Hello there! Loose Lips editor Will here, welcoming to our 12th Deep Cuts feature! Gathered below are 9 responses to the theme 'Winter Breeze', with its prompt question 'what music sounds hopeful?' Two are written by me, one from way back in late 2018 when I first started writing Deep Cuts prompts, and one from more recently, when I felt meaningfully hopeful for what felt like the first time in ages. 'Winter Breeze' has been one of the harder articles to organise, partially because of the abstract theme (maybe 'Breezy Dreams in Winter' would make more sense), and partially because we have been putting it together during the most depressing winter of our lives. This makes me all the more proud of the end result, of the beautiful variety of thoughts, voices and music contained within. Thank you to everyone involved.
As always, the artwork was contributed by the majestic Trav, all Spotify-able songs mentioned are gathered in this here playlist, and songs from each contribution are gathered in the mix embedded below, in the same order as they appear in the article (time stamps appear in this colour throughout the article). You can check out previous Deep Cuts articles here.
[written in December 2018]
This is the last track on Instant Rasta, a serene album created after Bob Marley visited Japan in 1979 and befriended local percussionist Pecker. They struck up a friendship and travelled to Jamaica, bringing along a bunch of Pecker's mates - including Yellow Magic Orchestra members such as Ryuichi Sakamoto - to collaborate with Reggae legends such as the Wailers and Sly & Robbie, the latter are credited as the main artist behind Kylyn. I first heard the track because Instant Rasta (or Rasta Instantané as it was named in Japan) was recently included by Amsterdam record label Rush Hour in a reissue of its sister album Pecker Power.
[Kylyn appears at 0:00 in this month's mix]
My quiet little bluetooth speaker allows most of the album to melt into my workplace’s background, but Kylyn’s soaring, spiritual vocals rise up and refresh the space and the rhythm. Sweet warmth laced into functional, thick-soled consistency, it’s like hazelnut milk mixed into morning coffee, like miso paste in my homemade soup, like the inexplicably convincing, delicious vegan ‘wow’ cookies served at Benugos. I relisten to it during an after-work stroll past Hyde Park’s ‘Winter Wonderland’, and it dovetails perfectly with the smell of doughnut sugar, the sound of laughter, the gossamer brush of cool air spread across my cheeks.
A few days later, it takes me about 13 minutes of jogging to get to my nearest park, and 2 more to develop a debilitating stitch. Conveniently, the Peach mix in my earphones has just got to a particularly gorgeous section, so I’m happy to sit down as I shazam that shimmering synthline (it’s about 3 minutes into Overmono's Daisy Chain). A hefty man with a scruffy beard and dog tells me ‘that looks like hard work!’ as he walks past, I pant back that I haven’t worked out in months, and smile. As the mix rolls on, its initial drama makes way for a blast of lightfooted ravey playfulness, before returning with Skee Mask’s 50 Euro To Break Boost.
Will is Deep Cuts' Mama. You can check out more of his work here.
Here we are, week 43 of lockdown, with no potential change coming anytime soon. Joy, you say. Let’s not sugar coat it, we all know it’s been an absolute diabolic 12 months. Like many people, I’ve had my fair share of losses and being confined to house arrest gave me no option but to deal with life’s current and past traumas. Genuinely, whenever something slightly goes wrong in my life my actions consist of: unlock phone, Skyscanner, hello boarding pass. So, without my safe distraction of running away from my problems, I was forced to deal with some issues. I guess this is called growing up, hope you’re all proud. Luckily, I had music as my comfort blanket, my no-questions-asked counsellor. It allowed me to focus on what needed to be healed, and help me realise who I am and where I needed to be.
One song which I found recently whilst browsing through the deep, dark depths of SoundCloud was White Flag by Tara Walsh [5:40]. Surprisingly it is nowhere else to be seen; no other streaming services, Bandcamp, nothing. What a rare little gem we’ve discovered here. This song is so raw. Honestly, hearing this for the first time made my ears melt. I felt my heart completely entwine with the lyrics, “even with your hairdo, even with your shirt, even with your people, even with your hurt. I still love you.” Hearing the pain that Tara feels in this song was comforting for me. Having the ability to voice your heartbreak in such a beautiful way and allowing your vulnerability to be seen is so empowering. Gosh, I wish I had your strength Tara. How the song has this earthy, fragile yet strong stance. I had this song on repeat and after revising every single word, I felt like it song was saying, ‘Yeah, we’re a hopeless romantic, we’ve been hurt, but let’s sing it out and just move on.'
