Deep Cuts is a new multi-writer article format from Loose Lips. Members of our sprawling community are asked to share music and experiences along a shared theme.
This month’s theme is Old School. Its prompt question: ‘What music sounds cool?'
Songs from each writer’s contribution are gathered in the mix below (whizzed together by Deep Cuts' mama Will Soer, live on his Threads radio show). Every song shared (except a few that aren't on Spotify) is gathered in this helpful playlist. You can also check last month's article, 'City Hues', here.
I was introduced to Bahamadia by a wealthy white man and its weird. I got flewed out to Australia and ended up catching feelings for the guy. After I left he sent me a USB stick filled of 90s hip hop like Naughty By Nature and LL Cool J and so I discovered Bahamadia. I heard the song Spontaneity [0:41 in the mix] and really fell in love with it. I just felt like those guys were really amazing writers, since then my music and the way I write songs started getting closer and closer to hip-hop.
Quirkier than the Foals, more accessible than the Field Music, the first single off Everything Everything’s debut is a slice of intricate pop which surpasses its influences. If you manage to get past the title - txt spe@k was having a moment in 2010 - there is something here for everyone: stop-start percussion, unhealthy amounts of cowbell, counterpoint melodies unfurling into the middle distance, risque imagery of war and psychosis, and atop it all, a dubious falsetto pitched somewhere between a yelp and a bark. EE have not released anything quite like it in the 11 years since - perhaps some things you just can’t recapture.
One of the more enduring remnants of Freshers Week ‘09, this track was played improbably during a brief lull between ‘Flashmob’ and ‘Radical Theatre’. What I heard seemed to waft from a submerged cavern: a single cello, double-tracked and draped in reverb, a primordial beat tapped out on congas. Then, “Each step is moving, it's moving me up, every step is moving me up” in a knowing - slightly nasal - drawl. I didn’t know then about the AIDS, the throat cancer, the drawn out death but by the time the horns piped up I was on my feet waving my arms and hips with the grace of a porpoise; a moment’s respite from being 17, awkwardly circling the university oval, assigned nickname (Brainy) scrawled in Sharpie on my chest.
At its worst yacht rock is a purely ornamental, vapid tributary to that raging ocean, rock ‘n roll. This hard to pin down sub-genre - with its unnatural glossy sheen - is also called ‘soft rock’. The phrase sounds almost derogatory. But at its best, the titular craft is a fair approximation of what is possible: clean, straight lines from bow to stern, the vitality of the form eclipsing function. As such, genre classics are the perfect vehicle for cool. This one is all about a double-jointed bassline which struts and shimmies its way through immaculate, barely-there peals of 80’s synths. The inaudible slinky, female (?) vocals only add to the stupor.
Twice in Dreamin’ Eyes [3:45], D’Angelo name checks The Temptations’ Just My Imagination, perhaps the finest song written on lust and longing. But the differences between the two cuts couldn’t be starker. Where the latter spins a relatable yarn about an insipid observer too busy daydreaming a romance to actually start one, there is no mistaking 21-year-old D’Angelo’s intent as he moans and murmurs his way through a jazzy guitar solo midway (mhmm …like that…yeahh). Unlike the rest of his output, here D’Angelo doesn’t hold anything back so beware - the swooping triple-tracked harmonies and unrelenting groove may just spoil your enjoyment of modern R'n'B as it did me.
Khalid writes for Responsible Investor about subjects varying from palm oil to Chinese surveillance.
I’d be surprised if there has ever been a time in my life when Fern Kinney’s voice has come through my headphones and I haven’t felt immutably cool. It’s the type of song that puts a rhythm in your step and lyrics on your tongue. Immediately singable and nearly impossible to get out of your head once it’s there, I’m Ready For Your Love [10:45] is a track I can see myself revisiting in months, years, and even decades to come.
Haig Binnie is a support worker who makes jewellery, embroidery and music in his spare time.
Usually old school means something old, almost ancient. For Deep Cuts I wanted to explore it from a different point of view. This "old school" mix focuses on the time (roughly 2005 - 2012) when I was younger and blog house, electro house or whatever you wanna call it was making waves across the world.
Labels like Kitsune, Ed Banger, Turbo, Boyz Noize, Cheap Thrills, Dubsided and Top Billin' were considered hip and cool as fuck. And they were creating something different. I can actually remember hearing Justice's Waters of Nazareth for the first time and thinking "what the fuck is this, this is GOOOOD!".
Finland had its share of good clubs and record labels at that time (Hitto, Top Billin', Round, New Judas etc.) that promoted this new and exciting sound. I remember being adamantly against house and 4/4 music in general before but I reckon my newly acquired taste for certain substances and the following urge to dance changed my mind. And it wasn't just about music. It was about friends, dancing, fucking, laughing and having a good time - something this music provided a perfect soundtrack for.
So this mix represents that magical time when something new came and swept me away.
