolutely fascinating and utterly heartbreaking all in one go. A long read, but worth it
  8. This story of big wave surfer Maya Gabeira in Huck took me back to my youth spent surfing beach breaks in Cornwall, dreaming of becoming a big wave surfer…
  9. The latest Shabaka Hutchings show on worldwide.fm is an absolute belter.
  10. This feature on how Paul Wright came to set up the brilliant British Culture Archive is great.
  11. Richard Russell (founder of XL) is releasing a history of XL / biography at the start of April.
  12. Loads of you have sent me this Guardian story, on how the vinyl revival might not be great for the environment. Worth sharing, and worth debating, too…
  13. I’ve been thrown into a world of nostalgia by this short film on Icy Lake.
  14. There’s increasing evidence that depression is linked to physical trauma in the brain, which further closes the gap of body and mind.
  15. Even more of you have sent me the Radiohead Public Library too… Get stuck in.
  16. Big thank you to Katie for pointing out this excellent Rolling Stone mini-documentary on Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy.
  17. The Vinyl Factory has got a great short documentary on Ebo Taylor’s so-called lost tapes.
  18. Ray Caviano (of TK Disco fame) is a relatively unsung hero of the rise of disco in the 70s and 80s, here’s a good primer on 5mag.
📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Al Green – Love and Happiness
  2. Wizdom – I’m So In Love With You
  3. Mainline – Black Ivory
  4. Kapote – Delirio Italiano
  5. Herbie Hancock – You Bet Your Love
  6. Andre Solomko – Recalling You
  7. Dego – Ogawa Okasan Said Just Play
  8. Gil Scott-Heron – Where Did The Night Go (Makaya McCraven version)
  9. Steve Spacek – Rawl Aredo
  10. Reykjavik606 – Endless Summer in Peckham (feat. Ishamel Ensamble) (Tenderlonious remix)
  11. Moodymann – Hold It Down
  12. Black Jazz Consortium – Resonate
  13. Theo Parrish – This Is For You
  14. Norm Talley – Change (Mike Huckaby remix)
  15. Leon Vynehall – Beau Sovereign
  16. Prequel – Bare With Me
  17. Florist – Horn
  18. Clap! Clap! – Ar-Raqis
  19. Karenn – Raz
  20. Penya – Heyyeh (Guedra Guedra remix)
  21. Pongo – Quem Manda No Mic
  22. Detroit In Effect – Shake A Lil Faster
  23. Fatima Yamaha – Sooty Shearwater, King Of Migration
  24. Throwing Snow – Glower
  25. Brittany Howard – Goat Head
  26. Carl Stone & Bremer/McCoy – Hojder
  27. Moses Sumney – Seeds
  28. Calibre – Five Minute Flame
  29. Huerco S. – Cubist Camouflage
  30. Beverley Glenn-Copeland – Color Of Anyhow
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #104

24.01.20
Hello! Hello! Hello!

How are you? I hope you’ve had a great few weeks.

In the last letter I reviewed Caspar Melville’s excellent book, It’s A London Thing. Hopefully you’re all reading it now, and you’re all registered for the book launch and panel at Rough Trade in February, where Caspar will be joined by Colin Dale, Emma Warren, and Jude Yawson too – which I’m sure you’ll agree, is a ridiculous line  up.

Now, we’re in for a real treat this week. Caspar is our guest editor, which is a huge treat for me personally, and hopefully for you too. The mixtape is, as you’d probably expect, absolute fire. My Discogs basket has taken a battering, and the warrens I’ve slipped down are brilliant. On top of that, the letter is an instant classic – Caspar has gone long and explained his mixtape choices, peppering in loads of interesting stories and side notes, and it makes for a brilliant accompanying read to listening to the mixtape. I’m not going to say any more, and I’m sacrificing the TL;DR section this week too – I want his letter to really breathe, and be the only focus for your eyes. Big thank you to you, Caspar.

Enjoy ❤️

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

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📚 The notes 📚
Greetings pop pickers.

After writing a really very nice review of my new book It’s a London Thing in the last letter, Jed has kindly let me stage a takeover of this one. I’ve put some work into compiling a mixtape for you, working to his very strict instructions (make it like a Loft set by David Mancuso, he says, like that’s easy!) so here I’m going to go on like a pub bore about why I chose these particular 30 tracks, which, if nothing else, will give you some sort of insight into my taste.

So, are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin…

We kick off with God Shall Wipe All Tears Away by Trio da Kali and the Kronos Quartet. I work at a university called SOAS, which stands for School of Oriental and African Studies (we don’t use the full name because everyone is a bit embarrassed about that ‘oriental’.) When I started at SOAS I knew quite a lot about funk and jazz but next to nothing about African music, except Fela. But SOAS is full of experts on the musical cultures of the Global South and through one of my colleagues, Professor Lucy Duran (not only an academic but also a brilliant World Music producer) I have learned a lot about African music and the incredible musical culture of Mali in particular. Lucy actually had a hand in forming Trio da Kali, three expert musicians (Lassana Diabaté on balafon, Mamadou Kouyaté on bass ngoni, and Hawa ‘Kassé Mady’ Diabate on vocals) all from one of the legendary griot families who have been making music in Mali for centuries. It was also Lucy’s idea to get Trio da Kali together with the San Francisco avant-classicists Kronos Quartet to record this amazing version of Mahalia Jackson’s blues spiritual. It’s from the album they made together Ladilikan, which is gorgeous and well worth looking out. Deep Black Atlantic spirit music, this.

I’ve been infatuated with music since my teens; as a record collector, journalist and DJ. And while I’m no musician, last year I joined a choir – South London Can Sing in Peckham – led by the great choir director Rubee Rose. It’s my first experience of actually making music, and though I’m hardly Luther Vandross, I love it, and getting a chance to sing with some really great singers (many trained in the black church) is a rare treat. Rather than hymns Rubee has us singing reggae and soul; like this one The Isley Brother’s Put A Little Love in Your Heart. I’m as godless as they come (I used to edit an atheist magazine) but singing this really does stir the spirit.

Carl Mackingtosh, the producer behind Loose Ends, is one of London’s greatest and most underrated producers, and Symptoms of Love is a soulful gem from the 1990 album Look How Long. There’s another track from the album coming up later in the playlist, it’s that good.

I like Michael Kiwanuka’s new album as much as the next guy – which is a lot judging by the end of year lists – but I’ve chosen Cold Little Heart from his previous album, Love & Hate. Me and the Mrs love a bit of crap box-setting and the theme tune was by far the best thing about the second series of Sky’s Big Little Lies, a series about dodgy dealings among the wealthy Carmel crowd (it’s got a great cast – Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman – but they should have stopped at series one).

Last year at SOAS we had a screening of the experimental indie-doc Film Festival Film and a talk with filmmakers Perivi Katjavivi, from Namibia and South African Mpumelelo Mcata. Turns out Mcata is also a musician and in a South African band called BLK JKS. Harare is the title track from their new album, which is very cool sort of Soweto funky rock.

There are dozens of great rappers in the UK right now, but there has always been something special about Roots Manuva in the way he can find profundity in simple phrases (like here, when he asks ‘why would you hide from yourself?’). This one is the latest collaboration with The Cinematic Orchestra – a perfect combination of Roots’ deep reasoning and building percussive orchestral funk. I recently found out Roots Manuva went to the same London school as me – Pimlico – which just makes me like him even more.

I did a panel discussion last year with Lex Amor. I didn’t know her work then, but she was so smart and interesting (she studied law before taking up music) that I looked her up after and found Mood, which I’ve listened to over and over again since. I love her layered vocals and the way she mixes up everyday problems (“O2 cut off my line”) with old-fashioned English idioms (“like it, lump it”, “been out here for donkeys”). False Ego’s beats are pretty tough. too. Don’t know what genre it is, but it’s very London.

I’ve been reading the proofs of a very interesting new academic book on black electronic music, which has a whole chapter on Darren Cunnigham (aka Actress), and it made me seek out his 2014 album Ghettoville, which is pretty next level. This little mutant r&b cut is probably the least far-out track on it but gives a sense of Actress’s experimental edge. Listen to the whole album while walking the streets of Crystal Palace, as he did when he composed it. It’s a mind-blower.

Ghetts has got a great voice, I think. Drill Work is from Swindle’s album from last year No More Normal. I love the way the track does a shout out of East London areas – Plaistow, Becton, Ilford, Manor Park, East Ham. To be honest it’s a close as I want to get to those areas, but that’s because I’m a South Londoner and don’t feel comfortable in the East. I had the grime DJ Elijah (who runs the Butterz label) come into my Music Business class last year to talk about how grime has built an independent music economy (own your masters, kids!) and he was a really smart bloke and no surprise that he oversaw such a great album, and also brokered the deal that got it released on Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label. I love it when the club genres come together, reminiscent of when Talkin’ Loud were putting out Roni Size.

Another great person I met last year was the Jamaican academic Kim-Marie Spence. Kim used to write cultural policy for the Jamaican government, but now she’s an academic and writer. In the pub we had a great talk about dancehall, on which she is an expert, and she reminded me of this track, Clarks Pon Foot, which celebrates the Jamaican passion for a certain English footwear brand (there’s a good book about this by Al Fingers).

Told you I liked Roots Manuva; here he is again, guesting on a track by the NinjaTune artist Dels from 2011. Over a crazy beat from Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard, Roots lays into “pinstripe thugs”. The chorus – “times they are so treacherous, we need to stick together” – hasn’t aged a bit.

Run, Run is one of my favourite tunes of 2019. Here London r&b star Ray Blk adds her voice to the many in black music addressing knife crime and its consequences. Like TLC’s Waterfalls for the drill generation. Heartbreaking.

One of my gigs of last year was techno god Jeff Milles playing with afrobeat pioneer and Fela drummer Tony Allen at the Barbican. With just a drum kit and Jeff’s array of keys and samplers they turned the concert hall into an Afro-future rave. This is from their EP Tomorrow Comes the Harvest

Just like Trio da Kali, Oumou Sangare is a Malian griot, steeped in the musical tradition of the Mande people, but fiercely contemporary. This remix of her Minata Waraba by Sampha is another futuristic afro-funk classic in the making.

The start of the next track takes the tempo down, and will give you a chance to grab a drink and dust off, before it builds back into a dancefloor killer. This one’s a tribute to Norman Jay, who taught me most of what I know about dance music at his warehouse parties and club nights in London. He used to use this Ramsey Lewis track to transition from the deep-listening soul to dancefloor funk at his Musicquarium nights at the Bass Clef in Hoxton School (which became the Bluenote, before falling victim to the gentrification which killed Shoreditch). Lewis always had great drummers, Maurice White, Isaac ‘Red’ Holt; here it’s Morris Jennings on the breakbeat.

