Urban Nomads – We Make Music

Folks, its not hidden a secret that I am a part time Urban Nomad by profession.

Islington

Urban Nomadic Sessions 001

What do us Urban Nomads do I hear ya ask?

Simple, we traverse urban settings, admiring cities, architecture, noise, markets, music, people, shops and most importantly, our built environment.

Our activities include but not limited to:

  • Finding cool hidden gems, in my case the focus is on architecture and food.
  • Chilling in coffee shops and coffee related establishments. We can spend tons of hours in these places.
  • Walking in unknown parts of whatever city we happen to be in. We do that to discover new things, but also because it expands our understanding of our environment. It sometimes puts me in trouble. Worth it.
  • Our nomadic nature means we cannot get too attached to one city, place or setting. But we often do.
  • Running new routes around the city and seeing things at 20 km/hr while your heartbeat is at 100 bpm.
  • Attending gigs, going to museums, enriching ourselves culturally.
  • Airports
  • Metro/Subway/Tube inspiration
  • Finding cool hidden gems when we run of things to do
  • Make/be music as you listen to music.

And this brings us nicely to my latest project.

You might have been with me long enough to know about Kay-Ville, District Funk and then Disco Blasphemy. These were awesome shows which were broadcast and had their fun in their sun. Time for something new.

My latest is a no brainer. One of the main accessories of the discerning Urban Nomad is his headphones and music selection. It is highly unusual to find me walking random parts of Paris’s Courbevoie or New York’s Lower East Side without my headphones on, banging tunes, taking it all on.

When I often playback some tunes, it elicits such a strong feeling of a particular setting that I often can no longer but associate that track with that place. And hence my idea – put together tracks I play while hopping about places in one mix and see what that sounds like. And thus ‘The Urban Nomadic Sessions’ is born.

The first session takes us to one my favorite parts of London and where I have so many fond memories, Islington, up Naaarrffff.

Representing N1, N4, N5, N6, N7, N8, N16 and N19, with a silent ode to the gunners! Here we go!

Tracklist:

  1. Grüün – GrüünGrüünGrüüün
  2. Deetron Feat. Ovasoul7 – Out Of My Head (Dub)
  3. Roman Flügel – More & More
  4. Aaron FIT Siegel – Tonite (DD Mix)
  5. Rachel Row – Follow The Step (KiNK Mix)
  6. Doc Daneeka – Everyday
  7. B.G. Baarregaard – Tocame
  8. Olivier Giacomotto – Together
  9. Martijn – Strada 23
  10. Flori – SU-3150
  11. Moodymanc – Joy (Ralph Lawson Dub)
  12. Dave Seaman – Private Education
  13. JC Williams – Need No More (NY Stomp Remix)
  14. Koelle, Elli – All You Got (Richard Seaborne Dub)
  15. Prok & Fitch – One Of These Days
  16. P A U L I E – Spread Love (Holmes Price Remix)
  17. Climbers Feat. Yasmine Azaiez – Left Your Love (Director’s Cut Signature Mix)
  18. Jacob Bech – The Kibosh
  19. Pablo Bolivar – Destination Novgorod
  20. Softwar – Believe
  21. NY’s Finest – I Can’t Wait Till Tonight
  22. James Welsh – Horse Fight
  23. JimmyTheTwin – Party Down
  24. Surrealism – So Much
  25. Matthew Collins – Nobody’s Fool (Young Hand Remix)
  26. System Of Survial – Iper Island
  27. Jesse Rose – Alone
  28. Benoit & Sergio – House With 500 Rooms (Dub)
  29. Sasse – Flushing Meadows (Mark E Remix)
  30. Jens Bond – Two Seconds Of Silence
  31. Chamboche – Into The Murk
  32. Phil Weeks – Stay Stayin
  33. Daniel Steinberg – 1981
  34. Dalson – Back Home
  35. Joe Morris – Elysium
  36. P. Laoss – Play My Music
  37. White Wolf Worx – MFED
  38. System Of Survial – Shaking Slow
  39. B.G. Baarregaard – C.R.A.Z.Y
  40. Alkalino – Have A Ball
  41. Crazy P – Cruel Mistress (Ron Basejam Remix)
  42. The Groovers – Make Me Feel
  43. 78 Edits – Don’t You Know
  44. Mario Basanov – More For The Less (Pablo Bolivar & Maurice Aymard Remix)
  45. Closed Paradise, Tesla Boy, Sasha Anastasov – The Daulphin
  46. Martijn – Sestriere
  47. The Groovers – Where You BelongB

