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

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