Imagination and discovery

Julian Shepherd on wrestling with the perfect playlist to inspire creativity, and ending up ‘all about the party’…

For me, music is the thing that keeps my life glistening with diamond-studded edging. It rarely lets me down, unless an artist becomes a complete and utter dirty sell-out, mingling with horrid cash-centric, zero-imagination producers, or more simply, when I’ve left a vinyl record near the radiator or in blazing sunlight for a little bit too long. Ending its final days sounding fantastically catastrophic (and hilarious) crashing and crunching away till it’s binned or smashed to bits with a hammer (and goggles of course. Safety first).

This has actually happened twice, and the artists in question deserved everything they got, frankly. Vanity, formerly of Prince’s Vanity 6, was one of said victims, primarily because she had rather unfortunately created an album barely worthy of being used as a bucket scraper at a lard factory. The other record was from a long lost, and hopefully never resurrected progressive house label called Hooj Choons, and with a name like that it’s enough to turn my stomach into an astrological vortex.

After being asked to compile a playlist, I pondered on it for perhaps a little bit too long, having laid it down with the intention of putting something together that was special, organic, silky, perhaps beatless with resonant and nourishing landscapes for the ear, something suitable and marginally sophisticated for addition as a background texture to the working art or design studio.

“Three tracks in and I was almost on agenda with a delightful piece from Laurel Halo”

I’ve kept this self-imposed brief for a long time, left it promptly as too pretentious and thought I was actually going to stick to it. I failed. Three tracks in and I was almost on agenda, passable with a delightful piece from Laurel Halo (main image) but then, boom, wrecked it by upping the situation with one of 2013’s soon to be biggest hip-hop success stories, Kendrick Lamar, with Swimming Pools (Drank) off his hotly anticipated album which finally hit the shops this week.

If you haven’t heard of him before then you, as politely put as I can manage, clearly don’t have eyes or ears. Or perhaps you just have a life and I don’t. Part of me was thinking he was too mainstream to include in a playlist designed solely for an audience that thrives on imagination and discovery, but for me, that track in particular has such a slick electrified edge to it (and it’s the one off the album that most spoke to me), which rarely at this level ever happens, so it had to be documented. It was either going to be him or Jeremiah Jae and from then on, as always, it became all about the party, well at least, the beginnings of a very big one.

Sandwiched at either end of the hour are two tracks from both well established and up and coming Liverpool based producers; Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and John Heckle, which I felt was an important gesture to make given The Double Negative’s creative agenda and roots. Architecture and Morality’s first forty seconds, taken from their 1981 album of the same name, provided with classic Peter Saville artwork, pins you to the spot with a haunting landscape; perhaps a perfect soundtrack should you find yourself near the Stanley Dock swing-bridge on a particularly bleak evening.

Then we come to Lalah Hathaway, who goes down on my top-ten bucket list of singers that must be seen and heard on an obsessive arrestable level before you move on to the clouds of Heaven 17. Your mother’s been put on a drip in hospital? What’s a hospital? But look, it’s Lalah and seriously, this is far more important. Acquaint yourself with giant bags of Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, anything that dips from the cash and carry and sit, crunching away in front of your computer and watch, listen and memorise the vast quantities of dodgy mobile phone video clips of her singing, ok, quite a lot of the same songs over and over again.

Although I’ve provided a key track from her 2008 album in this playlist, finalised studio masterings don’t really do her justice. Somehow too slick, there’s been intervention, and as a result I don’t think I can hands down claim there’s a full album under her name that manages the same as a live experience. I went to see her (with her equally mind-blowing backing musicians) at Manchester’s Band on the Wall in November last year. When people ever say, in regards to a performance, DJ selection, or concert, that they were ‘getting emotional’ or were crying, I often think, yes ok it may have been good, but hold your horses. Well I actually did, for the first time ever. Some woman with a weave beat me to it though. By the time I’d started she’d already got through one of those travel tissue mini-packs.

Whilst I was still crying, my friend started singing along to ‘Let’s Go’. Tears then went to Niagara – I was simply overwhelmed. Back in the day he was one of Terence Trent D’Arby’s backing singers, and although I knew this, had never in all the years I’ve known him, actually heard him sing before. Everyone around us was going ballistic and I went off to a far away planet. Dripping and thrilled, he picked up where Lalah left off as we walked back to the car park, belting out numbers that bounced off tall office blocks as I laughed and clapped like a little child.

So enough of me, it’s over to you. This compilation is probably the most accessible thing I could manage in terms of illustrating my musical inspirations and discoveries, and it’s meant to be handled as a long player experience. There might be a bit too much hip-hop in here for some, but skim over it if you don’t like it, I’m sure there’ll be something else here that’ll excite you instead. Have a good day now.

Julian Shepherd

Posted on 25/01/2013 by thedoublenegative