Finsbury Health Centre – An Idealist’s Modernist Dream

There is something quite intriguing about the way modernism seems to fit perfectly with certain building types. Indeed, some architecture movements do tend to find a niche and that’s mostly to do with governments contracting certain practices to do public buildings and then a trend emerges. A good case study would be the USSR where brutalism seemed to be the de-facto go to style for everything governmental. Whether it was city halls or plain old gargantuan mammoth structures to reflect the might of the empire during the cold war, the Russians loved themselves some concrete (much to my amusement and delight). That’s another topic that we’ll go into some other time hopefully.

Warner House

Warner House

Yesterday I was wandering the beautiful streets of Clerkenwell and Finsbury, an area that has been a playground for modernist architects (alongside all of North London) since the movement emerged. And while the British government of today is very reserved and lacks any sort of ambition (and frankly has no cash), the days of post WWI and WWII Britain were all about grand statements. Governments built entire new cities from scratch in attempt to tackle London’s massive population bubble (Milton Keynes, WGC, High Wycombe etc) – I’ve written extensively about this here. And modernism was the weapon of choice at the time, hence we are now blessed with an abundance (though not merely as enough as I’d like) of mid-century delights dotted throughout London. So as I was walking in search of the recently renovated Warner House (which I eventually found and admired for about 15 minutes as passers by wondered what the hell I was so interested in), I stumbled across one of the most amazing buildings I’ve yet to come cross in this fair city.

Revolutionary architecture - redeveloping a slum

Revolutionary architecture – redeveloping a slum (c20 society)

Tucked in a small corner between Pine Street and Vineyard Walk, just as you exit the amazing and as I was about to later find out same architect designed ‘Spa Fields’, you get a peak of the elegant ‘Finsbury Health Centre’. At first I was immediately taken a back by the symmetry of that marble tiled facade with the beautiful grid patterned glass block windows. I’ve never seen this type of front before, not in London, it was quite inspired by the work of Le Corbusier, but not fully. Really, it was it’s own thing. Then I took a step back, and suddenly a new angle emerges, now you can see the beautiful interplay between a central structure and the extension wings on each side, they’re like a hand holding a pearl gently afraid to let go. As the sun shines, the marble and glass tiles reflecting positive energy, I start to contemplate the building’s almost sultry curves. They gently twist and turn as the details of the balcony and the first floor start to emerge. Now you know it’s not quite Le Corbusier! You can just imagine how unbelievably cutting edge this was at the time. I would say it still is as sadly today’s architecture lack any sort of ambition or vision (again, another topic for another day).

I’m so intrigued, I need to find out more. So I start doing some research, and my suspicions are immediately ratified. This was indeed part of a governmental project for the area between WWI and WWII, it was a bid by the socialist Labour run local council of the time to regenerate the entire area through its socialist vision (Finsbury was a slum those days – imagine). Those of you who don’t quite know, this part of London has always been staunchly leftist. Every anti-cuts pro-unionist movement that ever materialized in the city had its roots from the area stretching from the aptly named Red Lion square to Clerkenwell, and from Upper Street down to Bloomsbury. These are the red and proud areas of London (at least they were before the super gentrification of the 90s and 2000s). And through modernism, the vehicle for social change was set.

The architect chosen to take on this massive project was none other than Berthold Lubetkin, the man widely accredited with making modernism mainstream in the United Kingdom. His practice Tecton was a government favorite, designing everything from the now legendary Penguin Pool at the London Zoo, to the amazing Highpoint I tower in Highgate. And through the FHC, Lubetkin was able to mobilize modernism’s social function by providing free health care to all. Furthermore, he achieved another of modernism’s goals, providing upscale dreams (through concrete) to the underprivileged. And this was no charity, thus a political goal was also struck, a government owned and operated universal health care centre. What more can an aspiring modernist architect ask for?

Gentle curvature keeps window tiled symmetry perfect.

Gentle curvature keeps window tiled symmetry perfect. (Avanti)

It was therefore such a devastating loss to this part of London when WWII started and all of Tecton’s plans for the area were thrown in the bin. Luckily Finsbury Health Centre was well and kicking by that time, and so was the amazing ‘Spa Fields’ next door.