When I DJ the next one is rarely not in the box (yes I do have a box). War’s The World is a Ghetto is, to my mind, a perfect piece of music; a lovely slowly building mix of jazz, funk and latin rhythm, flutes, horns and clarinet, which just keeps getting better. It’s a dancefloor destroyer, thirteen minutes of bliss. Don’t you dare skip.

Jumping forward almost twenty years, here’s what happens when British kids steeped in rare groove met an American gospel singer from the first family of funk. In my book I write about the concert the JBs gave at the Town and Country in Chalk Farm, promoted by Family Funktion and Shake and Fingerpop, where Femi and Marco first met Carleen Anderson, and the Young Disciples was born. All I Have in Me is the perfect blend of club beats, soul singing and beautiful song-writing. Hard to believe it was made almost 30 years ago. I played this at a New Year’s Eve house party and the 18-year olds loved it as much as their parents. Class is permanent (shout out to Gilles and Norman, again, who were running Talkin’ Loud when this came out).

Some funk tracks can get too psychedelic for the dancefloor – most dancers can’t stay with Blackbyrd McKnight’s guitar solo in God Made me Funky, I’ve found – but Larry Young’s Turn Off The Lights stays just this side of too crazy, and takes dancers into a kind of psychedelic ecstasy. I played it at a house party in November and the arty-crusty-techno crowd went crazy. First heard this one at Soul II Soul’s legendary nights at the Africa Centre, where it sounded like the funk of the future, and still does.

Singer, producer, rapper Donae’o has been making funky, r&b and grime for more than a decade. I love this arrogant James Brown-esque track from his 2011 album Indigo Child.

Tom Misch is from a new generation of London musician-producers mixing jazz with disco and other kinds of Black Atlantic dance music. Disco Yes is very chic and very Chic, and features a rising star, jazz singer Poppy Ajudha who was one of my SOAS student a few years ago (I remember helping her out with her essay on dance music in South London where she interviewed her Dad, who ran the Paradise club in Deptford in the ‘70s). Disco? Yes please.

Like Carl Mackintosh, Curtis Mantronic doesn’t get enough props as a pioneer of producer-led electronic soul. Got To Have Your Love, from 1990, was a big tune at the club I used to run at the Beachcomber in Brighton back in the early ’90’s. Hold tight my partners Danny O and Sam.

And by way of comparison here’s another Loose Ends tune from Look How Long. Very classy UK soul.

It might seem a bit of a leap from UK soul to the Shoom anthem Promised Land, but I don’t think it’s as far as it seems. Doing research for my chapter on acid house I discovered that Joe Smooth wrote it after he’d been on tour to the UK with Farley Jackmaster Funk and Darryl Pandy, promoting Love Can’t Turn Around. Joe wanted to make a Motown-feel track which celebrated the multicultural clubbing he’d seen on tour, so different from the racial segregation of Chicago. It’s proof that house music is in many ways just slightly faster electronic soul. After all these years, and all those plays, it still gives me the chills.

Now it gets jazzy. There’s been a lot of hype about the new London jazz scene, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all a hipster fantasy, but you’d be wrong. I was converted in 2018 in a church – the Church of Sound in Clapton to be precise – when I saw Ezra Collective with the Kokoroko horns interpret the Fela Kuti songbook. It was fucking sublime. This is them back together on the very Fela-ish Shakara from the Ezra’s worldwide award-winning debut LP You Can’t Steal My Joy  (it’s a good album, but not a patch on the live show so go see them if you can).

The free jazz jam Steam Down in Deptford has been the crucible of new jazz in London for a couple of years, and they’re now branching out into recording. Free My Skin was one of Gilles Peterson’s tracks of 2019 and you can see why; spoken word, jazz and funky swing in perfect harmony. I’m doing a book event at Rough Trade East (link above) in February, and I’ll be joined by journalist and Worldwide.fm DJ Emma Warren who wrote a great pamphletabout Steam Down and why DIY spaces like it are so important. If you haven’t, you should read it.

Another of my gigs of 2019 was the young trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, who I saw at the other home base of London jazz, the Jazz Re:freshed night at Mau Mau bar on Portobello Road. He’s quite an orthodox hard bop player, reminiscent of Lee Morgan at times. This is him sitting in with the outfit Triforce (worth noting that most of these players are still teenagers). You can see them play the tune here.

These guys have a big future, the next guy has a big past. I remember seeing Stanley Turrentine at the Bluenote in New York in the ‘80s. It was all a bit touristy and heritage by then, and while it was a lunchtime show, the man could still generate serious blow. This is him tearing though The Beatles Taste of Honey, a record I go back to again and again.

Upstart is another band from the innovative London jazz scene, who specialise in improvisation. What I love about London jazz is that though the players have serious jazz chops they’ve been raised on funk, house, hip hop and jungle, and it shows. I also love the name, ‘Ill Considered’ is a great pun.

It took me moving to San Francisco to discover the UK pianist John Cameron, making funky jazz in the late ‘60s. Troublemaker is one of my all-time favourites, featuring the brilliant Jamaican flute player Harold McNair who came out of the same Kingston School – Alpha Boys – which gave us the cream of the ska and reggae players like Don Drummond, Tommy McCook and Leroy ‘Horsemouth’ Wallace (Burning Spear’s drummer, you can see him starring in the brilliant reggae film Rockers). I first heard this at the legendary Nickie’s Bar-B-Q on upper Haight street in San Francisco, big up DJ Andrew Jervis, who is now the main music man at Bandcamp.

No better way to finish than with the musical genius that is Eunice Kathleen Waymon, aka Nina Simone. As you can hear in her rendition of Love Me or Leave Me she was in love with Bach, and could have become the world’s greatest black female concert pianist if the Curtis Music Academy in Philly hadn’t be too racist to offer her a place. Just before she died they offered her an honorary degree, but by then it was too late, she had already become the world’s greatest piano-playing soul singer instead. There’s a great documentaryabout her life on Netflix which you should check out.

That’s it, hope you enjoy my playlist, and if you want to read about how club culture has evolved in London since the seventies, you might enjoy my book, It’s a London Thing.

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Trio Da Kali – God Shall Wipe All Tears Away
  2. The Isley Brothers – Put A Little Love In Your Heart
  3. Loose Ends – Symptoms Of Love
  4. Michael Kiwanuka – Cold Little Heart
  5. BLK JKS – Harare
  6. The Cinematic Orchestra – A Caged Bird / Imitations Of Life
  7. Lex Amor – Mood
  8. Actress – Rap
  9. Swindle – Drill Work
  10. Jahvillani – Clarks Pon Foot
  11. Dels – Capsize
  12. RAY BLK – Run Run
  13. Tony Allen & Jeff Mills – The Seed (edit)
  14. Oumou Sangare – Minata Waraba (Sampha remix)
  15. Ramsey Lewis Trio – Slipping Into Darkness
  16. War – The World Is A Ghetto
  17. Young Disciples – All I Have In Me (Original Musicquarium mix)
  18. Larry Young – Turn Off The Lights
  19. Donae’o – I Want Ya
  20. Tom Misch – Disco Yes
  21. Mantronix – Got To Have Your Love
  22. Loose Ends – Look How Long
  23. Joe Smooth – Promised Land
  24. Ezra Collective – Shakara
  25. Steam Down – Free My Skin
  26. Triforce – Protector (live)
  27. Stanley Turrentine – A Taste Of Honey
  28. Ill Considered – Upstart
  29. John Cameron – Troublemaker
  30. Nina Simone – Love Me Or Leave Me
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #103

10.01.20
Hello! Hello! Hello!

How are you?! It’s been a while. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year, with lots of rest and festivities. I had a full two weeks off, so came back to work this week feeling relatively recharged. I’m not going to lie #1; the rest was nice, but I’ve missed writing this letter and sending you music. I’m not going to lie #2; I think I’ve forgotten how to do this 😂.

So, let’s try and have a go at this…

I bought a bunch of records before Christmas (it felt like there was a whole host of brilliant new music released in the last gasps of the year), and I spent a lot of time going through my collection and pulling stuff out that felt a bit unfamiliar. I absolutely hammered the new Space Dimension Controller album, which, it turns out, is just as suitable for doing chemistry experiments with my five year old as it was for banging out loud late at night. There was a lot of techno played, and I think some of that probably comes through in the back half of this week’s mixtape. It gets raucous.

I also DJ’d at our works Christmas party (which was Studio 54 themed), and so I’ve had a lot of soul, funk, and disco out on the floor. The first half of the mixtape this week represents some of that. So it starts gentle but funky. Hopefully it eases you in, before cranking up.

Over Christmas I read quite a lot too (reading list below in the TL;DR section), and in the notes I’ve reviewed one book in particular. Caspar Melville’s It’s A London Thing. It is a sensational book, and given you’re reading this newsletter, I’d bet good money that you’d love it just as much as I did. There’s also a launch event / panel at Rough Trade in February, where Caspar will be joined by Colin Dale, Emma Warren, and Jude Yawson too – which is a pretty dreamy line up. Register here!

Oh, and here’s a treat for you all; the next letter will be coming from Caspar Melville himself ❤️

Finally, it’s good to be back, even if I have forgotten how to do this 😜

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

PRESS ME TO PLAY
🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
  1. Love Will Save The Day family member Wrongtom was on Tom Robinson’s 6 Music show this week – make sure you listen back! He’s also an upcoming guest editor too… Watch this space
  2. This candid piece on anxiety from Benjamin Myers was a departure from the usual ‘I found myself at Bikram’ take, and while it’s very Guardian in places, I really enjoyed his honesty
  3. As you all know, I love RA’s The Art Of DJing series, and the latest with Craig Richards is a new high point as far I’m concerned
  4. Larry’s Garage – the Corrado Rizza documentary on Larry and Paradise Garage is out!
  5. I’ve been buying broken beat for nearly a decade now, and embarrassingly I’ve only just found out it’s called bruk. I have always wondered what that meant though… This history of London bruk on Bandcamp has schooled me
  6. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find a way to slot this amazing track from India Jordan into this week’s mixtape, so instead it gets special mention here. Go and listen to DNT STP MY LV immediately
  7. Prequel (one of my favourite current producers) has a great show on worldwide.fm, and the latest instalment is live and worth your time
  8. This piece on Pharaoh Sanders from Harmony Holiday (for Frieze) provides a really good spiritual biography of the legendary musician
  9. Just before Christmas, the New Yorker snuck out a feature on Burial, which has a few gems in that I’d not noticed before
  10. After reading Dave Segal’s glorious tribute / love letter to the work of Terry Riley, I’m going spend some time over the next few weeks properly digging into his back catalogue
  11. Gilles and Paul Bradshaw (founder of Straight No Chaserwrapped up the year in jazz for 2019 on worldwide.fm and, you guessed it, it’s a cracker
  12. Complex put out a round up of some of some of the best music journalism from 2019 and it’s a bit of a treasure trove
  13. Ever since I read my first copy of The Wire, I’ve been a big fan of Derek Walmsley. Todd Burns interviewed him recently – as part of his excellent Music Journalism Insider newsletter – and the interview is great
  14. One of the good things about it being the start of a decade is that the music press is awash with lists of new artists to look out for – Ben Beaumont-Thomas and Laura Snapes’ list in the Guardian has some gems
  15. I’m always keen to find out more about DVS1 – he’s one of those rare DJs with a really interesting history that I think adds to his work and his output. This interview with Harold Heath for DJ Mag is great
  16. Heath also wrote up a summary of all the goings on on dance music Twitter in 2019 that is part funny, part eye rolling, and part infuriating.
  17. This short documentary on the mega influential RAGE from Fabio and Grooverider is, as you’d expect, brilliant
Becca, one of our founding crew mentioned putting together a bit of a reading list, so I thought I’d share my current pile. When I last wrote to you properly, I said I was hoping to get through a bunch of books. Namely;
Now, as you can probably see, that’s a lot of books, and a stupid aim, really. In reality I read It’s A London Thing (reviewed below), Haslam’s A Life In Thirty Five Boxes, and I re-read Reaching Beyond (the Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock book on Buddhism).

