12 shows from 2020 on Aaja Music to listen back to.

It’s been an interesting year. The Bermondsey Lido show on Aaja Music wraps up for the year on Dec 26th at 9pm with a “2020 Rewind” edition, going through all the music I bought in the last 12 months. The show has been running since March and it’s taken a different direction to the one I originally intended, turning into much more of a party on the air and having a two-way conversation with the listeners via the online chat room. Doing the show has kept some focus in my life and maintained my sanity during the lockdown. I’ve stopped archiving the Lido’s shows entirely for various reasons (which is its own blog post currently cooking in my head) but thankfully there is a spectrum of talented and creative individuals who do back up their shows for Listen Back Laterers. It’s been rewarding becoming part of a community swirling around a station again, and listening to their shows over the past nine months has reminded me how much great music is out there that I don’t listen to, and probably should. Here are a dozen selections in no particular order to get you going if you aren’t familiar.

I’ve got 20+ records to give away on December 26th, the full list is here. Lock in here from 9pm and listen out for how you can win one of them.

K+E’s Bedroom Sessions: Weatherall died in February but I feel like I’m still hearing echoes of his music in random places. The ALFOS credo was “an oasis of slowness in a world of increasing velocity” and K+E are experts in the dark art of s l o w i n g d o w n everything, considerably far south of the 122bpm peak that Weatherall and Johnston aim to avoid. I’ve tried to emulate their chug sound a couple of times but my turntables simply don’t pitch down that far. I don’t recognise any of the artists they play, and have no idea how they manage the suppress the urge to pump it up as their shows progress. This show is one of their “bedroom sessions” from the “Camberwell Riviera” (love that) done during the lockdown, rather than the Aaja studio in Deptford Market Yard.

DJ Dubois was one of the first DJs I ever saw playing a show in the Arch in Deptford, and I remember being slightly terrified by her professionalism and positive demeanour on the mic. Although we aren’t much divergent from each other on the house spectrum, I’ll freely admit to playing the more morose, introspective, melancholic and cerebral / deep aspects of it, whereas Dubois embraces life. Every show of hers is a joy, a masterclass in optimism and warmth you can tell is derived from listening to beautiful, organic, soulful music. This one is one of her harder edged excursions, but check out all of her others for how she brings the vibe. Her show dedicated to her grandmother towards the end of the year was pure soaring aural serotonin.

Conor Jatter: Conor admirably made hay in the furlough sunshine, broadcasting a morning Mixed Bag show every weekday either from his Hastings retreat or his Deptford flat until the Arch briefly reopened. Blessed to have his own dedicated in-demand producer (Stuart the Dog), his shows are a window into his brain, roaming from gospel, soul, funk and disco all the way up the gears to rap, house, and even the occasional grime track. A seemingly inexhaustible knowledge and thirst for music across all genres means that listening back through his archive is a complete random lucky dip, but each one has its high points. You can consider him the aural equivalent of a morning coffee to get your day started on a jittery, foot tapping note. This show is a Latin-tinged trip with some guests.

Dani Hendrix: Dani’s shows always seems to catch me in the right mood to listen to her selections of cosmic and leftfield funk and rock. This dancehall show in August was a branch from her usual output, put together (iirc) in the painful absence of Carnivals for the bank holiday weekend. This is the only time of year that I would hear this type of music anymore, and as I was listening to this one I was picturing myself with my shirt off, buying cans from a wheelie bin, taking another year off my hearing in front of a massive subwoofer stack opposite some boarded up £5m mansions. Only in London.

Word of Mouth: I’ve never been to Ibiza, and have no inkling to go there – but maybe 2021 might be the year to break the seal. Broadcasting live from the Med, Harry’s caramel voice gently soothing my ears on a Saturday morning, combined with a mixture of soft balearic beats, hazy soul, leftfield disco, even shoegazer dreampop, has me conjuring up waking up early on a quiet coastal retreat, a beach hut with not many other people around, the sun already warming my face and the kids mercifully occupied with the sand. Nothing to do but sit back and relax with some good music… and maybe some cocktails. This show was right after mine on the 48-hour marathon weekend in October.

Handclap Radio: Jon and Liam put on a great show every month, in their various guises (including Pop Yr Funk) but they put on an excellent showcase at the end of November as a benefit to help musicians in these stretched times. The sets ran all day on Aaja 2 from the converted shipping container in Deptford, with regular hosts like Tom Verghese, Luma, and Slumberjunkie all putting in a shift over the whole day. Good time party vibes, with a great cause to boot. Here’s the opener of the day.

Ross Harper: I’m a slave to the mix – even if I need to read out the competition question or talk shit back to the chatroom on the Bermondsey Lido show, I prefer to have music bubbling under me at all times. (Maybe it’s because I can’t stand the sound of my own voice) But Ross Harper’s show – ambient and techno – he’s happy to put the brakes on and tell a story about how a particular track engages him, or an experience he’s had at a particular place and the emotions and sensations he took from it. It’s a bit of a departure from most techno shows which just give it to you both barrels from the go, utterly welcomed.

Becca OGT: Another recent recruit, Becca occupies one of those slots where I’m inevitably listening to the radio at home. What a bonus too – a sweetly curated mix of downtempo, hip hop, and subtle house. A nice “amaro” to the starter of Word of Mouth from Ibiza. Looking forward to hearing how the show develops over the coming year.

Big Hen: Big Hen always bring the Big Party, even if it’s at dinnertime midweek when I’m chopping the vegetables in the kitchen simultaneously trying to stop the kids from murdering each other. I listen to his shows suppressing my grizzled envy at his near-perfect mixing, you can tell from his cuts and transitions that he’s done this through various genres in the past. This show during the lockdown was a humourous “Two For One” split show with the second half dedicated to the much maligned “liquid” subgenre of D+B. Put your 2000s dancing shoes on and get on down.

Mother Earth Sounds: Bella and Suz do the show that I would probably do if I wasn’t dark at the inner core of my being… their shows utterly throb with bass-driven, bouncy, joyous house music, making my eyes water at the corners at the memory / prospect of being back in some basement or sun kissed small festival. Their showcase with Bon Voyage towards the end of the year had the extra cake icing of live trippy visuals on Facebuke (cut short, of course) which transported me right back to the Brixton Fridge in the 90s.

The Twisted Arch: Cosmic Bob and Cristina Carrasco teamed up for the Aaja arch’s reopening, to bring this slice of Northern Soul to listeners as the heat of the Indian Summer drew to a close, and the bleakness (in so many ways) of Winter started to kick in. Both hosts are proponents of the Mixed Bag – Cosmic’s weekly shows on Sunday mornings are pretty unpredictable (in a good way, I hasten to add) – so it was nice to have a threaded theme running through this one. You can hear the love for the music in both their voices as they present this one.

Knickerbocker Corey: In what was, let’s face it, an awful year for pretty much everything – democracy, public health, mental health, racial equality – music served as a reminder of how communities of all colour can be brought together in difficult times. Corey’s sets showcase this in spades. High energy club, hip hop, rap and bass interspersed with reggae and the sadness of Nina Simone’s cover of Strange Fruit. A beacon of hope.

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