“Oh now, why did you do that? Gave you all my loving and you spat it back" We’ve all been in that heart wrenching position, right? Crazy how we allow our feelings to be trusted and controlled by another to only just be disrespected like that. At points you feel like wonder if the other person really owes you anything, regardless this feeling is torture. I’m sure anyone who listens to this will relate on a personal level and sympathise with Tara’s feelings too. This really is a piece of musical treasure; I genuinely hope it gets the recognition it deserves. It’s definitely that song you need before you pick yourself back up again and boss up to some Megan Thee Stallion (everyone still needs a ‘Savage boss bitch’ moment, we’re all human).
Amber lives in a small town named Leominster way out in the countryside. She is very much ready to return to dancefloors.
Hopeful music. Pretty much what we all need in these dark times, where a worldwide pandemic hit us hard. Slowed everything down, teared us apart and divided many. And yet, there’s hope out there. We feel it. Like a warm sunbeam reflecting on the speakers when listening to this track by Iva Gocheva - a mysterious pseudonym by Nicolas Jaar. Positive, Promising, Encouraging. Like that very sunbeam, hopefully carrying out the nasty Berlin winter ready to Bring The Fire. It’s about time.
Summing up, also this [12:35]:
Luca lives in Berlin and makes fantastic low tempo, rich, House music, check out his most recent G-Funk-inspired ep Toledo [its first track appears at 9:45 in this month's Deep Cuts mix] and a 2018 interview Deep Cuts editor Will conducted with him here.
I enjoy listening to music in any mood but I feel like it particularly consoles me when I feel anxious or intimidated by the world. One of my favourite songs for staying hopeful is Broad Shoulders by Taylor Bennett, featuring his brother Chance the Rapper [20:40]. Something about the church-choir vibes and the positive lyrics help me hold my head high. "Reach for your goals" isn’t exactly a new idea or lyric, but the melody of the line stayed in my head. I actually have a strong memory of cycling down to have a meeting with my current management company before we had signed the deal and being very nervous about it, I sang this song under my breath the whole way there.
On a more broad note I think the most hopeful aspect of music is that there is a tune for every emotion - every pain, every love, every shame, every good and bad day. For me, hopelessness is quite a solitary feeling, a certain loneliness of being overwhelmed by the world. I think everything feels easier with company, this connectivity between human emotions within music is one of the most beautiful things about the art-form. You get to go through your hopeless feelings with someone else, whenever you need to. A couple of great songs that I listen to when I’m feeling hopeless are Awful Things by Lil Peep, Daughter of the Sun by VBND and if I really just feel like indulging in the sadness I’ll play Solace by Earl Sweatshirt. I believe indulging in your sadness can give you hope sometimes, processing everything; listening to happy music all the time might just make you forget there's pain out there, it's all a balance I guess.
Will asked me for something that represented ‘hope’ for me. Naturally, hope is something it’s been difficult to maintain with real momentum right now.
However, I think this image neatly encapsulates the hope that I do have. This is the five year anniversary card I made out of some of the hundreds of train tickets I’ve acquired during my relationship. Living in different cities means we haven’t seen each other in months and celebrated our anniversary via Zoom this year. But I feel like now more than ever that small but meaningful offerings like this help to communicate a sense of hope, serving as a reminder that this isn’t forever.
Mac Demarco's The Stars Keep On Calling My Name [27:45] is an old favourite that makes me feel nostalgic and yet instantly imbues a feeling of hope. Besides the lyric "I just wanna go" clearly having relevance at the moment, I love this song because it’s so whimsical and upbeat. It doesn’t have heavy lyrics and isn’t overly produced - it’s just Mac Demarco doing what he does best. Immediately recognisable, easy to dip into, and vitally, uplifting.
When asked by Loose Lips to choose some tracks in the theme of Winter Breeze, two tracks sprung to mind. 50 Words for Snow and Under Ice by Kate Bush.