The wonderful Shiv bought me the final two books in the Stuart Cosgrove soul trilogy for Christmas (Memphis ’68, and Harlem ’69), so they’re next on the list. Also, in exciting news, my copy of Bass, Mids, Tops; An Oral History of Soundsystem Cultureby Love Will Save The Day crew member Joe Muggs finally arrived this week – so that’s for after I’ve finished the Cosgrove books.

📚 The notes 📚
As I mentioned above, I wanted to use the notes section this week to write up a sort of review of Caspar’s book It’s A London Thing. Despite the fact that I regularly bang on about books, I’ve never really done a book review before, so go easy on me. I’ve been following Casper on Twitter for a while now, and when he started talking about his upcoming book covering the threads between rare groove, acid house, and jungle, I got really excited.

While there are lots of books that cover electronic music, jungle rarely gets a proper mention, and acid house usually gets the ‘four lads went to Ibiza and then set up Shoom’ treatment. As for rare groove, well, beyond Snowboy’s From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz: The History Of The UK Jazz Dance Scenethere aren’t very many books that cover rare groove at all (and even Snowboy covers it glancingly). Unsurprisingly given the title, the book covers each genre in relation to London too – which, in my eyes, gives it even greater appeal. Melville dedicates whole chapters to each genre, but more importantly, demonstrates the threads (and people) that connect all three – demonstrating how the windrush generation (and to an extent its exclusion from white, traditional leisure and cultural spaces) created much of the culture that makes London special today.

The emergence of a black music culture of course has roots in the 1950s and 60s, but Melville carefully pieces together a much more comprehensive story than ‘genre one evolved to become genre two’. He shows how the impact of geography and cultural spaces, racism and explicitly racist politics, and the increasing combining of black and white cultures created an environment whereby a new, and incredibly important culture could evolve.

The fact that something so foundational to today’s music culture could emerge from such restrictive and racist beginnings is nothing short of extraordinary. A real revelation for me (and a definite moment of having to check my privilege) was Melville explaining how many of the ‘genesis’ stories in dance music tend to obscure black artists and producers – either positioning them as part of a white cultural movement, or (worse) removing them from the history all together. For example, many rare groove clubs (and in fact some of the most lionised) operated racist door policies, limiting or banning entry of black people – with no sense of irony that the music being played (and in some cases performed) was music from black culture.

In It’s A London Thing, Melville takes the best of what makes Stuart Cosgrove’s books great (a broad view of a culture), combines it with a Hebdige-esque attention to the critical theory that sits behind the mechanics of how cultures evolve, and brings his own passion and flair for the music itself. The book is peppered with first person accounts (including the authors personal experiences), and draws in references from a broad range of perspectives from classical theorists like Stuart Hall and Dick Hebdige, to modern academics that are actively involved in black music culture like Nabeel Zuberi and Kodwo Eshun.

What I found most amazing, was the sense that what Melville describes has impacted on how he’s written the book itself – the book is jam-packed with interesting references, and links to other writers work. In many ways, Melville feels like an artist bringing in new ideas and refreshing old ideas to create something brand new, that resonates, and that helps push the culture forwards. Just like Fabio and Grooverider did at RAGE, he isn’t just replaying old stories, but instead creating new ideas that will hopefully go on to change the way that people think about culture.

I finished reading it last weekend, and yet the ideas that Melville presents are still reverberating around my head now. I’m still trawling back through my endless notes, and the reading list that I’ve started to make from his references in the book is one that excites me. This, for me, is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time.

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Crosby, Stills, & Nash – Dark Star
  2. The Jones Girls – Nights Over Egypt
  3. Chaka Khan – Clouds
  4. Teena Marie – Behind The Groove (Rick James mix)
  5. Archie Bell – Anytime Is Right
  6. Henry Turner’s Crystal Band – Forever Us
  7. Skip Mahoney – Janice
  8. Brainstorm – Lovin’ Is Really My Game
  9. Mildlife – The Gloves Don’t Bite
  10. Stevie Wonder –  Bird Of Beauty
  11. Jitwam – Enchante
  12. 3 Winans Brothers – Dance (Louie Vega Funk House Radio Edit)
  13. Kelly G – Keep Wondering! (Kelly G. Shelter mix)
  14. Philippa – Wax On
  15. Dego – Twelve Steps
  16. Herbert – I Hadn’t Known (I Only Heard)
  17. Daniel Brandt – Flamingo
  18. Chiapet – Westworld (Medieval Funk mix)
  19. Aardvark – Aap Noot
  20. Space Dimension Controller – Voices Lost To Empty Space
  21. Pat Thomas – We Are Coming Home (2 Paris Septembre remix)
  22. Leon Vynehall – I, Cavallo
  23. Peverelist – Vapours (Pangaea remix)
  24. Martyn Bootyspoon – Tom Tom Club
  25. DJ Qu – Toc
  26. Kassa Overall – Show Me A Prison
  27. June Tyson – Somebody Else’s World
  28. Eden Ahbez – Myna Bird
  29. Nick Hakim – Heaven
  30. Bremer/McCoy – Op
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #102

20.12.19
Hello, hello, hi, hey, hello,

How are you? I’d imagine you probably finish work today? I’m writing this from a few weeks ago, but last night would’ve been our team drinks at work, so I’m probably not feeling amazing right now. Hopefully you are, and I’ll be back to being human shortly! After all, it’s only FIVE DAYS TO CHRISTMAS.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be on hiatus. So, after last week’s excellent guest letter from Nick (big thank you), we have another brilliant guest in the editors chair. Welcome Arun Sudhaman, all the way from Hong Kong. I met Arun about a decade ago, when he was a UK advertising and PR editor at Haymarket, and I was desperate to impress him with my ad-chat (I was still new to adland!). Needless to say I think we spent that conversation (and every subsequent one) talking about music instead. Arun set up the Holmes Report, which is an editorial and commercial platform covering the global communications scene. His letter and mixtape are literally straight out of Hong Kong, and it’s a blinder. Expect honesty, and protest music (on a big hip-hop tip).

Right, that’s me done for the year now! Have an amazing Christmas and New Year, and I’ll speak to you in 2020. Much love to you for your support this year, and I’m looking forward to everything next year brings for us!

Jed x

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

PRESS ME TO PLAY (Spotify)
📚 The notes 📚

Hello from Hong Kong! …[Wait for it]… …[There it is]…

Yes, we’re all fine. I mean, we’re not really. But it’s cool. We’re safe, at least. For now.

A little flippancy, if you will. Please don’t take it the wrong way. Like many things that have become uncomfortable features of our lives here over the past six months (hello tear gas!), the admission that you are dialling in from Hong Kong is enough to send even the most staid conference call into an unexpected tizzy.
Thankfully, these lovely letters are a million miles away from that level of awkwardness. And we truly do appreciate the concern. Given everything we have lost — faith in our leaders, our institutions and our future — it’s one of the nicer things that we have left. And, lord knows, we need all the emotional support we can get. Trying to describe our Hong Kong state of mind during these long, perilous months is a fiendishly difficult task. I would direct you to this masterful piece of writing by Karen Cheung in the New York Times, which not only captures the helplessness and guilt that so many of us feel, but also the trauma, the futile search for normality and, yes, the lure of self medication.

Luckily, we still have music, a safer self-medicant than most. And, if nothing else, Hong Kong’s troubles have helped me reconnect with my first love; hip hop music. Not only does golden-era boom-bap remind me of my childhood growing up in HK, but these tunes now seem to carry special resonance amid our current predicament.

‘There’s a war going on outside’ intones Mobb Deep’s Prodigy on Only the Strong Survive, as the spectre of police brutality looms large. Goodie Mob’s Cell Therapy breaks down the evils of the surveillance state and Nas’ One Lovespeaks directly to a society where disproportionate numbers of our youth are now locked up. Public Enemy’s Welcome to the Terrordome and Ozomatli’s Embrace the Chaos serve as a kind of shorthand for the mayhem that has regularly engulfed these streets.

Of course, hip hop is neither the only protest music nor the only type of music that features on this list. Hole’s Doll Parts reminds me of the toll taken on a fragile community. Cannonball by The Breeders helps me make sense of how we got here. And Seu Jorge’s peerless cover of Life on Mars captures the essential absurdity of this everyday struggle.

So as this city teeters on the edge, I am drawn both to the music of my youth, and the music of the youth. At a time when ‘just hangin out’, as legendary producer Large Professor puts it, is enough to get you arrested. All of those lyrics and soundscapes that depict the realities of life outside the system have come to life in my beloved city, a reminder of hip hop’s potent appeal to the marginalised. But even the most mournful situations, embodied in The Wailers’ Burning and Looting, carry a thread of optimism. No matter how dark the circumstances, I’d like to think that Love Will Save The Day.

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Bob Marley & The Wailers – Burning And Looting
  2. Mobb Deep – Survival Of The Fittest
  3. Goodie Mob – Cell Therapy
  4. The Roots – Now Or Never
  5. Jamila Woods – Blk Girl Soldier
  6. Erykah Badu – Soldier
  7. Rapsody – Nine
  8. Little Brother – Hiding Place
  9. Main Source – Just Hangin’ Out
  10. Gang Starr – JFK 2 LAX
  11. Nas – One Love
  12. Ozomatli – Embrace The Chaos
  13. Mos Def – Hip Hop
  14. Femi Kuti – Truth Don Die
  15. Public Enemy – Welcome To The Terrordome
  16. The Breeders – Cannonball
  17. Kendrick Lamar – good kid
  18. Poor Righteous Teachers – Gods, Earths, 85ers
  19. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)
  20. Nas – The World Is Yours
  21. Solange – Lovers In The Parking Lot
  22. GZA – Shadowboxin’
  23. Frank Ocean – Lost
  24. Underbelly – HK State Of Mind
  25. D’Angelo – The Charade
  26. Blackalicious – Brain Washers
  27. Hole – Doll Parts
  28. Gnarls Barkley – Who’s Gonna Save My Soul
  29. Seu Jorge – Life On Mars?
  30. OutKast – Liberation (with Cee-Lo)
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #101

06.12.19
Hello, hello, hi, hey, hello,

How are you? I hope you’ve had a bloody lovely week!

