Laughton Lodge tomatoes

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My ideal audience is halfway between the chin-stroker and the rave lunatic

“My ideal audience is halfway between the chin-stroker and the rave lunatic,” says Happa here.

Mine too, Happa.

“I’d ideally be able to drop an obscure ambient tune or have a whole half hour section of stuff in a set that isn’t necessarily that easy to dance to, but then be able to switch it up into something a bit sillier and the crowd to still lose their shit. But obviously you can’t always have that whenever you want and it’s a good challenge having to work alongside a crowd and doing the best you can to maybe show them something they haven’t heard before, challenge them a little bit as well, to show them a good time and get them dancing. It’s one of the best feelings when you’ve got one of those crowds you can just do anything with and they’ll be up for it, but it’s also nice when you actually have a bit of a challenge and you have to really think about what you’re going do next to please a crowd. I think for me it’s trying to find the balance.”

As mission statements go, that just about covers it for me. I might print it out and hang it behind me when I next DJ.

Listen up.


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Match report: Tribal Earth, August 2017, East Sussex


Tribal Earth is a wonderful thing. It might just be a unique thing too.

A friend described it as half-village fete, half-hippy festival. And she might be right. That captures the vibe of a festival that has a capacity of just 500 people.

Its size and its lack of bars mean kids can and do run free. They are never far from their parents or friends. The lack of booze (for sale) also eases the tranquillity factor. This is a festival to relax into. You can bathe in its loveliness without a care in the world.

However, it is a proper hippy festival. You have to be into some or all of the following: folk/world music, kirtan, 5 Rhythms, yoga, didgeridoos, drumming circles, gong baths and other hippy shit. If those things are anathema to you, then it’s probably best you don’t bother. But even still… you might enjoy the vibe. You can buy some herbal tea and a slice of gluten-free, sugar-free cake and relax under the beautiful Sussex sky overlooking the South Downs.

But it’s best to dive in and enjoy the hippy shit. There is bound to be an almost life-changing experience in the next tent. Personally, I was overwhelmed by the dark beauty of ambient overlords Blackmoon 1348, who teamed up with the horns and chants of Tibet’s Tashi Lhunpo Monks to produce a set of brooding menace and finally, extreme beauty.

The monks had their own tent at the festival. During the daytime they could be found making Dhukar prayer wheels and play-do (it would be butter in Tibet) flowers and figurines with playful souls of all ages.

Others were lifted higher by Nikki Slade’s kirtan or transported to an Irish pub session with The Devines’ jigs and reels. The Carrie Tree Band played a spellbindingly delicate set of English folk, Yap gathered his brilliant and passionate poets and Batch Gueye brought the hypnotic African funk.

Those highlights were all preceded by the mysterious Arfur Cardboard’s Tribal Upstarts, whose wonderful narcotic lullabies belied the comedy moniker chosen by the festival’s music curator Storme. And it was brought to a close by the Amazing Tribal Earth Sound Bath, a festival tradition that sees 100 people lying flat out in a tent, while Storme and friends wash them down with a symphony of gongs, didgeridoo and chimes.

With all those musical wonders, it is easy to forget Tribal Earth’s workshops but for many, they are the heart and soul of the festival. From weaving and sprouting, to jew’s harp and (a lot of) African drumming. From chaga mushrooms to tai chi; and from transformational breathwork to family constellations; there is almost every form of meditation, therapy or sheer fun activity on offer.

Add in the opening and closing circles and you have a festival like no other – a lovely community of like-minded souls enjoying a blissful weekend in the countryside.



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Match Report: Terraforma Festival, June 23-25, 2017

Donato Dozzy’s influence looms large over Terraforma. Festival director Ruggero Pietromarchi acknowledges his meeting with the Roman musician and DJ as a key catalyst for the launch of the experimental and sustainable music festival.