As a fan of Kate Bush since childhood- Babooska was one of the first 7-inch records I ever bought. The whole 50 Words for Snow album is perfectly fitting, not only due to the obvious subject matter but the cool, chilled vibe. I chose the title track simply because I adore its sexy groove. Under Ice is also cool but in a chilling way. The track is about a gruesome death, told in an ethereal and haunting way- another direction in which this theme goes.
I began thinking about tracks I used to play, "back in the day"- immediately thinking of Röntgen on Säkhö Records (produced by Mika Vainio from Helsinki in 1993). It has this icy, minimal feel to it. It was ahead of its time and one of the earliest minimal techno tracks I came to know. Another track that comes to mind from that era is a great record by Mira Calix named Khala [35:28]. I used to play this on 45, mixing it into my set. Again- ahead of its time, a prototype dubstep.
My final choices are from recent releases, firstly the album Realm of the Infinite by ASC. The whole album fits the theme very well through its airy and spatial sounds. The icy strings, diffused pads and metallic arpeggiated synth line allow Nocturne to unite under the ‘Winter Breeze’ theme. Second to this is a track by DYL for their most recent album on Diffuse Reality Records, DYL with remixes from Imugem Orihasam & ΠΕΡΑ ΣΤΑ ΟΡΗ. I particularly like the use of the bell-like drones in the track 1.4, which constantly cascades. The whole album fits ‘Winter Breeze’, with its ethereal sounds and spacious feels.
Kim Cosmik is a fantastic DJ and bonafide rave legend whose mixes are just as sharp now (see her mix for Deep Cuts: Euphoric Apocalyptica) as they were in the early 90s. Check out her recent Rave Memories piece if you want to know more about her background in the 90s rave scene.
There’s an iconic sepia photo of Nas from 1993 that sticks in my head. He’s standing at the base of the Queensboro Bridge in New York, while the immense, concrete structure and the otherwise-vacant wasteland it occupies appear to contort around him. It’s a great visual metaphor for the seemingly-mundane raw materials that form great Hip Hop. Fellow New Yorker Mos Def observed that “this thing called rhyming no different to coal mining/ we both on assignment to unearth the diamond” - and it’s this process of ‘unearthing’ that is recalled by the sampled piano-chord progression on The World Is Yours, briefly dipping below the accumulated top soil before emerging to the surface, holding up its prize.
I first stumbled across Nas' album Illmatic in the basement of my student union. There was a record library stuffed in a small room from which you could borrow CDs and vinyl for a pound. File sharing and digital downloads were just taking off but there were still a few loyalists like me who were in love with the physical album form. The place had weird opening times and I soon realised that most of the popular discs were scratched up to the point of being unplayable (The Libertines’ Up the Bracket was particularly lacerated) so I started to explore genres outside of the post-Britpop/Indie miasma that was predominant among students at the time. There was a hi-fi in the room but I enjoyed the jeopardy of judging albums by their cover art. I picked up Illmatic without any knowledge of the album’s seminal status, thinking that I had discovered an obscure, underground classic. At ten tracks, it’s a relatively short, concentrated album - but despite its brevity, Illmatic feels like opening a time capsule full of photos, memories, thoughts and personal stories.
The World is Yours [37:20] is the 4th track. Nas has already told you that "Life is parallel to hell" and "Life’s a bitch and then you die." He’s described the pressure of living in a poverty-ridden housing project at the height of the crack-epidemic ("I never sleep/ ‘cause sleep is the cousin of death") and celebrated a bittersweet 20th birthday, noting that most men from Queensbridge are in prison by his age, if not already dead. But while these initial episodes are framed by tense and dramatic set-pieces, The World Is Yours begins with Nas catching his breath, watching TV and writing lyrics: "I sip the Dom P watching Gandhi’ till I’m charged/ writing in my book of rhymes all the words past the margin". He juxtaposes the individual aspiration codified in a champagne bottle with the collective aspiration typified by the life of Mahatma Gandhi, before offering unfettered creativity as the triptych’s central panel. What then follows is a portrait of solitude - political representation is limited to the faces of "dead presidents" on dollar-bills, his audience are "fiends" who won’t "act right" - even his own work induces the sensation of "falling, but never falling six-feet deep."