As you know, I’m on hiatus from Love Will Save The Day until 2020, so this week you’re in the incredibly capable hands of Nick Callaghan. I met Nick years ago, through an industry thing (he explains it much better below), and while I often meet lots of people at these things, meeting Nick was different. His passion for music – both sharing and finding – was inspirational. He’s also a brilliant human, and someone who I’ve got an immense amount of time for. So, as well as reading his great letter below, and listening to his brilliant mixtape, you should also subscribe to his excellent mix series Surface Noise (the latest and greatest, is here).

Before I let you go, three little things; first thing is that there were some issues with non-delivery of the last letter (here if you missed it), so I’ve updated some DNS thingy on Mailchimp (I don’t understand, but apparently it’s important), and now that problem should be fixed. Secondly, if you’re around Hackney on the 19th of December this looks amazing – and is a benefit for Centrepoint, so a great cause too. Finally, if you haven’t already, get your Spotify Wrapped here.

See you (properly) on the other side!

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

PRESS ME TO PLAY (Spotify)
📚 The notes 📚

Everyone loves music… right?

At least that’s what I always like to think / pretend in a hopelessly romantic way whenever I meet someone new. Sadly, we’ve all met people who just don’t care that much about music, they can take it or leave it (but will happily tell everyone that they love it when asked).

I still love the feeling you get when you meet someone who properly LOVES music. Someone who LOVES music just as much… if not more… than you do. And that is exactly how I felt when I first met Jed.

Jed and I met a few years back at a place called Osea Island. A curious little place situated in the Blackwater Estuary in Essex, which over the years has hosted rehabbing stars, ravers and recording artists (so a perfect backdrop for our introduction). We instantly hit it off talking about our record collections, and shared love of music.

I grew up in a family where music was always a big thing. My mum and dad were (and continue to be) obsessed by music. My mum made a record in ‘67 with an all-girl Folk band called The Markells. The record ended up sounding a bit more Motown than Folk, but it was cool that they recorded something. My youngest sister was in a couple of bands, one of which experienced a little bit of success – achieving an 8/10 review for their debut album in the NME!

My three uncles on my mums side of the family were all prolific guitar players. However, it was my older brother who accidentally helped create the electronic loving musical nut that I later became (more on that in a bit).

I don’t make music. I just hoard it for safekeeping.

So, one of my new year’s resolutions for this year was to try and surface some of the old and new music that I love and own on my favourite medium… Vinyl.

To dig deep in to my record collection, and to share some of the analog love. This has evolved in to an ongoing vinyl mixtape series.

When Jed first agreed to me delivering a guest slot on his amazing project, I saw it not only as a as a total honor and a privilege, but also as a natural extension to my ‘sharing is caring’ approach to music.

There have been many clubs, nights, labels, DJ’s, record shops, albums, radio stations, festivals, gigs and people that have influenced / shaped my musical tastes over the years. Below is a little story from one of them.

Culture Shock was exactly that, a Friday night at a venue that was usually a cheesy 80’s night club in a suburban town in Essex. It started in 1992 with resident DJ’s Darren Emerson (from Underworld fame) and Simon Hanson & Laurence Nelson (from Gat Decor, Passion fame). Tony Grimley and Gareth Cooke became the resident DJ’s a little later in 1993, and then stayed on every Friday for 4 years. It certainly was a culture shock for a small market town like Romford to have DJ’s from the likes of David Morales, John Digweed, Andrew Weatherall, Sasha and every big name in between turn up and play every single Friday.

I started going there in 93, and the club had a huge impact on me as a teenager. It was my first proper introduction to live DJ’s and house music, and it was a gateway in to another world (or at least that’s how it felt at the time!).

I grew up in Hornchurch, Essex (just down the road from Romford) so being able to dance to some of the best DJ’s in the world, on your own doorstep, week in week out… was quite simply, mind blowing.

Prior to this, my very earliest memories of being introduced to house music were from the mix tapes that my older brother used to bring home from a London night club called ‘Naked Lunch’. Again, Darren Emerson, Simon Hanson and Laurence Nelson were all regular DJ’s there.

Unfortunately, I was a bit too young to make it that club, but the music from there certainly left its mark on me. And you can hear some of those influences in my playlist.

I write this at the end of a few weeks of tweaking and honing, compiling and re-compiling, and despite my best intentions I am already unpicking the whole thing, realising that I have neglected much loved corners of my record collection and remembering tracks that I should have selected for this set. Ah well.

I’ve certainly had a lot of fun assembling this little musical jigsaw. If you give it a listen, then I hope you have some fun too.

But hey, enough of my yakking. Whaddaya say? Let’s chill, let’s boogie, let’s dance!

Jed, thank you for everything you do, and for being an inspiration to people like me.

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

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

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Koreless – Last Remnants
  2. Steve Reich – Electric Counterpoint: III. Fast
  3. Headless Heroes – True Love Will Find You In The End
  4. Marie ‘Queenie’ Lyons – See And Don’t See
  5. Osibisa – Music For Gong Gang
  6. David John Sheppard – Seconds, Minutes, Hours
  7. Cocteau Twins – Cherry-coloured Funk
  8. DJ Different – Memories Of The Old World
  9. Bochum Welt – Arnos Park
  10. Kraftwerk – The Telephone Call
  11. Hashim – Al-Naafyish – Time
  12. Bent – Always (Ashley Beedle’s Mahavishnu remix)
  13. Pional – Time Of The G’s
  14. Llewellyn – These Days (Don’t Make Me Wait)
  15. Ben Watt – Pop A Cap In Yo’ Ass
  16. Mat Playford – Ptolmey
  17. Underworld – This Must Be Drum Street
  18. Renegade Soundwave – The Phantom
  19. Eagles Prey – Tonto’s Drum (Darren Emerson 1992 remix)
  20. Thompson Twins – The Saint (Red Zone dub)
  21. Cannibal Ink – La Haine
  22. Eric B. & Rakim – Know The Ledge
  23. Group Listening – What’s A Girl To Do
  24. Curses – Insomnia
  25. Hollins Ferry – Lonely City
  26. Prince Fatty – Be Thankful For What You Got
  27. Capitol 1212 – Love Will Tear Us Apart
  28. John Cale – Buffalo Ballet
  29. Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks Theme
  30. Mazzy Star – Fade Into You
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #100

22.11.19
Hello, hello, hi, hey, hello,

How are you? Have you had a great week? I hope so.

So, here we are. The hundredth letter. I’m going to try and strike the delicate balance between not getting emotional (hard for me), and not being too cool for school (much easier for me 😂). But before I do… I genuinely never thought that this project would get past the first five letters. Look at where we are now! And I say ‘we’, and I truly mean ‘we’. I wouldn’t have carried on if you hadn’t kept on sending me messages to say you liked this whole thing. Thank you, and thank you for helping it to grow by sending it to friends that you think should join our crew. It honestly means the bloody world to me, and this project has grown to be much more than just an email I rattle off every other week.

You may have noticed that we’ve got a bright shiny new logo at the top, big thanks to Paul McDonald, and big props to him for the release of his latest artwork for Local Talk too (the cover art for the new Soulphiction release is all his work!). With a logo, this is almost starting to feel like a real thing ☺️

On to this week. Today’s mixtape is a little different; and the first thing you’ll notice is two links, one is to the normal Spotify version, and another is to a Mixcloud version. It’s the same mixtape, but one was recorded live last weekend (all vinyl, of course). I wanted to share it with you, because I’ve been working on it for a while, and it really encapsulates the music that I love about this whole project. It was my dream mix to put together, and hopefully you hear the passion too. I would love to know what you think.

The music I’ve chosen is made up of songs that I’ve loved from the last 99 letters, so there’s so many stone-cold classics in there. You’re going to love it. I’ve had so much fun putting it together!

The letter is also a little different too, and below you’ll find a bumper TL;DR section, in the notes I’ve put together a collection of some of my favourite of the last 99 letters (and collected up all of our guest letters too!), and I’ve also added in a call for guest editors section – next year I want more editors, and more diverse voices and music.

As with last year, I’m taking December off, so this will be the last time you hear from me until January. We’ve got two brilliant guest letters lined up for December, so worry not – lots of great music and letters coming.

So, next year. I’ve got big plans for next year.

The first thing is that next year we’re going to have a party in February. It’ll be in London, at a brilliant and intimate venue, and I’ve got the tight WhatsApp crew to thank, as there’s a bunch of us organising it. If you’d like to come along, register here. On the WhatsApp group front, if you’d like to be part of it (and I can tell you now it’s great), then reply and I’ll send you the link to join.

Finally, next year there’s going to be some Love Will Save The Day merch! I’ve hesitated and hesitated over this, but since Paul’s brilliant poster loads of people have been in touch to ask about what else might be coming up. So there’s going to be stickers, tote bags, and t-shirts (all at cost – this ain’t no gravy train). Again, if you’re keen, let me know and I’ll add you to the list. It’ll be a short run on all of it, so shout now or forever hold your peace.

Finally, and I mean this from my heart, thank you. You – and I mean you the person reading this right now – you make this worth while. I started this because I wanted to share music with people who I thought would love it too, and every letter I send out, I get the same buzz I’ve ever had from playing people music in clubs and bars. What makes this all the better is that you share music and ideas back, and that’s more than I could have ever hoped for. Thank you.

