Back To Mine

I was cleaning out some stuff the other day and found a couple of CD wallets full of my old pre laptop / internet music collection. Flicking thought it def took me down memory lane and reminded me what it used to be like to be like to have to shell out $25 – $30 for a CD or an LP, and you had to physically go down to the record store to buy it. Finding music was way harder back in those days and you had to think seriously about where your money was going – dropping cash on an album meant that the whole thing had better be good front to back. The DJ and the record store were such an important element of music enjoyment back in those days as they were the gateway to new music.

Having every piece of recorded music in your pocket on a device the size of a credit card (which now doesn’t even have a headphone jack) is great and everything, but there was something cool about the experience of buying music back in the CD era when I bought all these seemingly worthless pieces of plastic sitting in front of me. I was lucky enough to spend my summers as a teen working in a music store with my homie Matt Twiss – his parents owned the shop and were legends, I even lived with them at one point. It was epic having access to such an insane amount of music and we were pretty much allowed to order whatever we wanted, so long as we could sell it.

About this time I started getting into DJ mix albums, which was the only way I could really interact with club culture in a small surfing town in New Zealand. Aside from all the house, techno and UK garage mixes, some of my most favouritest shit came out in the late 90’s – The Rae & Christian Mixmag CD, the early iterations of the Back to Mine series, early mixes from The Nextmen, the DJ Kicks series, and a bit later the FabricLive mix series which is still killing it today. I played these things over and over until they broke, and the 74 minutes that fit on each CD were a massive source of inspiration that played a big hand in shaping my musical tastes today.

In homage to that golden era, I’ve put together this mix with a bunch of tracks I found in those CD wallets. There’s some new tracks in there too, a pretty random selection but definitely a collection of my favourite joints, songs I’ve played thousands of times and not gotten sick of – I figured I’d put them all in the same place so you can check ‘em out too. With a constant stream of new music washing over us constantly these days, it’s pretty rare for songs to stick around and stay fresh as much as these ones have for me.

There’s an unmixed extended playlist on Spotify for when Soundcloud inevitably pull this mix down for copyright B.S. – but until then the mix lives just below…

The Tracks:

Devin Abrams – The Wilderness (2016)
Devin is from Wellington, NZ, and spent 15 years in Shapeshifter – maybe my favourite live act of all time. His influence is the thing I dig about most of my favourite tracks from these guys, and his solo projects have been full of amazing sonically rich emotive electronic gold. This is an instrumental piece off his new alum, his first solo work in about 8 years.

Massive Attack – Black Milk (1998)
I had been into Massive Attack before, but the Mezzanine album (their third) was the one that I ended up listening to front to back, non stop. Every song is amazing and this stuff is way darker then their earlier work but in retrospect this was just the beginning of that direction. Black Milk got them sued for using an uncleared Manfred Mann sample, and the heavy dub influences come from Horace Andy – who I many years later got to hang with in his studio in Tivoli Gardens, Kingston, Jamaica – smoking blunts with my boy Adam DelGiudice and hearing him work on tunes while a bunch of gold and platinum Massive Attack records hung on the wall behind.

St Germain – Montego Bay Spleen (2000)
This became ubiquitous café music of the early 2000s, and for that reason most people probably hate it. This guy came out of the same era of French electronica as Daft Punk, Air, Dimitri from Paris et al, but had a much bigger world music influence. I still love the album this came off, but this one featuring Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin and a couple of Scientist samples is pure dub magic.

The Frightnrs – I’d Rather Go Blind (2015)
These dudes are from New York but sound like they are from 1960’s Kingston – thanks in part to Ticklah producing this for soul & R&B imprint Daptone. Sadly their singer recently passed from a terminal illness, just before their debut album hit the shelves. This is a non-album cut of an Etta James cover, which brings a dope vintage reggae / rocksteady vibe to the original.

Paul Davidson – Midnight Rider (1976)
Originally a really average song by The Allman Brothers Band, Jamaican Paul Davidson took this for a spin and this reggae version made it to No. 10 in the UK, released in a year where the lyrics probably meant more to Jamaicans than to the original songwriters. This one goes out to my homie Will Oxy.

Major Lazer – Good Enuff feat. Collie Buddz & Lindi Ortega (2010)
From back in the Diplo & Switch era of Major Lazer, a dub of the Cash Flow track from the Guns Don’t Kill People, Lazers Do LP which was maybe the craziest thing I’d ever heard when it came out. There are so many dancehall references in dance music these days but these guys were the first I’d heard to start experimenting with riddims and dancehall vocals in electro and bass music in this way.

