NuNorthern Soul are currently celebrating their 10th anniversary. I interviewed label founder, Phil Cooper, earlier this week. To mark this big birthday, Phil’s put together a lavish vinyl box-set, picking 10 tracks from NNS` decade in business. Below is my own personal run through some of the other highlights in their back catalogue.
BJ Smith – Between Ship And Shore – 2015
There are two tracks from this E.P. that make it into my NuNorthern Soul top ten. Jonny Nash was one of the first friends that I made when I moved to Japan, so I have a very soft spot for the sometimes hirsute very talented fellow, and his rework of Ben`s Hold On To It is a firm NNS favourite. Imagine Porter Ricks jamming with Wolf Muller while remixing Jose Padilla. With water-filled pots & pans for percussion, and layers and layers of treated and dubbed-out guitar.
We Can Sail is a broken ballad that channels The Beach Boys via Primal Scream on a lock-in down in Memphis. An up-all-night wasted wade through childhood nostalgia in search of redemption on a journey toward the light. At the time I called it “a baptism in Tennessee mud.”
Ryo Kawasaki – Selected Works – 2016
Phil connected with legendary Japanese guitarist Ryo Kawasaki, and ended up reissuing a whole stack of his albums, but my personal pick comes from the first Selected Works E.P. You Are The Sunlight is lifted from Kawasaki’s 1980 LP, Little Tree – and was something that the aforementioned Mr. Nash actually hipped me to. A sublime 6-string and synth serenade. A feather-light fusion float, with a flamenco-flourished finale.
Hawaiian Caravan is another Kawasaki classic. A chugging collision of electric virtuosity, and pioneering electronics. He designed and built the synthesizers himself. Andi Hanley`s effortless extension is featured on the 10th anniversary box-set.
This was a varied, but totally chilled, outing for Rocksteady Disco crew member, Blair French. The Detroit-based DJ / producer moving between sunset sambas and nods to `60s psychedelia. The fuzzed-out, a la Ernie Isley, Lounsbury Gardens, is the one that I love.
Mike Salta & Mortale – Celestial Hike – 2020
Plenty of people set out to recreate the sound of those seminal Cafe del Mar compilations that Jose Padilla put together for React in the mid-90s. Not many come as close to achieving that goal as Danish duo, Mike Salta & Marty Mortale. I`m a big fan of everything they do, such as the NuNorthern Soul E.P., Celestial Hike. All four tracks are fab, for example Behind The Rainbow, their own ode to Jose, but Henry`s Spacewalk is probably the standout.
Yggdrasil – Dimun – 2020
A modern classical-ish piano-led piece from Danish composer Kristian Blak, and his Yggdrasil chamber orchestra. I say “ish” `cos this veers into ECM territory, with its spiritual, crashing surf-like cymbals, while the violin is full of old magic and folk-lore. There were some cracking remixes in this package, from Chris Coco and Mike Salta & Mortale (again).
Joan Bibiloni – Selected Works – 2020
Five tracks cherry-picked from catalogue of Mallorquinn guitarist Joan Bibiloni. The tiniest taste of the talented chap`s 50 year and 12 album solo career. All of them fantastic fusions of folk, jazz, and new age. I’m super fond of this particular release, since it gave me the chance / excuse to interview Joan, and learn a lot more about the musical scene on Mallorca, which developed in parallel to the DJs and clubs in neighbouring Ibiza. Joan also had some great stories to tell about jamming in the original Amnesia.
El Turronero – New Hondo – 2021
A bonkers, barmy bashing together of disco and raw – proper – flamenco, that was “broken” by Harvey at his Mercury Rising parties for Pikes. If you were a fan you could buy not just the cool, repro 7, but also the t-shirt.
Brown Fang are bassist, John Thompson, and guitarist, Henry Scott. The pair are part of a criss-crossing Nottingham musical scene which also encompasses Huw “Torn Sail” Costin, James “Crazy P” Baron, and psychedelic stadium rockers, The Attraktors. Their album, Sherwood Pines, is a sort of plugged-in post-rock. Its arpeggios and drones a loving nod toward the kosmische of the `70s.
Gold Suite – On My Horizon – 2022
Phil`s old Bali-based pal – or rather, “teman”, Joey Fitzgerald, aka Gold Suite, only recently produced this frantically strummed floor-filling homage to the Chicano-powered “Balearic” disco of `70s groups like Barrabas. Mixing mirrorball with cinematic Sergio Leone / Ennio Morricone spaghetti western drama.
My Friend Dario – Fenice (Willie Graff Beatless Remix) – 2022
Fenice originally appeared on the Cosmic Sailing E.P. in 2020 – where it was partnered with Storm – a moment of Massive Attack-like melancholia set to life-support system bleeps.
A year later, Willie Graff, turned the track into a near 10-minute epic, and now, on the anniversary box-set, there`s his alternative beatless take. Its endlessly echoed fretwork fluttering and flickering into the infinite, like Steve Reich and Pat Metheny`s Electric Counterpoint, in dub.
NuNorthern Soul`s 10th Anniversary box-set can be ordered directly from Bandcamp.