See you next year x

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

PRESS ME TO PLAY (Spotify)
PRESS ME TO PLAY (Mixcloud)
🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
  1. Spend a lot of time worrying about what other people are thinking? Yeah, me too. But stop it. No one cares, and that’s ok
  2. I’m just finishing up reading Stuart Cosgrove’s Detroit ’67 and holy moly what a brilliant book. I’ve tried to read it before but failed miserably, and after going back the second time I cannot understand what I was thinking. It’s brilliant. It covers the 1967 in Detroit, and while the focus is Motown, it covers so much more. I would highly recommend it
  3. I BEG you, listen to that first album by the MC5 and tell me that you don’t hear the same spirit of the 1967 Motown groups. While you’re listening to Kick Out The Jams, read this brilliant RBMA piece on John Sinclair…
  4. The excellent human and celebrated social academic Caspar Melville has a book coming out soon on how rare groove, acid house, and jungle broke London down and rebuilt it, pre-order It’s A London Thing here!
  5. Here’s some rare footage of Don Cherry, cronking his heart out
  6. While there’s not much new in here, this HUCK piece on The Loft and its enduring legacy was always going to be worth a read
  7. While you’re on a NY vibe, check out this classic essay from Lenny Fontana on Boys Own
  8. Gilles P sat down with Egon and Madlib, and as you’d expect it’s great. Check it on worldwide.fm here
  9. You’ll almost certainly know this already, but celebrate and behold! The RBMA archive of essays and lectures has been saved ❤️
  10. Resident Advisor’s Real Scenes series has been consistently on point, and the Sydney edition is one of my favourite so far – must watch!
  11. There’s a new record shop in London, check out Hidden Sounds
  12. Athena, the new album by Sudan Archives, is, as you’d expect absolutely brilliant
  13. This interview with Jaki Shelton Green (North Carolina’s Poet Laureate) is filled with gems, this in particular struck a chord, when she was asked about her views on art; “It’s the connectedness of my humanity wherever I go.”
  14. I’m certain you’ll have seen this, but this DJ Mag feature from Katie Thomas on The End is epic.
  15. This guide to William Basinski on Bandcamp is really nice. I’m not massively into ambient, but Basinski is slowly luring me in…
  16. The new album from Giant Swan is pummelling, chest crushing, genius. Read this Crack front page exclusive from Gabriel Szatan here
  17. I’ve only just come across this interview with Kerri Chandler (back from 2014), but as ever, Joe Muggs (hi Joe!) uncovers stuff previously unknown and circles round the culture in such a natural way it’s easy to forget how insightful this is!
  18. As a label and a shop, Mr Bongo is an absolute institution, and this mini-doc is a great celebration of the last THIRTY YEARS
  19. Latin American pop music is on a super-steep upwards trajectory, and this collection of reasons whyon Bandcamp is a good primer
  20. Cosmo’s Classic Albums By Women is out! Goes without saying, but obviously this is brilliant, and features some brilliant contributors (many of whom will be reading this now – thank you!)
  21. The excellent Jude Rogers has published a brilliant piece on Patrick Cowley in The New Statesman which is definitely worth a read
  22. I really enjoyed this collection of skaters talking about why skate shops still remain pivotal to the scene, HUCK smacking it out of the park as usual
  23. Jamael Dean is my new jazz crush – here’s why
  24. Rolling Stone has a long profile on Lee ’Scratch’ Perry – the “Salvador Dali of music” – that’s epic. Given I’m just about to start reading Bass Culture, this is probably a good primer…
  25. Read a rare interview with rock and roll photography legend Pennie Smith on the anniversary of that photo of Paul Simonon (and London’s Calling, naturally)
  26. I was dreadfully late to the work of Shawn Reynaldo, but now obviously I’m hoovering everything he’s ever written up furiously
  27. Jack White’s excellent jazzilike series is back for it’s fourth edition
  28. HUCK has a great photoessay of the not-so-seen LA in the 1980s
  29. Matt Muir shared this Excel-based drum machine (you heard me) in his excellent Web Curios newsletter recently and I’m mildly addicted to it
  30. Stevie Wonder bought Marvin Gaye a Moog for Christmas, so Gaye wrote a Christmas song on it
  31. Grace Jones is in charge of Meltdown Festival next June!
  32. And finally, and not just because of my distaste of odd numbers, but because it’s really good; here’s a piece on where ideas come from, in the New Yorker. A favourite subject of mine, and hopefully yours too
As I’m off of Love Will Save The Day duties for a month or so, I’ve got quite a reading list stacked up. I’m hoping to get through;
📚 The notes 📚

As we’ve reached one hundred letters, I wanted to share some of my favourites over the last few years. We’ve had some brilliant guests (all below!), music for parties, music for thinking, themed mixtapes, dark mixes too, and lots of essays. So here’s some of the best of the last one hundred ❤️

Guest mixtapes
Letter #20 – James Turner – sweet and raucous
Letter #22 – Chris Wood – disco-tinged
Letter #27 – Tom Armstrong – London-vibes
Letter #31 – Matt Hannigan – classic underground
Letter #35 – Olly Batho – a dub special
Letter #39 – Simon Veaney – a heartfelt special
Letter #49 – Mark Pinsent – pop perfection
Letter #65 – Becca Sawyer – a beautiful tribute
Letter #68 – Ben Isley – broken beats across the spectrum
Letter #72 – Paul McDonald – jazzy vibes
Letter #75 – Steven Doherty – sub-club warm up
Letter #85 – anon – a mental health rebuilder
Letter #87 – Eamon Murtagh – a funk and soul special
Letter #94 – George Knock – no such thing as a guilty pleasure
Letter #95 – Bibiane Blondy – focus on women

My favourite
My all time favourite, still to this day, was the letter that I wrote to my daughter.

A few others…
Letter #3 – a classic, for afternoon parties in the sun
Letter #21 – My tribute to drums
Letter #48 – It began in Africa 
Letter #80 – Super soulful
Letter #84 – a great essay (I think, anyway!)
Letter #86 – one of my favourite essays to write! (and loads of disco not disco)
Letter #91 – reinventions…
Letter #92 – Jazz not jazz
Letter #97 – a tribute to Prince
Letter #98 – On burnout and recovery (mental health)

📃 Guest editors 📃

What I would love to see next year is more people coming forwards to write guest letters. Specifically more women, and more people with more diverse tastes. We’re a diverse bunch, and as this thing grows, I want to celebrate our diversity more and more. So consider this a call out for anyone who’d like to write a guest letter next year to put your hand up!

Let me know if you keen, and I’ve written up some very loose rules below to writing a guest letter, but nothing too burdensome (I hope).

Letter

  • A set of accompanying notes that explain a bit about why you chose which music you chose – the best of these are often pretty personal, but don’t feel like you have to
  • Write it like you’re writing to just one person, and tell us a bit about you too 🙂
  • You don’t have to explain every single track choice, but if you want to that’s fine too!

Mixtape

  • 30 tracks long, with a start, middle, and end. I usually follow the Mancuso Bardo stuff – which is split it into three, the first third being about people arriving at the party and feeling the groove, then the middle section is circus time (full throttle), and then the final third is about bringing people back to earth gently.
  • My approach to track selection is trying to put something together that brings new (not necessarily new new) music to people, if I include something familiar then I want to reframe it a little, but I try to avoid ever going obscure for the sake of it (no show offs!)
  • No repeats. Unless it’s Herbie or Stevie. The full list of everything that’s ever been included is here.
  • There are no boundaries on genres or anything like that. We’ve had themed mixtapes, artist focused, era focused, mood focused, all sorts – go wild.

Most of all, it just has to come from your heart ❤️

If you’d like to put something together, please get in touch!

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Don Cherry – Utopia and Visions
  2. Dorothy Ashby – Essence of Sapphire
  3. Shabaka and the Ancestors – Joyous
  4. Sun Ra & His Arkestra – That’s How I Feel
  5. Andrew Ashong – Flowers
  6. Gil Scott-Heron – Your Daddy Loves You
  7. Stevie Wonder – As
  8. The Crusaders – Street Life
  9. Bill Withers – You Got The Stuff
  10. Fatback Band – Wicky Wacky
  11. Eddie Kendricks – Date With The Rain
  12. Herbie Hancock – Saturday Night
  13. Roy Ayers – Chicago
  14. K15 – Bordeaux (Kaidi Tatham remix)
  15. Prince – All The Critics Love U In New York
  16. Moodymann – I Think Of Saturday
  17. Stevie Wonder – Race Babbling
  18. Tenderlonious – Casey Jr.
  19. Prequel – Saints
  20. Moses Boyd – Drum Dance
  21. Pharoah Sanders – You’ve Got To Have Freedom
  22. Johnny “Hammond” Smith – Los Conquistadores Chocolates
  23. Miroslav Vitous – New York City
  24. Dexter Wansel – Life On Mars
  25. Theo Parrish – What You Gonna Ask For (Theo’s mix)
  26. Les Sins – Grind
  27. SAULT – Why Why Why Why Why
  28. BADBADNOTGOOD – Tried
  29. Emma-Jean Thackray – Make Do
  30. Rare Silk – Storm
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See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #99

08.11.19
Hello, hello, hi, how are you,

How are you? Have you had a lovely couple of weeks? It’s flown by, hasn’t it! I’ve been on catch up mode, and I’m slowly coming back to normality 🙂

This week’s letter is sparse, because I’ve been working on the next letter already. If you haven’t noticed yet, it’s going to be a big one. The one hundredth letter, in fact. So I’m planning a bumper special for you all, with loads of extra stuff beyond what I usually put together. You’re going to love it!

So this week there’s no Notes, and the TL;DR Section is pretty sparse too. That said, the music is on point. It starts off all cheery disco and funk, and then it takes number of turns. There’s heaviness, lightness, and everything in-between. Given the recently released Mechanical Fantasy Box (on what would’ve been his 69th birthday), there’s a definite Patrick Cowley feel to this week’s mixtape. In places it’s sleazy, dance floor orientated, and filled with disco. In other places it’s light, ambient, and airy. It’s something to take you from the bar to the basement.

There’s also a guest appearance from Bieber too 😂.

If you’d like to do me a favour and help celebrate the 100th edition of Love Will Save The Day, would you please take a minute to post about it on Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you go, and tell your friends! ❤️

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

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🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
  1. More than a decade ago I saw a band play Nottingham’s Dot to Dot festival that blew my mind. It was a three-piece band that had created a bunch of instruments from household items, but while it was avant garde, they still held a tight groove. The front woman was mesmerising. She was Mica Levi, the band was Micachu and The Shapes, and this piece on Huck charts Levi’s career from early gigs to her becoming nominated for an Oscar for her soundtrack work
  2. I will forever have a soft spot for Blawan and his industrial techno. This interview with him and Pariah as part of their promotion for the new Karenn album is great
  3. To celebrate ten years of being brilliant, there’s a great documentary on Wolf Music, For Those Who Like To Get Down
  4. I saw Amol Rajan speak at an event recently, and his clarity of thought was really refreshing. His interview with Bob Igor is big news, and required listening for anyone into culture
  5. Hector Primmer’s new album is sensational. Here he breaks down each track piece by piece
  6. Spotify saved the music business. This Fortune piece will undoubtedly be controversial to some, but I truly think that Spotify has done so much more good for the industry than it’s given credit for
  7. Walking is a cure for many ills
  8. I’ve been a fan of Evian Christ since his super heavy early singles (Fuck It None Of Y’All Don’t Rap). He then moved slightly sideways and started a trance party that’s developed a cult following
  9. Alexander Nut has put together a two-hour show for The Vinyl Factory that is, of course, compulsory listening
  10. And finally, get on the hype train, the Michael Kiwanuka album is great
📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Sisters Love – Give Me Your Love
  2. Skye – Ain’t No Need (DJ Nick The Record Part 1 & 2 edit)
  3. France Joli – Gonna Get Over You
  4. Norman Harris – In Search Of Peace Of Mind
  5. King Tutt – You’ve Got Me Hung Up
  6. Angelo Tinsley – Get Down With Me
  7. Keezo Kane – Ga Ga Ga
  8. The Dynamics – Money (7 Samurai Disco version)
  9. Patrick Cowley – Somebody To Love Tonight
  10. Tendts – Cosmic Swimmer (Soulwax remix)
  11. Sascha Funke – We Are Facing The Sun
  12. Billie Eilish – bad guy
  13. Space Dimension Controller – Slowtime in Reflection
  14. Grandbrothers – Bloodflow (Sir Was remix)
  15. The Pool – Jamaica Running
  16. Alma Negra – Endless Summer (Soulphiction remix)
  17. The Vision – Heaven (Nightmares on Wax remix)
  18. O’Flynn – Sunspear
  19. TJM – I Don’t Need No Music
  20. Black Devil Disco Club – Timing, Forget The Timing
  21. Midland – The Alchemy Of Circumstance
  22. Scattergood – Stay
  23. DJs Pareja – I Think I Love You
  24. Anunaku – Temples
  25. DJ Nigga Fox – Nhama
  26. TNGHT – Dollaz
  27. Cando – Bleak Dub
  28. Clams Casino – Rune
  29. Agnes Obel – Island Of Doom
  30. Thom Yorke – Dawn Chorus
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See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #98

