Walking through North London at 2pm on a weekday is an experience I haven’t had for quite a while.
First, it’s about hustle. People in a rush, going nowhere in particular. The selling of cheap phones. The drug seeking and drug peddling. The picking up of fags in the middle of the road. The charity-workers in slick bibs. The prams, jostling for space on the bus. The noise of old cars. The wash of dirt seeping into your shoes.
Second, it’s about strangers. Strangers to me, and probably to you. Eccentrics. Wanderers. People who have evidently lived through all of the area’s mutations. Men with thousand yard stares; women who are too shy to look above the pavement. Obese ghosts in matching white puffas, gliding.
And third, it’s about conversation. People actually talk to each other in the street. People engage; have relationships. This may be discussing the next meal, the next fix, the next whatever. But people converse, and that’s really quite odd.
As I mentioned at the top, I hadn’t seen this side of London for a while. It’s a real city, with real people, without the veneer of professionalism, without the sag of work fatigue, without those damn blackberries, kindles and touch-screen crap. There were perhaps two defining sights, microcosmic of all what’s written above. First, the two young guys, unshaven and dirty but fresh out of somewhere, itching for their next hit. This was tremendously saddening. The essence and hope of *youth reduced to nothing but desperation, an agonizing tick of the watch. And second, the sight that re-lifted my spirits. There was a boy, on his own, outside a shop, holding a book. When was the last time you saw a kid holding a book? Seriously. Because I can’t remember the last time I did.
The soundtrack to this was a mixture of noises and textures reaped mainly from the depths of youtube tangents and mixtape musings. While the sun warmed the muddy puddles, I listened to Anthony Shakir’s ‘Travellers (MRSK remix)’ from 2010. Even though Shakir is a Detroit-techno legend, the remix from Sweden’s MRSK (who sounds alarmingly like the common hospital illness) took me straight back to Berghain. The thump, the rebounding third beat noise, the hi-hats provoking beehives inside your head. Aural dry ice suffocate you before that inevitable, lucid drop. No lyrics needed here, people; just jubilance. I haven’t heard a tune this calculatingly brilliant in a while, and hence why I deliver it here.
Anthony Shake Shakir ‘Travellers’ (MRSK remix) (Rush Hour) by punchdrunkmusicdotcom
On the bus, I caught up with Gold Panda and Luke Abbott on the former’s remix of the latter’s ‘Brazil’. The original is a long and heavily pitch-modulated bout of dancefloor anguish, its wooden click-beat interlocked with soaring synthersizers. It’s a truly ace track, granted, but I love the work ‘Panda has done here. Deconstruction - pitch lowering, speed reducing, harshness offsetting - and then rebuilding with a more delicate piano effect. It’s the accompaniment for a skater skirting across a lake in early spring, with all the ‘real’ sounds removed.
Brazil (Gold Panda Remix) Luke Abbott by Lionceau
Finally, when I got home, I listened to clips of the new Norm Talley EP The East Village. I feel that Talley, another son of Detroit who’s been DJing since the 1980s, is a pretty underated producer. His last few releases have been characterized by this kind of reductionist style, constructing tracks from isolated bleeps and lonely drums. This latest EP, while diverse in itself, is sparse and jazzy, with the opener ‘Ultra’ and closer ‘Deeptroitstrumental’ evocative pieces which chill and funk equally. Looking forward to its release.
DSR001 Norm Talley - The East Village E.P. by Dockside Records