He closes the festival at 1.30am on Sunday with a “surprise” set on the Soundsystem stage in the woods, which he builds from Rhythm and Sound-style dub through to sledgehammer hardcore techno over the course of nearly three hours. He finishes his set and is whisked away by ambulance.

Rumours circulate the next day that he had been complaining about a bad back, that he had been walking like a robot…one hopes he recovers quickly. His two three-hour musical trips were a triumph and encapsulated the aesthetic that courses through this wonderful festival.

If Donato Dozzy is the godfather of Terraforma then this year, Laraaji and Suzanne Ciani are its grandparents. Laraaji’s beatific set with autoharp, voice, gong and electronics is a transmission of pure love from a humble and generous being, which is received with rapture. More than one delirious spectator describes his set as “beyond music” – an experience.

Terraforma is so well programmed that the whole festival evolves as one long musical trip with three stages transmitting different vibes but never playing music simultaneously.

Laraaji builds on the mood created by Dozzy on Saturday morning, who administers a three-hour ambient trip, taking the audience through all sorts of imaginary landscapes as they sip their coffee and spark the first spliff of the day.

Rawmance takes up the ambient baton with a few more beats and a slightly more old school feel encapsulated in the Global Communications classics in the climax. With Julia Kent’s rather sombre – bleak, even – cello and then Suzanne Ciani’s buchla ululations extending the mood, Saturday was almost beatless until Mala gave the Italians some distinctly UK flavour with his spaced out dubstep causing delirium.

 Evolving moods

The mood is so different to Friday night’s party, which climaxed with the pummelling techno of Aurora Halal and the mighty Objekt. Does techno, or music generally, get more bleeding edge than Objekt? His twisted beats and towering noise-scapes are awe-inspiringly unique. If techno’s initial brief was to make music for the future, Objekt continues this quest with genuinely jaw-dropping innovation.

After Saturday’s ambience, Sunday was all about celebration. An overnight thunderstorm cleared the air. Tropic Disco Sound System set the tone with some sunshine reggae before Paquita Gordon and Ece Duzgit send the hardcore dancers crazy with Indian beats, big band jazz and a massive array of eclectic bangers from all around the world.

The scene was set nicely for Andrew Weatherall on the main stage from 4pm ’til 7pm. His name meant nothing to many of the hip young Italian techno cognoscenti present. Screamadelica? No. Sabres of Paradise? Nope. A Love from Outer Space? Complete blank. We call him The Guvnor. You’ll like it, I promise. (I hope.) I had no idea what to expect in this slot. Would it be dub reggae? ALFOS beats? Rockabilly?

His set begins with what might be a berimbau, which quickly morphs into…what? Turkish psychefunk? The empty dancefloor begins to fill. A guitar-heavy set takes in sunny dub reggae, post-punk funk, psychedelic country blues, Northern dub poetry, some African funk, some…god, I should know this…Chapterhouse? Paris Angels? Emeralds?

The hip young things are soon dancing like fuckery with grins as wide as Lake Como – amused and amazed by the weird, wonderful and downright funky shit they are being carried away by.

Each track is epic in reach. The Guvnor seems quite entranced as he boogies away to the more epic beats and spacey tinkles. It feels like a distillation of purest Weatherall past, present and future. And he’s clearly enjoying it.

As he waves goodbye, there are hugs and WTFs and more huge smiles.

Later, an Australian guy asks me if I saw Andrew Weatherall earlier. My rabid enthusiasm is met with a more muted response. Ah well, music’s not for everyone.

Andrew Weatherall’s set climaxes with a slowed-down John Coltrane Stereo Blues


How to follow that? With the almost unlistenable force of power electronics dub techno that is Dreesvn, apparently.

Dreesvn’s more intense moments hit you in the face and the body like a lazer forcefield of sound. But their synth-generated techno also has a delicate side and after the initial punch, it settles down into an entrancing hour of acidic techno.