25.10.19
Hello, hello, hi, how are you,

I hope you’ve had a bloody stellar few weeks! It’s absolutely zoomed by since I last spoke to you. Today I’m having a very slow day, recuperating after a manic few weeks / months at work. I’ll be spending today mostly listening to new records and putting up some furniture.

The last few weeks / months is, as it happens, the theme for this week’s letter. I’ve explained more in the notes, but the theme for the mixtape is the emotional intensity of pitching in an advertising agency. All the detail is below, but the mixtape itself is built in a way to try and recreate the rollercoaster of emotions that come from pitching. It’s still, of course, filled with brilliant music, and as ever there are moments of elation, but there are also moments of reflection, and drastic reductions in speed and intensity to try and replicate emotions during the process. Hopefully it makes sense on listening, as I’m not sure I’m doing a particularly good job of explaining it here… Let me know what you think.

As for the notes… Well they definitely contain some soul baring, and it’s probably the most personal set of notes I’ve written here before, so please go easy on me. It’s been a very cathartic experience writing this week’s letter ❤️

Right, on with the show.

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

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🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
  1. How to find silence in a noisy world. This is one of the most beautiful art / sound / immersive projects I’ve ever come across. Full screen, big headphones, and just bathe in it. You won’t regret it
  2. Hector Plimmer’s new album lands today and I am HYPED
  3. As ever, the latest piece from Gabriel Szatan is killer. This time for Dazed, he’s managed to land the first interview with Joy O in more than a decade. It’s great, go read it
  4. Two new mix series’ to follow this week; Nick Callaghan’s excellent Surface Noise, and Julian Ireland’s excellent Random Pull
  5. There’s a new Levon Vincent album coming
  6. Turns out Sade’s Smooth Operator was a demo
  7. I’m almost certainly going to read Elton’s new autobiography after reading this review from Hadley Freeman
  8. I’m still obsessing over Prince (and I’m finally nearly finished the book I’ve been reading too!)
  9. Joni Mitchell is publishing a collection of her poetry and paintings – the New Yorker has a preview of some of the work
  10. The new Floating Points album is luscious (genuine use of that word)
  11. I signed up to a new newsletter this week, thanks to Gabriel, and it’s immense. Sign up to First Floor here.
  12. The latest RA Exchange is with Spoony and it’s a classic (someone said UKG was making a comeback, but I never knew it went away?)
  13. This is a really interesting piece from Nathan Ma on the phenomena that is COLORS
  14. TNGHT is back
  15. “When we disperse that community, that’s when the neighbourhood begins to dwindle.” I really enjoyed this interview with Kevin Coval, which touches on privilege, gentrification, and the importance of having city space for artists
  16. There’s a new collab coming from Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Brian Eno, and Adrian Sherwood
  17. Jazz speaks for life, jazz is triumphant music
  18. Moodymann’s Worldwide.fm show supporting Soul Skate last week is compulsory listening
  19. The universal vibration is real. More to come from me on this, but I think it’s fascinating, and goes some way to explain how, when there’s a group of people dancing together, we all feel ‘locked in’ as a singular being
  20. Disco fans, get ready. There’s a new documentary coming on disco legend John Morales
  21. I really, really enjoyed this article on writing as thinking – and how writing improves our critical thinking. I mean, I’m definitely looking for evidence for my theory, so this helps…
  22. This episode of Late Junction where Jennifer Lucy Allan is joined by Kristen Gallerneaux to talk about how the voice has been used as an instrument is great
  23. Simon Reynolds’ ‘Conceptronica’ essay on Pitchfork certainly got people talking (my thoughts here)
  24. Here’s a nice ‘long read’ on Rihanna and Fenty in Vogue (which I’m only half way through, but so far it’s insightful)
  25. Surgeon playing a blinding set all night long at Hare & Houndsin Birmingham – going from dub and disco to heavy techno – big thanks to Matt for the tip – part one here
📚 The notes 📚

As I said above, this week’s rambling notes are pretty personal. I don’t write about myself particularly often, but only because I don’t think anyone would find it particularly interesting. This week may be no exception, but I thought that given I’d chosen music that (hopefully) conveys a very personal feeling, I should probably write something to accompany it and make a little more sense of it.

First things first; pitching. If you already work in advertising or marketing, you can probably look away for this and the following paragraph. For those of you that are still reading, I need to explain a bit about what this means and what it entails. In an advertising or media agency, we competitively pitch for new clients. It’s a slightly odd process, and it changes lots depending on the client, the type of agency you are, whether it’s being run internally or externally, and the size of the account.

Broadly, however, it takes the following shape; a client creates a shortlist of agencies that they think are interesting and asks them all to submit some written information on their agency. They then create a shortlist of agencies that they’d like to meet at a meeting that’s inventively called a ‘chemistry’ meeting. They then narrow the list down again, and issue the final set of agencies a brief to respond to. The brief is usually a critical business or marketing challenge that they’re facing, and that ultimately the winning agency will help them resolve. The final agencies then have a few weeks to come up with an answer, that they then ‘pitch’ to the client team. The client team then usually narrow down to two agencies and then fee and pricing negotiations begin. Eventually they decide on the winning agency, and it’s announced to much fanfare in the trade press, and the new agency begins working with the client.

This process is almost certainly analogous to lots of other high-pressure situations, so I reckon a lot of what I’ve written – and the mixtape I’ve put together – probably still carries meaning and relevance even if you don’t work in adland.

Now, I would say that I’m currently in a state of recovery. This year, we’ve pitched quite a lot. Some pitches we’ve won, some we’ve not won but have been a frustratingly close second. Pitching is a funny old business, but one that I’ve been very involved in since the start of my career – I’m a planner / strategist, which means I’m one of the people in the agency who’s responsible for figuring out how to solve a client problem, and then I work with other teams to help build out what that looks like in either ideas or media. So pitching is a critical part of my job.

Why am I in a state of recovery? Well, pitching is exhausting – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Most confusingly, it’s exhausting in both a great and a not so great way. Let me explain… Once you’ve taken the brief from the client, it’s a planner’s job to figure out what to do. Sometimes there is an abundance of information, sometimes there’s very little. To be honest, neither of those two is better than the other. You’re still faced with trying to learn everything about a business category and a set of people (“consumers” – I shudder at the word) that the client is trying to appeal to, in a relatively short space of time. So the first few days can be pretty daunting, and often until I feel like I’m making progress on cracking the problem, I usually feel like a fraud in my job. Despite doing this for more than a decade, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do my job. This happens. Every. Single. Pitch. (There is music on this week’s mixtape that best captures this emotion – have a guess at which songs.)

What usually helps is talking to everyone on the pitch team about everything and anything to do with the brief. And going for a walk. The theory of the adjacent possible (which I’ve mentioned a few times before) definitely applies here. The less you focus on the problem and the more you think about something a bit more lateral, the more creative response you get to the problem. What’s incredibly exciting about pitches is the creativity and invention involved. You’re trying to solve a new problem, for a new client, without any real legacy of what has and hasn’t worked in the past. And screechingly close deadline. Add in our (Initiative) obsession with helping brands become part of culture, and you can see why pitches are exciting.

We create new tools, new ways of thinking, massive without-bounds ideas, we uncover hidden parts of culture, learn new codes of language, and we go on this exploration as a tightknit pitch team. You’re exploring what the most advanced solution could be, and then trying to find a way of presenting that in a yet acceptable manner. MAYA. It’s like a double-yolk egg – first we’re trying to find an idea that we think will resonate with the people that the client is trying to appeal too, then we’re trying to find a way to make it appealing to the client. Double-yolk egg MAYA! As a team this process is incredibly bonding, at Initiative a pitch team becomes like a mini-family, because we work on every part of the pitch together. There is no baton-passing process, and after the first few days there’s no deference on either role or seniority. Then, after a little while, everyone hits their groove. We have a direction, an initial set of ideas, loads of interesting research, and it all starts to click into place. (Again, there’s music that conveys this feeling too.)

Once we’ve got the answer, and the ideas, we then rehearse the presentation, and all of this leads up to the final pitch presentation.

In the lead up to the pitch presentation, people are rehearsing scripts alone, going through little rituals, and / or psyching themselves up. As you’d expect, my ritual involves music, and there are a few songs that I listen to in preparation. These have now become habit, and the idea of writing this week’s letter like this came from an initial thought of sharing my psyche-up playlist – instead I thought I’d try and recreate the whole set of intensities and emotions in aural form, to give you the full flavour.

The presentation itself is usually exhilarating. Everybody is nervous before hand (and anyone that tells you that they’re not – regardless of how long they’ve been doing it – is lying), and the presentation feels like a show. Then it’s finished, and holy moses does it feel weird.

The emotional investment that goes into the entire pitch is massive. There are long hours, pressure from each other, internal pressure we exert on ourselves, arguments, tears, huge peaks of excitement, frustrations, moments where everything feels like it’s on a downward spiral, and moments of pure, unadulterated flow.

Those moments of flow are one of the aspects of pitching that I find most appealing. There comes a moment during the process or the presentation, when you’re so locked into what you’re doing, you could almost have your eyes closed. It feels natural, and like you’re almost not in control – but everything you’re writing or saying is coming directly from somewhere else. It’s a glorious feeling. To pull an idea out of your head and refine it over and over again until it works is a cathartic feeling. So flow is quite an intoxicating feeling, but there is a negative side to it. Much like with Sonic The Hedgehog’s ‘life bar’, my energy when I’m in a flow state goes down pretty quickly. It’s not something that I can sustain for hour after hour, but usually if I manage my energy right, I can let it recharge a bit. But with pitching, there’s no real recharge moments. So once the final pitch meeting is done, the adrenaline cuts off, and I’m in freefall.

