Friday Nightlife

18th September 2010

And out. Over East. Still on the bike while the weather holds (it’s calm and still tonight, half moon flash between tower blocks). Cutting across deep south to Tower Bridge and on to the Star, in the beating heart of Bethnal Green. This place always reminds me of New York and Berlin, those other cities of the night, but it’s so London we couldn’t be anywhere else. Nikhil is here playing the best new house I have never heard; the man with the dog is at his place through the window, drinking and begging, crumpled novel and crushed roll up in one hand, dog lead chain in the other. When my turn comes I continue with the rough house, dub house disco feeling, playing for us more than for the people, but our joy and enthusiasm spreads around the bar and soon there is dancing. I end with the currently customary Bam Bam and decide that I must make an edit, because it’s just too short and it loops up nicely on the CDJ.

Then it’s home via Brick Lane for salt beef bagel and tea. This is simple and plain but it’s certainly good living. But I’m thinking, is it ok to be still searching this late, or should I really have arrived already? Oooh, too much mustard.

Summer’s last hurrah

13th September 2010

I am in London. Screengazing. Dreaming up new musical categories , like Screengaze, that’s shoegaze on computers, in case you were wondering. I’m in London, doing the 2010 version of twiddling my thumbs. There’s a festival on. Now. And I could be there. It’s time to get on the train.

I am on the sun deck of a ferry called Wight Rider II. Honestly, that’s what it’s called.

So this is Bestival, on the windy Isle of Wight. After the inevitable wrist band run-around and tent pitching I’m just wandering, an explorer turning the festival map into terrain. I catch the XX as they announce that they are about to play their last song. There’s something lovely about doing this. They look and sound like they did on TV for the Mercury Award. Maybe that’s because I can only really see them on the big screen. Their second album will have to be stadium rock, they’re getting that popular.

After that I wander around, blown from one stage to another by the wind, at random, and I’m thinking: being at a festival is like being inside your own head, and just walking around, all the bustle and activity, all the thoughts milling about like people, not really knowing where they are going, bumping into each other, occasionally making a connection, sometimes making sense. And I’m thinking: what am I doing here if this is my own head?

Dizzie Rascal is a good pop star but throws away his songs with their new acoustic arrangements. There’s no grit, no electronic punch. Hot Chip have lost their way too. With the addition of a drummer they have turned themselves from a great electronic band into a mediocre pop rock band.

I am in the blue big top when it happens. The reason I come to these things. Flying Lotus is on the decks (connected to the inevitable laptop), creating a DJ set without using headphones. It’s like being inside his head (which is starting to get very weird considering we are all already inside mine). He talks about hallucinogenics and lucid dreaming. If only he knew he was inside somebody else’s mind he’d be really surprised. He cuts and flips, changes tempo, genre, from hip hop to rave to cosmic what. The sound is all distorted but it kind of doesn’t matter. It’s all brilliant energy. I am transfixed.

I am in the blue big top when it happens again. Plastikman. A really beautifully, brilliant, simple electronic music show that blows the notion of live wide open. Richie Hawtin, in alter-ego mode, is inside a semi circular frame covered by a pixel LCD screen with the most beautiful shapes and patterns on it. The music is pure and intense. The kick thumps you in the stomach, the hats dance around your head, the snare cracks like a cane on the palm of your hand. It’s one of the most fantastic electronic music shows I have ever seen; up there with Kraftwerk and Daft Punk’s pyramid. The simple visuals enhance the enjoyment of the music without becoming the show. Inside the screen he has an array of technology that looks intriguing, a proper studio lab set up. At the end of the set he comes out from behind the screen and plays one last tune, Spastik, the one with the scattering snare drums, to show that he is human. To show off his magnificent fringe and stylish black clothes. I am awestruck. Some time later Seth Troxler rounds off a really fine evening of entertainment with some powerful, contemporary house music. That’s the way to do it. So glad to be away from the screengaze.

Give me some signal. It’s Saturday and I’m in the rain and misty low cloud, searching for service, researching sound. Don Letts in Bollywood laying down some deep bass reggae, like he always has. Uncomplicated cool.

