📚 The Notes 📚
Without wanting to sound all ‘LinkedIn’ about things, the COVID-19 crisis is teaching me a lot about myself. You may have noticed one of the things I’ve learnt before I did. The last four weeks of letters have had lots of very familiar music on. I hadn’t noticed until this weekend just gone, but I’m finding it really difficult to listen to as much new music as I usually do. It would also seem – according to Spotify – that I’m not alone. I think unconsciously I’ve been trying to create more familiarity in each mixtape (and in my own listening). I’ve spoken about the design concept of MAYA (most advanced, yet acceptable) in relation to music a lot before, but I think at the moment I’m almost purely focusing on ‘yet acceptable’. I’m fine with this, by the way. I think in times of great uncertainty, we look for any stability we can – whether that’s a big decision (not moving house) or small one (listening to familiar music). So for the mixtape this week I decided to consciously focus on nostalgia, and – maybe narcissistically – choose songs that have a very strong sense of nostalgia for me personally.
You’ll maybe have noticed the image for the mixtape this week. It’s a picture of Efes Pool Hall in Dalston, which was the view from my flat window for five years when I lived there. As I started picking songs out, I realised that that was a really happy time for me, filled with lots of lovely memories. So the music has got lots of connections to that time (roughly aged 24-28), as well as my musically formative years (13-16), and my late teens too (19-21), when a lot of the seemingly disparate music I liked all started to make sense together. The music isn’t arranged by era – that would be mad, and probably unlistenable – but instead hopefully you’ll see some of the threads that run through my tastes that started at 13, and have carried on for the last twenty years. Anyway, I’m rambling, here’s why I chose what I chose ❤️
Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music For A Found Harmonium
I’m opening with something insanely nostalgic. This is a track that I’m sure loads of you will recognise, if maybe not know the title. It’s from an album by PCO that my dad used to play quite often, but my most fond memories were him playing it Christmas Day morning when everyone else was getting dressed and ready for the day, and he thought no one was about. While at 13 I’d never have admitted to liking this (I think I used to refer to it as the ‘BT advert music’), I absolutely loved hearing this then and now.
The Maccabees – Toothpaste Kisses
The first time Shiv and I drunkenly danced to this I knew I wanted to spend my whole life with her. Sorry for the PDA.
Lovebirds – Want You In My Soul
When I lived in Dalston, I used to have a lot of house parties. I lived at the bottom of Stoke Newington Road, virtually above The Nest, so sound complaints were pretty rare (although I had two framed, embarrassingly). The great thing about that flat was that it had a balcony, and then a massive flat roof, so in summer I’d have parties outside. This was a song that never, ever failed to raise a smile, and get people singing, moving, and having fun.
Metronomy – The Bay
Another Shiv song, but this time a song she shared with me in our early days that I absolutely adored from the first time I heard it. As you’ll see later on, I had a brief stint as an indie kid, so this was a hit of nostalgia for me even then. The amount of times I tried (unsuccessfully) to mix this to impress her became a running joke.
DJ Mehdi – Lucky Boy (Outlines remix)
One of my best friends (Tim) has been a constant source of new music. I’d go as far as saying he’s educated me a lot on stuff I’d missed, and stuff I’d just never have found. This was one of those tracks – and Tim, there’s a few more from you in here too mate. This became an end-of-the-party-make-everyone-cry staple.
Late Of The Pier – The Bears Are Coming
I went to University in Nottingham, and every year I went to Dot-to-Dot festival. One year I took my dad with me, and we saw LotP at Stealth and I absolutely lost my shit to this track (and all the rest they played, to be honest). This was one of the moments when I felt my new indie kid status blending into my history (and future) as a dance kid. This takes me b a c k .
Death From Above 1979 – Romantic Rights (Erol Alkan’s Love from Below remix)
Maybe a little unexpected, by I was (and still am) a massive fan of Death From Above 1979 (thanks to my dad, I think), and this song transports me to being 18 years old, driving with recklessness and abandon on winding country, lanes at night, in a definitely non-roadworthy Fiesta. The thrill and adrenaline kick of hearing this loud still sends shudders down my spine. The Erol remix just confirmed more and more than I was heading back to dance land.