Tony Allen – Every Season’s feat. Damon Albarn & TY (2002)
A random release off a French Afrobeat label, Tony Allen played drums for Fela Kuti in Africa 70. Most people only recognize Damon’s name from Blur, but over the years he worked with everyone from Bobby Womack to Massive Attack to RHCP, and has produced everything from hip-hop to afrobeat to punk rock, and also scored films and a bunch of other stuff. He used to DJ at a bar I worked at (Trailer Happiness) in London from time to time, when he lived around the corner on Westbourne Grove, around the time he was working on the Gorillaz project.

Omar – The Man (2013)
This track isn’t that old but I think one of his best, has a nice neo-soul vibe – dude’s voice is incredible. Maddslinky did a super tight remix of this track too which has been a staple in my DJ sets over the last couple of years.

Brenk Sinatra – Cali Due (2015)
I guess this is an example of how good the internet age is for finding tunes. I was having a coffee at my local (Saturdays) in Bondi and Shazam-ed this beat. I bought the album from iTunes 3 seconds later and was bumping it in the car 5 minutes after that. I know nothing about this kid apart from the fact he’s from Vienna, and puts out an endless stream of beat tapes on the World Wide Web. You know that thing?

Slum Village – Climax (2000)
Fantastic Vol 2 is definitely in my top 3 albums of all time, Dilla finished this in 1998 but due to label issues it didn’t come out till 2000. Jay Dee / J Dilla / James Yancey is 1000% the greatest beat maker of all time and this is one of my favourites. Also has a dope music video with some pretty funny cameos in it.

The Roots – Act too… The Love of my Life feat. Common (1999)
I’ve loved The Roots for as long as I can remember, I must have seen them perform 30+ times and they’re still in my opinion the greatest band of all time. Hard to pick favourites but this album top to bottom is it for me. Recorded at Electric Lady Land around the same time that the crew were also working on seminal albums from Common, Erykah Badu & D’Angelo in the same space. James Poyser, Scott Storch and Dilla all worked on this with the master ?uestlove.

will.i.am – Lay Me Down (2001)
The Black Eyed Peas evolved into perhaps the worst rap / pop crossover ‘act’ in history but their first two albums are actually really good, thanks to some incredible early beat work from will.i.am. This solo effort came out on BBE in between some dope beat tapes from Pete Rock and Dilla. Terry Dexter on vox on this one, it’s super smooth.

Snakehips – On & On feat. George Maple (2013)
My favourite group of the last couple of years, Snakehips out of the UK are churning out pop-styled bangers on a timeless soul, R&B & late 90’s hip-hop tip. There’s a cheeky sample of Nas’ Life’s A Bitch in there too if you’re listening. L.A. based Aussie babe George Maple makes this one fly, I think her best work to date.

Choice Vaughan – Would You Like To Save (2016)
Unknown homie from NZ, his soundcloud is full of this dope organic soulful instrumental hip-hop shit – pure fire, has beat tapes for days too.

Loose Ends – Feel The Vibe (1990)
The B-side from Love’s Got Me. Kool & The Gang’s 70’s gem ‘Summer Madness’ gets a strong sample feature here, which is probably why it’s super hard to track down. Such a nice chill summer vibe tho…

Mr Scruff – So Long (1999)
I started getting into Mr Scruff back in the early 2000’s when I was snowboarding in Canada, have followed this guy ever since and have been lucky enough to catch a few of his epic DJ sets. This is off his first proper release, on the seminal Ninja Tune imprint, classic UK break beat jazz vibes.

The Herbaliser – Starlight feat. Roots Manuva (1999)
Whoever put the playlists together for Trailer Happiness (would have been either Giles Looker or Will Besant) had a thing for The Herbaliser and a bunch of this type of soul / funk infused hip-hop. After work at Trailer H one night we ended up back at house party in Kensal Rise till way too late the next morning, and I remember being pretty high and playing records with this random dude on a single turntable in the hallway downstairs – I realised much later that I had been going B2B with none other than Ollie Teeba – the main man behind this group. This is my fave cut from them, off Very Mercenary, with UK Rap don Roots Manuva in the booth.

De La Soul – Goes With Word (2014)
Yeah I know there are a few Dilla beats sneaking in here. This one is I guess a ‘dubplate’ of sorts – De La Soul dropping a special commemorative version of Potholes in My Lawn over Dilla’s Don’t Say A Word instrumental.

Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth – It’s a Love Thing Instrumental (2009)
Mecca and the Soul Brother and The Main Ingredient are two of the greatest hip-hop records to come out of NYC during the Golden Era of the mid 90’s. So many good cuts on those albums but my #1 from the gawd Pete Rock is this single, which Pete produced for C.L. in 2009 when they weren’t actually working together any more. I heard this instrumental cut before the actual single, on a Mushroom Jazz mix that Mark Farina did.

Tom Misch – Climbing (2015)
Tom is a super talented composer, singer, guitarist, violinist, producer and DJ from the UK who pumps out the most amazing organic soul and hip-hop cuts that don’t sound like they were made by a skinny white South Londoner who’s barely old enough to drink.

Mica Paris – I Should Have Known Better (1990)
Mica was a big English Soul singer in the 90’s and I think did TV at some point. This tune was actually produced by Omar – I remember hearing Norman Jay play this, at Notting Hill Carnival back in the aforementioned Trailer Happiness days – no Shazam back then so it actually took me a g e s to figure out what this was.

Chase & Status – What is Right feat. Nile Rodgers & Abigail Wyles (2013)
Dubstep pioneers and sonic wizards who’ve been able to smash almost any genre they put their hands too – their last album covered trap, grime, moombahton, all ranges of bass music – and then this beautiful piece of soul music which is at odds with everything else on there but… it’s amazing.

Rae & Christian – All I Ask feat Veba (DJ Spinna Remix) (1999)
Mark Rae and Steve Christian have been two of my top hip-hop & soul producers since forever, and really encapsulate the UK sound that I fell in love with when living over there in the early 2000’s. Veba features on a bunch of their stuff and this track off the EP of the same name got an epic rework by another soul / hip-hop pioneer – NYC’s DJ Spinna.

The Sunburst Band – Far Beyond (2004)
Joey Negro has recorded and released incredible house, disco and soul music under so many different guises over the years but this tune is on the slower, deeper groove than the soulful disco that he usually puts out with his live band. Pete Simpson on vocals who worked a lot with Jazzanova as well.

Pacific Heights – Peace feat. Joe Dukie (2008)
Another cut from Devin Abrams of Shapeshifter, this off his second solo album which I think is his best work. Joe Dukie from New Zealand’s other greatest band Fat Freddy’s Drop helping him out on this one.

Maribou State – Midas feat. Holly Walker (2015)
Amazing midtempo electronica with post-dubstep and UK garage influences from this English duo, the song writing on their debut album is much more intricate and crafter than the clubby vibe of their singles – this a great example with sometime collaborator Holly Walker.

Thievery Corporation – Shadows of Ourselves (2000)
I’ve always been a massive fan of this band, and as I’ve travelled I’ve gotten more of an understanding for their diverse range of influences – from Brazilian bossa nova, to cumbia, dancehall, and a bunch of other Central American and Caribbean music styles that have crept in over the years. I met Eric from Thievery in DC a couple of times where he and his brother own a bunch of amazing bars and restaurants, most of which bear heavy influence from a bunch of music styles that also shine though in their music.

LCD Soundsystem – Home (2010)
I never really got the appeal of LCD Soundsystem until I moved to New York in 2010, about the same time as this album was floating around and I subsequently got sucked into the hype and got to see them play a couple of times. James Murphy’s music and vibe started making a lot more sense to me once I was living in downtown Manhattan. I missed their epic ‘last’ shows in April 2011, but was lucky enough to get the whole band to DJ at a party that Simon Ford, Maria Pribble, Chris Patino, Erick Castro and I threw in Montauk shortly after. This is such an NYC tune for me.

Tourist – For Sarah (2016)
Amazing work from this London producer who won a Grammy for his work on Sam Smith’s Stay with Me and has also lent his songwriting chops to a bunch of Disclosure’s tunes. This is the highlight of his debut album U which is more of a sonic narrative than a collection of club tunes, definitely an album to listen to start to finish.

Hayden James – No Time (2013)
The Sydney based producer is making much safer, more commercial electropop these days but his first release for local imprint Future Classic was full of this lush instrumentation and intricate melody – amazing stuff.

Shapeshifter – Move With Me feat. Lady6 (2001)
Maybe part of my affinity with UK bass music comes from growing up in New Zealand – the only other country to understand or give a shit about Drum & Bass. Shapeshifter have been doing their thing for most of my adult life, evolving and progressing with each release. They’re also probably the most incredible live act around and I’ve spent many a summer festival front row for their set. This cut is off their first album, and features another kiwi legend, Lady6 on vox, before she forged her own super successful career.

Fila Brazillia – July 23 (1996)
Rounding it out with some super Downtempo jazz vibes from the UK’s finest.