A part of me can’t help but wonder what if WWII didn’t ravage London, would we now have an area that is completely modernist?! Dreams indeed, but one thing is for certain, no architecture movement has quite managed to fulfill its social and political goals like modernism has. Call it elitist and you fail, because although 50s and 60s villas and mansions through America’s west coast are staunchly modernist, European social housing, just as modernist, refutes this. Call it oppressive and fascist and you fail, because just as governmental as it was (a certain Oscar Niemeyer pops to mind), it was also the vehicle for rebellion against governments, just look at Bauhaus. The real question is, how calm the quality of architecture and design has deteriorated so rapidly in the past 4 or 5 decades?

Though the building is indeed Grade I listed, the highest possible protection in the UK, it is suffering on the outside and can indeed use an uplift. In 1995 Avanti finished a partial rework of the interior, but as a recent case study by c20 reveals, in order to preserve the future of this building some pertinent work is needed. Let’s hope that the government or local council manages to set aside some cash for this so that it can continue to serve all its intended functions, socially and aesthetically. One thing lives on though, and that is Lubetkin’s ideal: “nothing is too good for ordinary people”.

The West London Tube Station Conundrum

Turnham Green Church on one cold and creepy foggy January evening.

Greetings humanoids!

One of the things that has intrigued me for quite a while is this strange supernatural phenomenon that seems to have befallen West London decades ago but no one seems to care / give a ‘flying lizard humping a crab in the air’ about. Allow me to elaborate…

I have been inhabiting this part of Londinium for long enough now to know what airline is hovering above my head purely based on the time of the day and sound of the engine (and I pseudo-support a 3rd Heathrow runway). And this breadth of experience as a West Londoner, as handy as it is in day to day life, means that I do indeed spend most the time in the shower thinking of this particular conundrum.

Keep this map as a reference, you’ll need it as I ramble along (click on each place-mark for more info).

Let us start from the beginning and introduce several lemmas directly correlating to the map above.

Lemma 1: Turnham Green station was named after Tunham Green the park
Lemma 2: Chiswick Park station was named after Chiswick Common
Lemma 3: Chiswick Park the business park (a dystopian Orwellian-esque village like place), was name after Chiswick Park station
Lemma 4: Gunnersbury station was named after Gunnersbury Park

Now according to a Freedom of information request by some awesome individual back in 2008, Tfl responded with this extremely informative spreadsheet outlining the distance between every two outstanding stations on all ‘London Underground’ lines. Couple that with my out of this orbit spreadsheet data skills, I was able to calculate the average distance between any two stations on the same line, and it turned out to be 1.31km (0.81 miles).

District Line – West London

If we were to follow the natural sequence of stations on the two branches of the district lines (picture above), it would go like this:

Ealing Broadway branch (westbound w/ distance):

TURNHAM GREEN CHISWICK PARK 0.95
CHISWICK PARK ACTON TOWN 1.22
ACTON TOWN EALING COMMON 1.03
EALING COMMON EALING BROADWAY 1.50

Richmond Branch (westbound w/ distance):

TURNHAM GREEN GUNNERSBURY 1.59
GUNNERSBURY KEW GARDENS 1.71
KEW GARDENS RICHMOND 2.14

Taking into consideration the average distance mentioned above it would seem that the distance between Turnham Green and Chiswick Park is indeed rather strange, could it be that Chiswick Park was never meant to be there? Was it a fluke?

The station was opened in July 1879 whereas Turnham Green station came 10 years before that in 1869!

Confused? So am I. Let’s solve this b*tch:

It turns out that it was not ‘Turnham Green’ that is at fault for causing all this solid and extremely life changing confusion. It was actually ‘Chiswick Park’, which in it’s early days was actually named ‘Acton Green’, in reference to the adjacent park. Taking into consideration that Turnham Green was the only station serving the area 10 years earlier, it just made a whole lot of sense that it was named after what then was the closest church and park (because people have like little imagination sometimes).

Gunnersbury Manor

This brings us to our final piece of the puzzle, Gunnersbury. This was quite strange, because for quite a while it was evident to everyone living on the west side of Chiswick that Gunnersbury was really the park and the park took it’s name after the manor (later turned museum) on the site. So how can a park, roughly a mile away, closer to Acton Town and Kew Bridge give its name to Gunnersbury? The answer is we just don’t know, but what is now known is that the station actually opened as ‘Brentford Road station’, in a clear reference to what is now Chiswick High Street which on a straight path will probably take you straight to Brentford (or Sao Paolo, if you make it to Heathrow and sneak on a plane).