The Rapture – House Of Jealous Lovers
This was my own personal soundtrack to dancing in the Blue Note in Derby on a Tuesday night. Hearing it might still remind me of Apple Sourz, but it’s so good I’ll never stop.
LCD Soundsystem – All My Friends
There isn’t a single moment of nostalgia for this one, it just happens that almost every time I’ve ever heard it, I’ve been having an amazing time with all my friends. Right now, this fills my heart with nostalgia, and my eyes with tears. “If I could see all my friends tonight.”
Thieves Like Us – Drugs In My Body
I vaguely remember being introduced to the Kitsune label through an NME cover CD, and then going to buy the latest compilation pretty much immediately. Drugs In My Body was on it, and I remember playing this to my oldest friend Adam so many times that I think he ended up shouting at me. A few years later I played it at a house party he was having and he ran over and kissed me. Two great moments of nostalgia 😂.
Daft Punk – Burnin’
When this LP came out I would’ve been maybe 11 or 12, so if I’m being honest, it was Around The World that made the first big impression on me. However, when I started buying records, Homework was one of the first albums I bought, and Burnin’ was one of the songs that I taught myself to DJ with (long intro, simple kick). For me it still holds all its freshness and excitement now, with the added nostalgia of remembering finally nailing a mix.
Armand Van Helden – The Boogie Monster
My dad and stepmum took me clothes shopping for my 12th birthday, and we went into a shop that was so cool I was close to fainting. I didn’t faint. Instead I heard the shop DJ(!) playing this and I decided that I wanted to become a DJ. I had no idea what the track was, and it took me more than fifteen years to find it (I misheard the vocals…).
Roy Davis Jr. (ft. Even Everett) – Gabriel (Live Garage Version)
A bit like LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends, this track holds so many special memories, but by far the most special was hearing my friend Josh Dando play it at Steven Dodd’s (more on him below) wedding last year. Tears and grins all over the place.
Wildchild – Renegade Master
I was 12 years old, and I’d decided I wanted to be a DJ. I went with some friends into Derby, and listened to (what felt like) every 12” HMV had. This was the one that I bought, and it was £2.99. I still play the same copy now, and it still bangs.
Azzido Da Bass – Dooms Nights (Timo Maas remix)
I have absolutely no idea where I heard this, but aged 14 I became OBSESSED with it. I still am, if I’m honest. I also still have the same copy I bought from Virgin then. Again, this record holds lots of different moments of nostalgia (not least playing it at the first house party I ever played and it blowing the roof off), but the moment I always think of is New Years Eve, 1999. I was on holiday with my dad, stepmum, and brother for the Millennium, and just before we went to bed, I heard the DJ play it. My song. The next millennium was already off to a flyer.
Mr. Oizo – Flat Beat
This song is 25% of the reason I work in advertising now. The other 25% is Phat Planet, and the remaining 50% is my weird obsession with culture. I don’t play Phat Planet that often any more, but I play this on a weekly basis. Twenty years of Flat Beat. PREACH.
Jamie xx – Far Nearer
Around 24, I moved to London, and started working at VCCP. When I moved, I ‘knew a few people’, but I didn’t really know anyone. Luckily I made friends with a some nice people at VCCP in those first few months, and we’re still friends now. This song reminds me of walking to the agency through Hyde Park on a summer morning with this on repeat, thinking (now, very embarrassingly) of my ’new London life’. I’m laughing as I type that, but that was honestly what was running through my head at the time 😂
Julio Bashmore – Au Seve
Prince – Erotic City (Make Love Not War Erotic City Come Alive)
These two tracks come as a pair, because I heard Julio Bashmore play them together at Eastern Electrics in 2012 and it was madness. At the time Au Seve was just starting to pick up, and then to play out of it into Prince felt like a revelation for me as a listener and as a DJ.
Girl Unit – Ensemble
It was a tough choice between Ensemble and Wut – both were staples of the dank basement parties I used to go to in Dalston. Ensemble just nudged it though, because any time I hear those glittering synths, it immediately takes me back to being drenched in sweat at 5am.