[none of dieter's selections are in the main Deep Cuts mix, as he just went ahead and provided an entire, new mix of his own for his submission, presented below!]
Dieter.1982 is a DJ, graphic designer and head of Finnish dance label Electric Bacon Records.
Savage Animal Sounds
All I’ve ever wanted to do is play other people’s music. I guess I was originally inspired by having brothers who invested a lot of time and money into expensive records collections and turntables that I wasn’t supposed to touch (but would do so as soon as they went out anyway). I never really saw myself as the coolest DJ in town and even now I sometimes think I manage to straddle the void between what’s too cool for some and not quite cool enough for others*. That’s fine, as there’s always going to be someone with a different view to your own, but I’m happy that the music is generally well received and it’s cool to keep things varied and fresh.
*you could argue that I’m pretty underground though: so underground, in fact, you’ve never heard of me!
Certain genres haven’t resonated so well with me, because I always found myself steering away from anything that’s a bit too generic “HOUSE-IS-A-FEELIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!!!” sounding or anything that’s a bit too “hands-in-the-air euphoric-breakdown-y followed by an klaxon air horn” . That’s probably as a result of me trying to steer clear of the mainstream, which I suppose in itself is an indicator of what sounds cool to me. That’s not to suggest I’ll only play underground sounds, because a) that sounds insanely wanky and b) there’s plenty of records which have hit the mainstream that I still love today, pretty much all of my selections in this list, for example.
Anyway, what’s sounded cool to me over the years? Well, I remember first discovering Sylvester’s Menergy, which I found on a B side to Do You Wanna Funk, whilst being completely naïve about the subject matter in the vocal. I do love my hometown, but it would be fair to say it’s a world away from New York loft parties. I’m not sure why it was one of the first records I thought of when I started writing this, maybe because I’m now better educated on its universe or maybe because it was one of the first records I actually had the pleasure now of trying to mix with others. Whatever it is, you can’t help but love the high energy spirit, regardless of your background.
Sadly, I was just a bit too young to be a fully-fledged acid house raver, but my limited credibility went up a notch in the school corridors when the bigger boys and girls recognised me not for being someone’s fat wee brother but from my dancing at the under 18’s nights I used to frequent. Acting like you’ve got something chewy stuck between your hands and pulling it apart at various angles always worked well, alongside the squelchy 303 sounds of Baby Ford, Jolly Roger or Roxanne Shante. Sweet moves indeed.
L’il Louis’ French Kiss was also then (and always will be) one of my top ten favourites (and is, in fact, the only 12” that still lives with me, other than the odd bit of tracker vinyl I used prior to embracing the Pioneer revolution), but Blackout also got played on repeat a lot for a period. For someone who’s basically a massive shitebag when it comes to anything remotely scary, I still really enjoy the dark and sinister nature of the vocal.
It got darker though, but everyone goes through a Dutch hardcore phase, right? Although I thought it was pretty cool at the time, it’s also cool to admit your mistakes.
Fortunately, I came out the other side pretty quickly and found myself going through a lengthy progressive house phase. It’s a fairly obvious choice but Sasha's Xpander [15:40] sums up that genre for me. It still manages to make the hairs stand up on the back of my arm. And everywhere else. It’s got everything a progressive track should have. There’s a fine line between certain elements of progressive house (which I still enjoy) and trance music (which I’ve never really got) but Sasha will always be on the right side of cool for me.
These days, the BPMs may have slowed down quite a bit but it wouldn’t be uncool to say you can hear plenty of nods to the influences I’ve picked up over the years in my mixes. Whether that’s through slow build ups, pianos, squelches, bleeps, basslines or breaks, or music born in Chicago, Rotterdam, New York, or Falkirk. It’s really just whatever sounds cool to me at the time and the place.
I visited Manchester back in January and even though I don’t own a record player, I just had to go check out the many vinyl shops tucked away in the city’s Northern Quarter. I came across a few tracks that sounded pretty sweet when I played them on the shop’s sound system, so when I got back to Glasgow I searched where I could purchase them online. I ended up on Discogs and as I was sifting through the website, I stumbled across this absolute belter [18:45]. It is my new go-to when I just want to get up and dance. I love the old school vibe, upbeat vocals and the fact that I can actually sing along to this track whilst DJing. I’ve played it in my DJ sets a few times now, usually as the night begins to heat up. It’s a perfect track to play alongside some disco and really creates a vibrant atmosphere.
Daniel Caesar, his music feels nostalgic yet fresh, it takes me on a complete journey and I feel calm, collected, selected, sexy and cool, all at once. His lyrics and melody choices are unique and interesting, influenced by classic r&b and neo-soul. [29:44]
Ruthanne wrote Too Little Too Late for Jojo aged only 17, and has been writing massive fuckoff hits laced with soul ever since. She’s also recently launched a solo career, you can see that neo-soul influence on this track.