I was talking to Richard (our CEO) a few months ago, and we were talking about the different types of people in agencies, and he said he saw two types; marathon runners, and sprinters. Marathon runners maintain their energy at a mid-level, never overdo it, but need fewer breaks. They get the job done. Sprinters come in with bags of energy and keep hitting peaks, but need a rest after a while.

I’m a sprinter.

Post-pitch, I’m emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. No ‘life bar’ recharges, endless late late nights, and after relentlessly asking so much of it, my brain feels like mush. So I go to ground, take a few days off, and try to do things that are restorative. Time with Shiv and Effie, reading, music, writing, exercise. Learning that I have to go through this process is what made me realise that I’m not an out and out extrovert, but instead I have a bit of both. That I have to manage my energy pretty carefully, and that that’s what helps me avoid becoming a husk  of a human and properly burnt out.

Anyway, back to the pitch. Once the pitch is finished and everyone involved has rested for a while, we’re then back into it and waiting to hear on feedback and whether we’ve won the pitch or not.

This can be an anxiety-inducing process, and as you’d expect after being so emotionally invested, everyone is pretty on edge with excitement and nerves. It’s only in the last two years (since I joined Initiative) that this process has felt quite so intense. This, I think, is down to a few things; 1) I’m more emotionally invested, 2) the teams we work in are bonded more tightly, and 3) as an agency we’re very tightknit and feel every win and loss together. This isn’t true of many agencies, and I feel lucky to work with the people at Initiative.

A win is of course cause for a huge celebration, but a loss is where you learn the most. The feedback from the client is invaluable and helps me and the rest of the agency to improve our product. The ideas, tools, and thinking that we develop become enveloped into our day to day work. But where you learn the most is the way the pitch team and the rest of agency react.

A few weeks ago I learnt something magical about the culture of our agency. We were nominated for the Media Week Agency of the Year award, which, considering just two years ago Initiative was an agency that had been totally forgotten by the industry (and lots of people thought it had shut down), was no mean feat. As a team, we’d not only turned the agency around, but we’d been recognised as one of the top five in the UK. It was nice recognition, and as part of the process to crown the best agency, a panel of judges toured around the top five agencies and each agency (you guessed it) pitched their reasons for being the best in the UK. So we pitched, and a month later a few of us were at the awards show, while the rest of the agency was in a bar next door to the awards venue. We won a few awards, and eagerly awaited the final award of the night. Agency of the Year. It came, and we didn’t win. It was, for me, a pretty crushing moment. So we decided to go and tell the agency and commiserate together. As we walked in the bar, word had already got out that we hadn’t won, yet people were cheering and clapping and the mood was jubilant. People were hugging and chanting each other’s names, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt as proud at work than I did in that moment. In my mind, that feeling was better than winning the award.

So the way in which the team responds is everything.

Then, once the hangovers disappear, it’s back on the road to recovery. Which is where I am now, trying to rest a little, trying to restore a bit of balance, and giving my brain some space. So today’s mixtape is an aural reflection of what I’ve described above – it charts the highs and lows, the moments of feeling totally useless, locking into a groove, reaching a state of flow, pumped up moments, freefall, elation, despair, and eventual recovery.

It’s a weird job that I have, but holy shit I wouldn’t change it for the world ❤️

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Scrimshire – Theme For Us
  2. Art Feynman – Shelter
  3. Jockstrap – I Want Another Affair (Taylor Skye remix)
  4. Leifur James – Mumma Don’t Tell (FaltyDL remix)
  5. SAULT – – Up All Night
  6. Shigeto – Divine Family
  7. Jaimie Branch – Prayer for Amerikkka Pt. 1 & 2
  8. PYJAEN – Nah
  9. Rapsody – – Whoopi
  10. Michel Cleis – La Mezcla (ft. Toto La Momposina)
  11. Laurence Guy – Wildlife
  12. The Juan Maclean – Pressure Danger
  13. Edward – Mental Dive
  14. Mono/Poly – Psychedelic Sasquatch
  15. Danny Brown – Dirty Laundry
  16. Terror Danjah – Last Days
  17. Floating Points – Bias
  18. Anthony Naples – Drifter
  19. Akira Kosemura – Romance
  20. Vegyn – Positive Nightmare (134 BPM)
  21. Solange – Cranes In The Sky
  22. James Blake – Can’t Believe The Way We Flow
  23. Barker – Gradients Of Bliss
  24. Meatraffle – Meatraffle On The Moon (Andrew Weatherall remix)
  25. Against All Logic – Lkj
  26. Levon Vincent – UK Spring Vibes
  27. Jacques Green – Do It Without You
  28. Joy Orbison – Burn
  29. Cabaret Voltaire – Low Cool (Marcel Dettmann edit)
  30. Barker – Utility
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See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #97

11.10.19
Hello, hello, hi, how are you,

Have you had a good couple of weeks? I bloody hope so. I’ve been really busy at work (so there’s no Notes this week, as I didn’t have chance to finish them), but I’ve got a treat for you this week. Now for most letters the mixtape is based on stuff that I’ve found (new and old) over the past two weeks, but this week’s is kind of different. This week is a tribute, and I’ve only done one tribute before (Quincy, here), so it’s pretty special. In case you haven’t guessed, it’s the purple one. The artist formally known as. Joey Coco. Christopher Tracey. IT’S PRINCE!

Now, I’ve got a confession. I liked Prince. I knew a few songs, I had some favourites. But I didn’t really know Prince. So I decided to read the Matt Thorne biography. I’m only half way through, and so far it is excellent. Like can’t-put-it-down excellent. So I decided to put together a mixtape of Prince and Prince-related songs. Lots of originals, artists who’ve been in the band, or he’s famously toured with, some covers, lots of obvious samples, some hidden ones, and also a band who were frequently mistaken as Prince (shout to Ready For The World).

Two things have made me a little nervous about this week’s mixtape; 1) there is such much music to choose from, I’ve definitely missed some pearls, and 2) there are some mad Prince fans who might take displeasure in some of the tracks I have included. So be kind, I’m trying 😂.

As I said, no Notes this week, but next letter they’ll be back and extensive (you’ve been warned). The TL:DR section has some brilliant stuff in, so dig in.

Anyway, on with the show!

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

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🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
  1. The first release on Natural Frequency Records is out and it’s a belter – listen to Void Complet’s EP here
  2. The excellent label Wolf celebrates it’s ten year anniversary this year, and they’ve put out an amazing compilation
  3. Read Phil Adams’ excellent love letter to the Last Poets love letter to Prince
  4. Check out Dan Hillier’s work (thanks to Ainsley for the tip!)
  5. Long time listener, Nick Callaghan, has published the latest instalment in his excellent mix series, Surface Noise
  6. Shiv introduced me to David Sedaris, and I think he’s great, here’s an interview
  7. Next instalment of the DJ-Kicks series is Kamaal Williams– the tracklist is filled with bangers
  8. Check out this collection of amazing Adama Jalloh photos from her work documenting blackness in Britain on WePresent
  9. An ad agency has created a pretty great interactive video of Dali’s Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus painting. Trippy.
  10. Jeremy Deller, again. Our Hobby Is Depeche Mode
  11. HNNY’s new EP has got a really laid black vibe to it – this is why
  12. There’s a new Robert Glasper mixtape and it’s amazing – featuring the likes of Herbie, and Yasiin Bey
  13. Damon has a new project in the works – inspired by a John Clare poem, and the landscape of Iceland, of course
  14. Pitchfork has a collection of touching tributes to drumming god Ginger Baker
  15. There’s a trailer out for new Tricky biopic, Hell Is Round the Corner
  16. Definitely read this interview with Paul Wright of the Instagram must-follow British Culture Archive
  17. Old school sci-fi (and Detroit techno inspiration) Metropolis has been redubbed and colourised
  18. I’ve only just started, but it’s already good – the New Yorker has a piece on why Isaac Hayes changed soul music
  19. Lady Phyll has created a soundtrack to Black History Month
  20. The ever brilliant Huck have published Arlene Gottfried’s excellent photos that document New York club scene in the late 70s
  21. BandCamp has published a piece on Ronin Arkestra’s latest album – one of my favourite albums I’ve bought recently, and from one of my favourite labels, Albert’s Favourites
  22. Boiler Room is changing. I’m holding my opinions back…
  23. Dave Haslam is giving talk on Keith Haring in London in December – register here, don’t sleep
  24. Check out this huge list of Stanley Kubrick’s favourite films
  25. I really enjoyed this interview with Tyler, The Creator in the Guardian
  26. And finally, after the absolute sh*tshow that was the Washington Post article, read this Dazed interview with Debbie Harry, it’s much better
📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Prince – Muse 2 The Pharaoh
  2. D’Angelo – Africa
  3. Prince – Come
  4. Prince – Anotherloverholenyohead
  5. Dam-Funk – 17 Days
  6. Morris Day – The Oak Tree
  7. Rick James – Ghetto Life
  8. The Time – 777-9311
  9. Chaka Khan – I Feel For You
  10. Andre Cymone – Neon Pussycat
  11. The Time – Jerk Out #3
  12. Ready For The World – Oh Sheila
  13. DJ Mehdi – I Am Somebody (ft. Chromeo)
  14. Flash And The Pan – Midnight Man
  15. Prince – Erotic City (Make Love Not War)
  16. Moodymann – Lyk U Use 2 (ft. Andres)
  17. Prince – Let’s Go Crazy
  18. Actress – Purrple Splazsh
  19. Traxman – Sexy M.F
  20. Prince – All The Critics Love U In New York
  21. Frankie Knuckles – Baby Wants To Ride (ft. Jamie Principle)
  22. Rick Wilhite – Dreams Of Yesterday (Rick Will Never Forget mix)
  23. Andre Cymone – The Dance Electric
  24. Afrika Bambaataa – Funk
  25. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam – I Wonder If I Take You Home
  26. Stevie Nicks – Stand Back
  27. Prince – Take Me With U
  28. Prince – Money Don’t Matter 2 Night
  29. Prince – Mountains
  30. Prince – The Ballad of Dorothy Parker
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

Letter #96

27.09.19
Hello, hello, hi, how are you,

I’m back! I’m back! I hope you’ve had a lovely month – it feels like ages since I wrote to you properly. A huge thank you to George and Bibiane for their marvellous guest letters. There are more exciting guest editors in the wings, but for now and until at least the 101st letter (yep, that’s close) you’re stuck with me 🙂

So, since we last spoke properly I’ve been in Spain (on a stag weekend), in Turkey (on a fam holiday), in Newcastle (a best mates wedding), and finally I’m back in soggy London. So that’s a real mishmash of moods, places, and music, and that definitely bears out in the mixtape. I’ve also had a little more time for reading and thinking, so there’s some thoughts in the rambling Notessection this week, and because I’ve been away a while, it’s a bumper TL;DR section too.