The world is inconsistent. Fortune and misfortune are often apportioned to the undeserving and we have to witness this (or participate in it) in every day of our life. In The World is Yours, New York is a city where individual material wealth intermingles tantalisingly with marginalised communities. It reminds me of my own city, where the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf loom offensively over some of the poorest areas in London. For Nas, the problem for the artist is in trying to harmonise their inner world with the paradoxes of the urban experience ("whether cruising in a Sikh’s cab or Montero Jeep/ I can’t call it, the beats make me falling asleep") while simultaneously negotiating the lonely, artistic burden of continually creating something out of nothing.
The struggle to achieve something with limited resources while under intense pressure is central to the origins of Hip Hop. In Bridging the Gap, a later collaboration with his father, Jazz musician Olu Dara, Nas pays homage to this foundational story, positioning it as integral to African-American culture: "The blues came from gospel, gospel from blues/ slaves were harmonising them aah’s and ooh’s". Singing was a fundamental mode of communication for kidnapped slaves. European slave traders would deliberately separate their human cargo from their tribes and kinsfolk to mitigate against the possibility of insurrection. As such, the enslaved would resort to song for communication, expression, and identification of their kin. Perhaps this is why the call and response format of The World Is Yours is so poignant: "Whose world is this? / The world is yours, the world is yours / It’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine". As a listener, you find yourself identifying concurrently with different positions: you’re asking the question, giving the world, and receiving it back in return. It’s a beautiful allegory for human solidarity.
The collective voice of the chorus serves to re-configure the personal lamentations of the verses: we experience suffering individually, but we can crucially redefine these experiences by locating them in the wider context of human history. This exorcism is imagined in the middle verse, where Nas momentarily unshackles himself from the personal voice before mapping a road to redemption: "Odds against Nas are slaughter/ thinking a word best describing my life to name my daughter/ My strength, my son, the star will be my resurrection/ Born in correction. All the wrong shit I did, he’ll lead a right direction. The daughter/son figure represents the promise of recovery, beyond the confines of a self that is ‘caved inside, 1,000 miles from home."
In the meantime, the contradictions and difficulties of life can be celebrated for their transformative potential. The World Is Yours presents ‘the come up’ through contrasting details of glamour and deprivation; burning dollar bills in a stove to keep warm, full magazines as analogies for rebirth and streets just as likely to taste phlegm as they are the soles of suede Timberlands. Within this symbolic environment, Nas crafts a lucid vision of hope that implores the listener to walk the blocks with a bop, in spite of the problems of the world today.
Adam is a Media Studies teacher, living and working in London.
People usually start invoking ‘hope’ when they can do nothing else. “Hope you feel better soon.” You’d worry if a doctor started saying it. But hope is also a call to action, it is believing that beyond the sweat, tears and boredom is a better station in life. In moments of crisis, Africa HiTech’s darkly menacing cut will gee up any faltering underdog. Sure, the odds don’t look good, but if you’re walking into the ring with this blaring you may as well rise to the occasion. [41:17]
Khalid writes for Responsible Investor about subjects varying from palm oil to repressive surveillance.
[Written in February, 2021]
We’ve got to the stage of Deep Cuts where some of the articles make sense as pairs. Our next article’s theme will be Sexy (‘what music makes you want to get dowwwwn or sounds like getting dowwwwn?’) and its cover artwork has the same colour palette as last year’s Connection (‘what music represents someone / some group you want to stay connected to?’), which is neat as the themes compliment each other well; sex being the most intimate ritual of connection.
This month’s theme focusses on hope, and this makes for a great pairing with Bittersweet (‘what music makes darkness digestible?’). Bittersweet music and hopeful music are not the same, but their flavours comes from a similar cocktails. Bittersweet music presents pain and difficulty and discomfort and heartbreak and makes them dance for the listener, take bitterness and make it sweetly inspiring. As UK Hip Hop legend Stig of the Dump once told me, sat outside a Subway in Bristol alongside his mate and touring-buddy Ragnboneman; ‘if you turn the negative into a song then that is hope, don’t you agree?’ Thoughtful analysis of this twisted, bittersweet music reveals hope.