Mount Kimbie – Made To Stray
I’m pretty sure my mate Tim – who I mentioned above – was paid on some sort of commission basis to play this song. Every single house party I had in the year 2013 had a moment where Tim would storm the booth (my flat had a makeshift DJ booth) and play this song. To be fair, it always worked. Now I can’t hear it without thinking of him looking at me eagerly, peering over a kitchen floor filled with people, giving me ’the look’.
Four Tet – Lion
In the summer of (I think) 2013, Four Tet announced he was going to be DJing a special RSD party at Phonica on a Saturday afternoon. Trying to get in was, of course, absolute carnage. Despite being quite close to the front of the queue, me and one of my best mates, Steven Dodd, had decided to go and buy beer, and then subsequently lost our spot and our chance of getting in. Instead we had a dance in the road to this song. Then we crashed his friends sophisticated dinner, drank all their wine, and then got kicked out of cab on the way to another party. I woke up with an absolutely horrendous hangover the next morning, with him lay next to me in bed (platonically, of course). The first thing we did was play this song and laugh. One of my very best memories.
Tom Trago – Use Me Again (Carl Craig rework)
I’ve got a friend (hi Cyd!) who every summer would have a party on the roof of her parents house. One year I DJ’d, and while I don’t remember much, I do remember playing this song and dancing to my own selection for so long it ran out and I had to quickly find another to play. A very hazy memory, but one that sticks with me. Every time I hear this I’m transported to a beautiful rooftop in South London, with all my mates, and some brilliant music.
Daphni – Yes, I Know
Throughout 2012 and 2013 me and my friends saw Daphni and Four Tet DJ so many times a lot of it blurs into one, but two songs stick out more than any Ye Ye, and Yes, I Know. It was difficult to pick between the two, but this edged it, if only for the memory I have of being in the Bussey Building hearing it and having to have a sit down on the floor (on the dance floor) because I got so excited 😂
Eliphino – More Than Me
I loved Plastic People but I only went a handful of times. I loved/love Fabric, but I had to be picky with the night I went to. Dance Tunnel was great, but too short lived. Between 2012 and 2014 Corsica Studios was my favourite club in London. It didn’t really matter what night was on, it was always solid and rammed. I remember on one of my first visits wandering into room two early on to hear Eliphino play this, and dancing on my own. Killer track, that went on to become a staple for a few years.
Objekt – Cactus
Stumbling from room two to room one… Again, the first time I heard this was at Corsica and it blew my mind. Every time I hear it now, it gives me that panicked feeling of someone rushing from the smoking area to the dancefloor.
Gil Scott-Heron – NY Is Killing Me
I played this three times at the first house party I ever had in London. I was living in a tiny studio flat near Golborne Road, and crammed about thirty people in and had an absolute blast (and my first council noise warning). This song reminds me of both.
Randomer – Appetite
Before I moved to London I’d set up a Facebook group for people to share music with each other (a primitive Love Will Save The Day, maybe), and I remember someone sharing this and it blowing my mind. I’d never heard anything like it. It was the song that was playing as I pulled up in the transit van outside my new home. Woooooosh.
Burial – Night Bus
After one of the last house parties I had in Dalston, I decided to go for a walk (it was summer, but still probably a silly idea). I walked for about an hour and ended up at southbank, just as the sun was coming up on a Sunday, with this song playing as I stood on the millennium bridge. It was a weird moment, but a perfect song choice. I still reflect on that walk now, and this song brings those memories flooding back.
William Orbit – Barber’s Adagio For Strings
It now feels like I’ve gone full loop back to being 13 again. This song came out (alongside a Ferry Corsten remix) when I was 13, and while I bought it for the trance remix, I stayed for the beautiful classical music. I had no idea of the soundtrack connection, so to me, this was just an absolutely stunning piece of music that floored me. I smile now, to think of 13 year old me, playing this on repeat on my headphones, smiling at being absolutely overwhelmed by music. Some things never change, and as I write this, I’m on my third play of this song.
Writing all that out was like taking a hot bath filled with nostalgia, and picking and arranging the music was a real joy. I reckon I had to get rid of more than 150 songs from the shortlist I made. But I think this week should be a line in the sand. I read this excellent piece from Jeremy Larson for Pitchfork, and he’s right, it’s natural to defer to familiar music in a crisis, but it’s more important to find new music to share, and new artists to support.
Next week, normal service is to be resumed.