Then Kiki Hitomi hits the stage with her slamming Japanese take on dubstep, dub reggae and psychedelic techno. Kiki is a force of nature. She is the festival’s most obvious ‘performer’ among a couple of dozen synth boffins and bespectacled DJs. And she gives an incredible performance – chanting, singing and declaiming with righteous force over her psychedelic beats.

She plays at least three “last tunes” – even stopping to ask the promoter if she can play one more. She closes the mainstage on Sunday night before Dozzy returns to the Soundsystem stage to take us into the early hours.

Dozzy’s dramatic closure on the Soundsystem stage satisfies a beautiful narrative arc, which began with the enveloping forest techno of GAS on Friday night. It has been a wonderful trip.


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Old global ambient techno folk grooves from me

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Some new ambient bits

[Well, new to me]

Loving this from the Tangerine Dream front man


And I don’t know how I missed Global Communication’s remix album back in the day. I’ve always been quite nerdy about seeking out their stuff. But this is the most perfect Ibiza chillout-style record you ever wanted to hear. And that description does its beauty an injustice. [This clip isn’t really the whole album but check it out: Global Communication – Remotion: the Global Communication remix album]

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Best music of 2016

De La Soul – and the anonymous nobody

This was without a doubt my favourite album of 2016. I kinda find it baffling that it didn’t make it on to more end of year lists but I guess De La just aren’t as hip as Tribe.

But also, I kinda get why it didn’t. The album is a really great pop album. It’s not really very cool. It’s certainly less hard-hitting than the Tribe album. It’s less hiphop than the Tribe album.

But it’s a beautiful record. It’s line-up of guests slot in so seamlessly – from Estelle to Snoop to Jill Scott to Roc Marciano and Justin Bloody Hawkins. It’s almost like a compilation except for the fact that it flows so smoothly. It reminds me of the Gorillaz albums. It’s eclectic but its hiphop is so warm and it rolls. It’s self-aggrandising but there’s not enough of De La on it. It’s a proper album. It fits together beautifully. I love De La Soul and this album almost made me cry.

A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from here… thank you 4 your service

This was also an unexpectedly good comeback. Q-tip is a genius and he managed to produce an album that was so completely 2016 without sounding like anything else released this year.

David Bowie – Blackstar

Speaking of comebacks….enough has been written about this that I have very little to add. Except to say I listened to this album more than any other since Tin Machine. (I was going to say Let’s Dance and then I remembered how much I loved Tin Machine. I was just 16…) And this really did make me cry. It was just astonishing that he created this masterpiece and then just left. Wow.

The Orb – COW/Chill out, world!

Speaking of comebacks! Another overlooked record. This was a distillation of pure Orb. It wasn’t quite as good as The KLF’s Chill Out. I can pay it no higher praise.

Kamaiyah – A good night in the ghetto

I had almost given up on modern hiphop. For me it’s been diminishing returns since about 2008 as the Future-Kendrick-YG-Young Thug drug-slurred filth beats have taken over. But Kamaiyah’s album was great. It’s 2016 hiphop alright but with a very 70s keyboard sound that’s timeless.

Lord of the Isles – In Waves

Pure organic housetrance…..matched only by Will Long’s Long Trax

Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra

Speaking of organic trance….

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Suzanne Ciani – Sunergy

Sea, sun, energy….beauty

Christian Fennesz & Jim O’Rourke – It’s hard for me to say I’m sorry

Probably the most beautiful record released this year

Jack Sellen – A study to be quiet

Probably my favourite mix of the year

Various artists – Iran experimental underground 016 survey

Heavy. Jaw-droppingly good. Iran….maan. I need more.

Carl Gari & Abdullah Miniawy – Darraje

I’ve been looking for Sufi music like this since I discovered Sufism.

Hannah Peel – Awake but always dreaming

This sounded like  21st century St Etienne to me. Which is just fine in my book.

Serpentwithfeet – Blisters

This was possibly the record that surprised me most – a really unique soulful sound. However, I get the feeling he’s only just getting started. The real delight might come on his second album.


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