On top of all that, I’ve saved so much music to share with you, that it’s taken me a full week to scour through it all, with six rounds of filtering and removing songs, and I still know I had to make some major sacrifices. Needless to say, this week’s mixtape is pure.

Finally, I have two favours to ask of you; 1) would you please share this letter on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram? I’d love our Love Will Save The Day family to continue growing, so we can carry on sharing brilliant music with people that will love it as much as we do. And 2), would you reply and just let me know where you usually find new stuff to read / watch / listen to? I’m trying to keep my sources fresh and would love some suggestions ❤️

Also, I don’t usually do this, but special thanks must go to Guillermo, who sent me Transfer Station Blue, by Michael Shrieve (it’s on the mixtape) and I’ve listened to it at least three times a day since he sent it. It’s insanely good. Thank you ❤️

Anyway, on with the show!

PS. New here? Here’s how it worksHere’s what you’ve missed so farAnd this is me.

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🌪 TL;DR Section 🌪
Before I get started on this week’s TL;DR section, I have an important link to share. It’s for Rave for the Rainforest, and it’s going to be held at Five Miles next Saturday (4th October). Love Will Save The Day is a partner, and you’ll find a whole bunch of us there next week – so get registered and get going!
  1. There’s an exciting new record label coming out of London (run by one of our own crew); get yourself following Natural Frequency Records for some killer music that’s landing soon
  2. 60 previously unreleased tracks have been released from the Motown vaults!
  3. James Murphy has opened a coffee shop in Brooklyn, called Daymoves, which will also eventually run nights there called (you got it) Nightmoves
  4. When you’re trying to create anything, the only thing that matters is hard work and focus – Kanye knows, check out his studio rules here
  5. Travel opens your mind, but only if you bask in it and document it too
  6. This love letter to Aphex Twin is glorious and captures the essence of joy in falling down the rabbit hole of a newly discovered artist
  7. On Tom Robinson’s latest 6Music show there was a guest mix from Love Will Save The Day family member, Scrimshire, which is brilliant, and from what I can tell contained some upcoming releases on his excellent label Albert’s Favourites
  8. This article on the role of African music in modern American culture is good
  9. There’s a really interesting feature on the Guardian on the changing pace of music, the role of the album, and restrictions of the album cycle with labels – in my overly idealistic opinion, artists should be free to produce work in their own way, at their own pace – rather than being held to a contract stipulating how they tell stories
  10. The New Yorker’s National Book Award for Nonfiction shortlist has been announced and it looks like a good list to find new book inspiration from – the Tribe book sounds great
  11. The fetish scene in London is being revitalised and becoming a really interesting culture again – this is a really interesting article on emerging and reemerging subcultures and why we need to make space for them to flourish (and no, I’m not big on the fetish scene, before you wonder…)
  12. I loved this incredibly thoughtful (and balanced) piece from long time Love Will Save The Day crew member Lauren Martin in DJMag on the use of psychedelics to help resolve mental health issues
  13. Jonny Banger’s SportsBanger label is now properly breaking out and featured in 1843 – the SportsBanger show from London Fashion Week was amazing too
  14. Mary Lou Williams is a relatively unsung hero in jazz land – her album Black Christ of the Andes is brilliant. This NPR piece is a good background
  15. When art and commerce collide, the results can be amazing – check this story of the iconic launch ad for Tommy Hilfiger
  16. Miranda Sawyer’s interview in the Guardian with Mark Leckey is absolutely brilliant, and provides a real insight into a fantastic and often challenging artist
  17. There’s a new archive of behind the scenes photography from Blue Note sessions and it’s an absolute treasure trove
  18. I missed this the first time round, but check this interview with Grant Flemming from the ever brilliant Tom Armstrong
  19. Shortly before his death, Jimi Hendrix wrote most of a hyper conceptual album and put plans together for an accompanying short film – and it might see the light of day. Read the story of Black Gold Suite here
  20. As part of his collaboration with New Era, there’s a new short film out on Moodymann, and as you’d expect, it’s great
  21. Listen to the ever excellent Kate Hutchinson play records at Spiritland
  22. This collection of eleven universal laws for life seem particular apt right now
  23. Listen to Joe Muggs interviewing Andrew Weatherall at the newly launched Library Lounge in the Standard, London
  24. Watch this film from RA on how deaf people experience dance music
  25. The epically talented Harvey Sutherland put together a live version of Amethyst for RA which is worth watching / hearing
  26. And finally, struggling with meditation? Learn five lessons from these buddhist monks
📚 The notes 📚

You may have noticed that this week’s letter is called Machines with Soul, and if you’re even sharper than that, you’ll have spotted the thumbnail for the mixtape is a picture of Theo Parrish. This is, of course, always intentional, and this week it reflects not only the music that’s on the mixtape (much of which is electronic, but remains incredibly soulful), but also reflects a book I’ve been reading (more below), and something I noticed last weekend when sorting through records.

Let’s start with sorting out records. For about six months now I’ve been out of shelf space at home. This means the floor has been covered in record, and it’s been absolute chaos. I’ve found it difficult to play anything, because the chaos sets off my very low level OCD (it’s my personality, not a diagnosis). So a trip to Ikea, and some new Eket’s and everything is nearly harmonious again. Tonight I’ll be putting the last few bits away, and while it’s taken a while it’s been an interesting process. I used this as an opportunity to reorganise everything (genre, then from each genre I ordered by compilation, LP, then 12, then 7 – if you’re asking). While sorting, I noticed that I had a lot of Theo Parrish records, remixes, and recommendations, I also noticed a sort of ‘Theo theme’ to a lot of what I own. I’m a pretty avid listener (and relistener) to his mixes, partly because they’re an amazing source of finding new music, but mainly because both the music he chooses, and the order in which he plays them usually tells a story. The records he plays make you dance, they tell a story, and there’s often a cutting edge to them. He often picks music that has moved / moves the art form forwards. This cannot be said of all music, and definitely not of all DJs. Many will make you dance, or tell a story, or they’re pushing things forwards. Sometimes two, rarely all three. This is what makes Theo a demigod, my eyes.

That same weekend I finished reading Mars by 1980, by David Stubbs. It’s a history of electronic music that covers everything from musique concrete to Dilla, and I really enjoyed reading it. There’s deep chapters on Sun Ra and Miles Davis, as well as genre focused chapters on Detroit and Berlin – and of course loads of other great stuff too. In lots of ways, it was a real education – especially on some of the earlier and more experimental electronic music. It’s one of my favourite books I’ve read this year, for sure.

It also taught me more about Stevie Wonder. I thought I had Stevie down, but it turns out I had a pretty major gap in knowledge. I had no idea how involved he was with technology and electronic music – and how connected he was to technological trailblazers in music. In fact, my four favourite Stevie albums (the series that starts with Music of My Mind), all heavily feature the TONTO synthesiser system, built by Robert Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil. This was (and still is, I think) largest analogue synthesiser, and throughout the 1970s, Stevie used it almost obsessively. I always knew that he told great stories, and made people dance, but I had no idea how pivotal he was to moving the art form forwards.

In start contrast, then, there’s Pierre Schaeffer. He’s an early experimenter in electronic music and French composer, and Stubbs dedicates a chapter to him and his impact on musique concrete. He did not care for making people dance, or telling stories. He was all about pushing the art form forwards, but with technology, science, and discovery as his motivations. There was a quote that particularly stuck in my mind, where, in the 1950s, Schaeffer vents his frustration at the lack of new music; he believed that there’s only been ‘froth’ since primitive African music – and believed modern music (at this time, jazz, rock, and blues) was just utilitarian. It was made to serve people, not to serve art or technology. I can definitely appreciate Schaeffer’s music, but it doesn’t move me, neither in emotion or body. His focus is purely on technique, not feeling.

There was quite a lot of these types of frustrations throughout the book from different artists / scientists, and I found it fascinating that many of the people who’ve pushed music forwards didn’t necessarily ever achieve (or seek) any popularity. They had a major influence on artists that were enormously popular, but they themselves remained on the edges. I started to wonder why, and then – combined with sorting records, listening to Theo Parrish – I started to think about the perfect combination of attributes for music (in my mind, at least). The music that I love (and that I recognised in Theo, Stevie, and my record collection) almost always had three aspects to them; they told a story (regardless of having lyrics or not), they had a groove (made me dance), and they pushed the art form forwards (either a little, or a lot).

I’m not saying that this is some sort of universal law – quite the opposite – but it does feel like the unwritten law that rules my record collection, and a lot of brilliant music adheres to this three-part Venn diagram. For me, music that has these three aspects is powerful. It is music that can change things, push the world forwards. It can speak to both an individual, and us as a global collective. It can create unity. Stories speak to us at an individual level, groove pulls us all together in a singular motion, and pushing the art forwards gives us something new and surprising, but something that carries us all forwards The best thing is that this level of music comes with no prerequisites; we can all tell stories, we can all hold a groove (it’s in our blood), and we can all try something new. When these three stars align, you can speak to someone on an intellectual, base, and emotional level. This is the type of music that elevates us all towards the heavens ❤️

📃 The tracklist  📃
  1. Gabriels – Loyalty
  2. HNNY – Hosoi
  3. Supreme Jubilees – It’ll All Be Over
  4. Nicole Willis – Still Got A Way To Fall
  5. Massive Attack – Paradise Circus
  6. Lamb – Angelica
  7. Zero 7 – In The Waiting Line
  8. Michael Shrieve – Transfer Station Blue
  9. Cerrone – Hooked On You (The Reflex revision)
  10. Gayle Adams – Love Fever
  11. Paul Epworth – Voyager
  12. The Mole – A Simple Day
  13. Jermaine Jackson – Erucu
  14. Stirling March – Under Cover Lover
  15. Raphael Saadiq – So Ready
  16. Theo Parrish – What You Gonna Ask For (feat. Dego)
  17. Shigeto – MCW
  18. O’Flynn – Aletheia
  19. Sparks – The Number One Song In Heaven
  20. Hello – Vicious Games
  21. Patrick Cowley – Big Shot
  22. London Modular Alliance – Precious Materials
  23. FaltyDL – Small Room (Fake Smiling Faces)
  24. Gold Panda – Transactional Relationship
  25. Hector Plimmer – Stack
  26. Oddboy Ten – The Opening
  27. Daylight Robbery! – Get Your Coat
  28. DORJ – SHABUR
  29. Gigi Masin – The Sea In Your Eyes
  30. Beverley Glenn-Copeland – Ever New
💥 If you enjoy this letter, then please take a second to forward this email, or share this link with a recommendation on Facebook or Twitter 💥
See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day