In Arcadia, Darwin Deez, post youtube hits that they are, make crazy disco shapes to crazy disco inbetween bursts of their own supercharged pop, like the modern New York kids they are, all wry, wiry spin and floating yellow. Orange amps too. Back in Bollywood David Rodigan gives a lesson in the music of the drum and the bass. It’s like church, preacher blasting out anthem after anthem, jumping from Kingston to Dalston, King Tubbys to Breakage via Eek-A-Mouse and Desmond Decker. Wheel Up, somebody say Pull Up. He’s kind of inspiring actually, his dedication, his passion for his music. Even though he’s evidently mad he makes me feel better about my musical addiction. You’re talking to someone who cries every time he hears Rolf Harris sing Two Little Boys. It happened again today, as ridiculous as a wobble board but totally true.

In Rock & Roll, Mount Kimbie are anything but rock and roll, filling the tent to bursting for a set so subdued it makes the XX look like a bunch of rockers. Really, though, once again, they are so sincere and so good and so pure and so simple and so atmospheric they make me want to give up making music all together. It’s one of those mood swings and roundabouts days. Roxy Music on the Main play like the 70s never ended but redeem themselves at the end with the good songs – Do The Strand, Virginia Plain, Love is the Drug and Ferry’s solo hit Jealous Guy. Not enough for a sing along set but not bad on your CV as they say in the real world, and it’s the right phrase to use because it feels like the band are at work, unsure where they are or what they are doing here, just playing the songs like it’s a rehearsal.

This is a short torch-lit scribble, a mini-break in the the tent. There were fancy dressers everywhere today but for some reason, this time, it just added to the fun, even if some of the groups look like they are on a stag do, some people have taken imagination and made it real. One boy walks round inside a wooden cupboard, trailed by a cat suited cave woman who seems very excited at the prospect of ungluing his doors. Now I must go and play records in the Wishing Tree. Zoom. Zoom.

So that’s what happens. A muddy trek slide down hill with the back pack, Chai and brandy combo (this week’s favourite drink) and inside the Wishing Tree. It’s the smallest, most exclusive dancefloor at the festival, just 40 people at a time, strictly one in one out with a one hour queue; a mini bar run by midgets, stocked with miniatures; witches on the dancefloor sharing a sacred cabbage after a limbo dancing competition; and a vertiginous, vertical ladder up to the DJ booth in the branches.

No fat DJs here. This is a proper muddy climb, but up top all is as it should be, the CDJs, the mixer, the crate of beer. So it’s all down to the music. What do you play in a magic tree with a midget mini bar and a dancefloor populated by witches and other fantastic creatures of the night? It’s not an every day dilemma.

The answer, as ever, is simple. Whatever feels right. So I spin everything from Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa to Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, via the inevitable Mr Blue Sky and All Night Long. And it feels like it works and it feels good and it feels like this year’s expanded festival with the main stage the right way round and a good flow and feel is a real triumph. Not like the beginning but on a really good track. Oh, and I play One Step Beyond, of course, because it’s the tune of the weekend for some reason.

So here I am, in the flower tent, by torchlight, scribbling, at the end of the summer, hurrah almost over. But before it is, one more time, give me some signal, and make some fucking noise.

Chris Coco – Summertime out now

13th September 2010

The next single from the Feel Free Live Good album is Summertime, it’s out now. Mixes come from Negghead, Debruit, Lemon Popsicle, Mighty Mouse and Afterlife.

Get it now at Juno Download

Download the Mighty Mouse remix for free here.

summertime by chris coco

chilled deep dubstep

10th September 2010

Chilled Deep Dubstep is a new compilation to be released on Tru Playaz on 27 September. It features a bonus DJ mix by Chris Coco.

pre order at Juno Download

Listen to the mix here:

Stop Making Sense

6th September 2010

I’m going to Split. Through customs a sign says: have you forgotten anything? I want to declare that I have, to my shame, forgotten more than I care to remember. I spend the flight trying to remember some of the things that I have forgotten until eventually I am distracted by the Dalmatian coast. It is beautiful. Like a child’s drawing of a coastline, all squiggly and bobbly with inlets and bays, yachts and mountains, yellow edges, green hills, more than blue sea. From the air it looks like some kind of perfection.

I am in Petracane, a small village, nestled somewhere in a bay on that coastline. We came by coach on a highway across a rocky wasteland at exactly 100 kph. An night here there are six billion stars on display, if you stare for long enough you will see them all.