But what about hopeful music, music that plainly offers hope and positivity? Hope is a simple, beautiful thing, until the camera pans out to reveal that hope sits alone at the bottom of Pandora’s now-empty box. Hopeful music can feel manipulative, a basic exercise in feel-good chords combined with jussst enough provocation to make its audience happy, unless we trust the artist's vulnerability. I assume this is why people don’t like Coldplay, despite songs like Amsterdam being fucking amazing. It’s why I didn’t particularly like Westerman’s debut album when it first came out last summer, I wasn’t ready for hope yet, I didn't empathise with it. I appreciated the sonics, the production, particularly on The Line [44:00], which features the most gorgeous Coldplay-esque chord change towards the end, but other points of the track felt like they were just idly pacing around, not doing much. Now I see the beauty in that act of pacing around in the darkness, looking up at the box’s lid, waiting for the light to return.
I first heard Westerman's music when I saw him support Nilüfer Yanya in Spring 2019. It was a funny time, I was job-hunting, my mates all had jobs and London is expensive, so my life at that point wasn’t thatttt different to lockdown, a lot of time sit alone in my flat, punctuated by the occasional walk. On one particularly sunny day I took the bus to Battersea Park and wandered around with my headphones on until I got tired. On another day I watched both seasons of Fleabag for the first time, their plot floating in my head when I went to Nilüfer's gig. I was feeling a tad chaotic when I got there, but as I walked through the crowd and found my standing-spot, I heard this voice, I looked up and saw a lone man standing onstage with his eyes shut, singing acapella. Fuck.
Afterwards I had two songs on repeat for months, Confirmation by Westerman and In Your Head by Nilufer Yanya. I really associate them with Fleabag, with the tv show's humorous depictions of mental darkness. In Your Head reminded me of the the show’s wild humour and creeping guilt, whereas Confirmation fit perfectly with the second season, where the protagonist comes across someone who has chosen to dedicate his life to religion, to believe that God is out there, that it will all be ok. “What do you think happens when we die?” He says, “worm food! Why would you believe in something awful, when you can believe in something wonderful?!!!”, smiling and stretching out the word ‘wonderful’. Confirmation’s lyrics captured my memories of the show, painting Fleabag’s inner thoughts to me; "don’t you wonder why confirmation’s easy if you don’t think too hard about it, try but it dont work, I still can’t get my head around it."
'Winter Breeze' is a tricky theme. I came up with it before all of this, way back when I started thinking of deep cuts themes back in late 2018, when I was fresh in London. I wrote this cute piece about walking and running around in the winter breeze. Now it’s all a bit different, the phrase caries the intensity of this brutishly cold Winter in Lockdown. Sometimes the vulnerability of hope is really fun to think about, sometimes it's energizing and sometimes it's just sad. I want to end on an energising note, so I'm going to finish with two tracks from the world of R’n’B-tinged ‘purple’ Dubstep pioneered by Bristol producer Joker, beautifully constructed laptop symphonies that shock the listener with energy and complex emotion.
]They’re enormously euphoric for me, even on a cold rainy Tuesday when I haven’t left the apartment or walked more than 200 steps, the perfect track to get me back on my feet. They’re not happy or sad, they’re hopeful, hopeful in an intense way, like the dead-straight eye contact from someone who believes. First there is Silkie & Mizz Beats's Test, which appears at 30:15 in this month's mix (shout out to Moxie, the fantastic DJ whose recent Dubstep special introduced me to the track), and secondly there is Midnight by Joker, an insanely creative track released a few years after Dubstep fell seriously out of fashion, which is a crime because it's a massive banger. It samples a 1999 Jennifer Lopez track that is also fantastic. Enjoy.
Will Soer is still Deep Cuts' Mama.
00:00 Pecker - Kylyn
03:16 Yu Su - 1024
05:40 Tara Walsh - White Flag
09:45 Luca Musto - What We Witness
12:35 Frank & Tony - Bring The Sun
15:15 Ptaki - Słoneczny pył (Eltron Remix)
17:40 Gorillaz - Crystalised (JThunder Remix)
20:40 Taylor Bennett - Broad Shoulders
24:00 Washed Out - Million Miles Away
25:50 Victor Romeo - Ride On The Ride Rhythm
27:45 Mac DeMarco - The Stars Keep on Calling My Name
30:15 Silkie - Test
35:28 Mira Calix - Khala
37:20 Nas - The World Is Yours
41:17 Africa HiTech - Do You Wanna Fight
44:00 Westerman - The Line
47:05 Sampha - 4422
48:18 Maribou State - Vale
50:48 Lykke Li - Hard Rain