Letter #103

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.

🌪 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

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