The Stop Making Sense festival site is on a promontory, on the left side, looking out to sea, of a small bay. The site is small, very small, or boutique as it is fashionably called, maybe 1000 capacity max. So this is a very different kind of festival experience – no tent, no rain jacket, no boots. A festival with no boots? Yes it is possible. Artists and guests are installed in various small hotels and apartments dotted around the bay, the organisers in the laidback, cool Villa Liscia. The atmosphere is intimate, friendly, very calm. The weather is perfect, warm enough to swim in the sea and sit in the sun, but not hot enough to be sweaty and burning. Petracane is a fishing and farming village, people have been fishing and farming here for at least 900 years. There are a few cafes, a bread shop, people selling vegetables at the side of the road, a bus stop and a little harbour, and those holiday houses and apartments, dotted along the rocky coastline. There is no hint of fancy, poncy, stupid city values. A really expensive handbag and big shades mean nothing here. I’m just going for a little swim before my set. Really, this is the life.

It’s time, and today I am official warm-up man. First set is round the back of the Tiki bar, in the booth build next to the little lighthouse.

On two sides there is just the sea, in front of me the dancefloor. For the techies, all the systems are Function One. For the non techies, that is a good thing with lots of bass and clear, clean sound.

Because it’s early (I play 13:00 to 16:00), there’s more lounging than dancing so it’s reggae, dubstep, slo-mo disco and Balearic, sunny music for snoozy people. I could play here all day, easily. I think this booth beats the one on Sa Trincha in Ibiza for the best location ever, with the added advantage of an adjacent wooden dancefloor. This is some kind of DJ heaven.

After this set there is another on the main stage, again warming things up, then back down to the beach, whisky and coke in hand (I said I wouldn’t drink today but it didn’t work out thanks to some friendly intervention) for Radioclit. They really work it with their Afro disco bass drop stylings as the sun falls into the sea in slow motion.

Alfred Hitchcock declared that nearby Zadar had the most beautiful sunset in the world and, well, with the clear water and all those islands and rocks for the lights to bounce off he did have a point. Again, I don’t want to burst the Ibiza myth bubble, but this really is spectacular. A shame perhaps that the Radioclit boys don’t make more of the moment, but the crowd do.

As the orange dips into the water more and more people jump into the sea and swim out to meet it. They congregate about 200m out, safe together, aware once in the water, expending energy, that swimming into the sunset is as beautiful and futile as chasing rainbows. As the last slither dips behind the islands there is a cheer from the dancefloor and the Icarus-like swimmers give up their quest and return one by one, to carry on dancing. This is certainly some kind of beautiful and I am already thinking about my return and booking a sunset slot for next year.

The night is all about Barbarella’s, an Italo disco style club, built in the 70s.

It is perhaps the most perfectly formed small club anywhere in the world, all swirls and circles in concrete and orange and brown, like a dream of lost times, like the inside and outside of a seashell or a human ear. Ghosts of wannabe Bryan Ferry playboys float around the dancefloor humming love is the drug until they bump into the stage, a later addition but built with some sympathy, next to the concrete DJ booth.

To the right a door leads to the inside coil, you follow a curling corridor, like walking into the ear, for more club perfection. An area with stools for standing and meeting people, then the bar, then, still on the curve round the central circular dancefloor, two rows of booths, already filled with more Kodachrome faded ghosts of local big shots and gangsters from another time, arms round that evening’s honeys, nodding appreciatively to the latest hit from Italy.

Slowly the club fills with festival-goers and locals from 2010, less stylish but perhaps more enthusiastic. Then, boom, it’s darker, the club is sliced by lasers, the beats crank up past 140bpm and I am pinned against the brown vinyl seat, hands clinging to the formica table, kind of hypnotised, half-cut and drifting tired.

Then I am walking up Put V to Pirat Apartments, fitful sleep, van journey through the mountains and the sun rise to Split and the inevitable airport lounge.

I realise I have forgotten to mention Django Django’s alternative dub pop; The Very Best, who we renamed The Quite Good because it was DJs and singers, not the full Afro-beat live experience we expected and Jack from Friendly Fires and his most excellent choice in house music.

And the stars. Did I tell you about the moon and the stars?