Mikkel A. Kongstad
Monday beats and care. Shanti Celeste’s Tangerine [whose track Moons appears at 33:57] is 2019’s best LP in the category “carefree meetings of tropical urban, Jazz-House and reflective, reckless underground Techno”. The Chilean-born, London-based DJ / producer has dropped a debut album that is wide-ranging in every way, showing her multi-fledged approach to Club music. In a world of pumping rooms and reflective surfaces, she offers room for both club and daily workflow as well as for temple and play. It’s a liberating listen. Without consideration for conventions and expectations, Shanti celebrates life through a prism of synths, beats and globally inspired moods. House, Techno, Ambient and Tropical Urban Music flow strangely naturally together into a warm mass, ready to be swam through again and again, always presenting new hooks to raise attention. It’s music that probably appears immediate and inviting; a complex tissue of inspiration and ideas lurks without ever locking legs from the carefree signature of dance music.
Mikkel Kongstad is Head of Communications at Teater Momentum (Momentum Theater), a theatre and music venue in central Odense, whose spring program includes Goat (Jp), Mats Gustafson, Horse Lords and Giraffe.
‘Michael Jackson said that ‘Usher is the new me’'
I remember a sporty kid telling me this in Religious Studies class, after telling me the music they liked was R’n’B, solidifying my grumpy distaste for the music played on phones in the bus, screens in the gym and – according to the lyrics – the glittering speakers of some heavenly club (‘I wanna make love in this club’, ‘DJ got us falling in love’, I really caught Usher at a bad time).
My pubescent music taste came from my post-punk Mum, the NME, and how different their ‘authentic’ rock music was to the self-assured X Factor-esque trash that I associated with ‘cool’ people. My gradual development into someone who listens religiously to R’n’B, Hip Hop and dance music began when I was finally invited to my first house party, and soonafter swapped memory sticks with a different, smirkless sporty kid. My iPod had already been given a little groove by blackclad introverts like Kid Cudi and the xx, but that memory stick – centred around JME – forever redirected my tastes. Sharing in this kind of music when you live anywhere near London is like knowing about/being good at football (I assume…), you immediately have something in common with a mass of your neighbours. Finding that other oddballs such as JME (a sober vegan pokemon geek) are cool here too was a really big deal to me, I can’t overemphasise how deeply I wished I could be cool.
One of my absolute favourite DJs, Shanti Celeste used to do a Friday afternoon, partystarting NTS radio show, before changing to Thursday. I played the first Thursday show at work, and her selections caught the ears of a couple of my coworkers, guiding me into our first proper conversation like the older sister I never had. The first ten minutes is abstract ambient, but after that it’s nonstop high fives. Actually that sounds noisy and painful, it’s nonstop head bops, but like really comfortable ‘I’m feeling this’ head bops. Like ‘if you don’t like this, whooo are you, this is just obviously good’ headbops.
It’s funny, not many people played music at work. Maybe it was because of the diversity, how can you know what people are going to like? I remember this guy who apparently used to be sick at rugby coming in and playing an admittedly great AJ Tracey track, followed by a track featuring a serious, genuinely problematic trigger-warning lyric from Eminem. It was one of those moments when you remember how enormously naive some people are, like when he told me ‘yeah I actually went to private school’, as if it wasn’t obvious from his total lack of filter.
Of course ‘cool’ is an enormously subjective quality, but I find its patterns interesting. Take Dean Blunt for example, an artist whose album featured a union-jack hoverboard on the cover and a song which repeats a sample of Craig David saying that he's 'proud to be british' over and over for 5 minutes. Super cool amongst certain self consciously edgy music journals, album of the year / best breakthrough artist etc, play it the workplace and it would just piss people off. (same with Pitchfork's 'greatest album of the 1960s' The Velvet Underground & Nico; fucking racket). However, if you take a track like Fake Loathe [39:20] from his Blue Iverson moniker, one that the critics forgot immediately, christ alive you could play that track anywhere, it's beautiful and bulletproof, wistful and funky (according to Apple Music I've listened to it more than any other track in the last 3 years). Adaptability, what could be cooler than that?
Alongside editing and writing for Loose Lips (Deep Cuts is his baby), Will Soer maintains a blog and radio show named Out Of Body Pop, covering music that's accessible but zoney.
If you want to contribute to Deep Cuts, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Iverson - Coy Boy
Bahamadia - Spontaneity
D’angelo - Me & Those Dreamin Eyes of Mine
The Slow Attack Ensemble - After Noon
Fern Kinney - Ready For Your Love
Sasha - Xpander (Max Cooper Remix)
Sasha - Xpander
Key To Life Ft. Kathleen - Find Our Way (Muthafunkaz Found A Voc)
Flava D - Clarity
Pépe - C0NTRO0LL4
Nilufer Yanya & Jazzi Bobbi - Hey (NTS Mix)
Daniel Caesar - Get You (Ft. Kali Uchis)
Shanti Celeste - Moon
Blue Iverson - Fake Loathe