So there you go my minions, hours spent in the shower, flying my own rocket and even cleaning my own dishes pondering over this conundrum have finally yielded a result. Eureka!

Edit (February 2016): I have now moved away from West London to somewhere else (no longer sharing due to fear of Tim Cook giving my location data away). As such I am no longer an expert on all things West London and would not recommend you take the analysis above as conclusive. In 4 years, Chiswick has probably changed (right?) and so everything above makes no sense. Whatever.

The World in Heathrow’s Eyes

Heathrow marketing - You're either a Customer or Opportunity!

As I was making a journey on the London Underground today I was struck by an unbelievably patronizing map ad by Heathrow. Apparently the new aggressive Heathrow marketing strategy is to highlight the fact that everywhere/everyone else on earth other than the UK is actually one of two:

1- Customers

2- Opportunity

I say this wreaks of utter self centrist stench! It would seem that the aim is to pressure the government into crafting a much more Heathrow friendly aviation policy that would put Heathrow back on the global map. As demonstrated by the Heathrow marketing team in this rather traditionally British Euro-phobic video below, France and Germany are one up the UK because of their aviation policies. The British Chamber of Commerce’s recent recommendations back that up with a call for a third runway at Heathrow amid Labour’s new shift to overturn its previous support for the same plan.

But Heathrow aren’t using the T word just yet, instead they’re relying on heavy usage of the word “growth” in an attempt to make it work both ways.

I’ve personally always been of the thinking that Heathrow cannot compete realistically without a third runway. I am sorry my environmental friends, I too despise Heathrow’s complete lack of regard to its surroundings, but from a purely business sense, I “understand” why it might be needed. Heathrow at one point had six, only to scale back because of growth needs and lack of spacing. But a third runway is highly unlikely any time soon, the best Heathrow can hope for is a more lenient government policy regarding frequency of flights and even potentially bringing back night flights (after 1AM). For now they’re going to try out using both runways simultaneously for four months, even though the cap of  480,000 flights a year would hold.

WW1 propaganda - Lets fight these dogs!


But regardless of how strong or weak their point is, they cannot seriously expect anyone to support them if they’re going to go with marketing plots that resemble more a WWI propaganda map poster than anything else in the 21st century! Surely! Right?!

Sounds From My Revolution?

Che - Reading Goethe

It may seem a little strange that the only time off from my revolution that I took last week was to prepare and then record this month’s podcast, but then again even Che (who incidentally also suffered chronic asthma like me) would take a break from the Cuban revolution and indulge in peotry and literature, some of his favorite pastimes (which included rugby union strangely!).

Well, the revolution goes on, even if I had to scale back my presence a little as reality bitch slaps me and makes me realize that pretty soon I have to be back in an office with my fellow drones fueling the corporation and its ambitions. Oh well, not all is gloom, occupying London has taught me that I wake up with a perfect hairdoo if it’s after spending the night in the cold on the streets of the city as opposed to my cosy high thread count bed, which means that I might as well start sleeping in parks and public spaces from now on, all part of the job!

Here’s your monthly installment of grooves, peppered with revolutionary love.


District Funk 015

Occupying London

Occupy London

Folks, I’ve been part of a highly righteous crew occupying the heart of London town, just outside of St Paul’s catherdral since last Saturday. This has been the most amazing and inspiring time of my life, I’ve made lifelong friends and what is sure to be an instant police watch record! But all that aside, the OccupyLSX protest’s cause is one which is very close to my heart.

I’ve blogged about my experiences so far here, also made a couple of interviews here and there. If you’re in London and would like to participate in a movement that is signaling the need for a global change, greater regulation of the banking system, stronger accountabilty to both the politicians and the bankers, and a more fair and just society then pop along to our now extermly advanced camp outside of St Paul’s churchyard. Our camp now has enough infrastructure to run a small town! We have an amazing 24/7 kitchen with a constant supply of food and drinks, recycling points, an awesome media hub with wifi access streaming our movements to the world powered by two generators, a music area, toilets, supplies tent and a first aid area. Also it would be a great chance to meet!

Our Awesome Kitchen

You may even get to meet these guys! They gave us free breakfast.

Giving us the grooves!