Listen: Simian Mobile Disco’s love letter to London

The electro-house heroes created a 40-minute mix dedicated to the city they love.

Almost ten years ago, Simian Mobile Disco came to everyone’s attention with Attack Decay Sustain Release, a dance album that would come to define the decade’s electro-pop hedonism. Tracks like ‘Hustler’ and ‘Audacity of Huge’, from 2009’s Temporary Pleasure, were determined anthems to nothing other than having fun – an approach that informed their live sets too, which became the stuff of legend.

But since the duo of Jas Shaw and James Ford are used to captivating the masses at clubs and festivals with their gargantuan array of synths and equipment, we thought it’d be fun to make them so something different, a little more introspective.

What emerged is an eclectic, diverse and brilliant mix – a love letter penned to London. From the night-bus vibes of Burial to the dance-floor symmetry of Midland (not to mention a raucous closing appearance from PJ Harvey), it really captures spirit of the city. We spoke to Jas Shaw to find out how they chose their tracks and his hopes for the future of clubbing in London. Have a read and listen to the mix below.  

How did the prospect of making a ‘Love Letter to London’ seem?
Jas Shaw: 
When I first heard the mix was going to be about London it seemed like such an abstract and arbitrary way of looking at all your records – in a good way. That new perspective was the appeal of doing it. It’s like that High Fidelity thing where he organises his records chronologically. We were like, “OK how do you approach a record collection from a city point of view?”

How did you choose the tracks?
At first I just had a random dig through my records. Then I panicked because I realised I didn’t know where any of them were from! I started pulling out these records and assuming they were from London but I’d look it up and they weren’t. I almost deliberately try to avoid thinking about where the artist’s from and all the other bits normally but maybe that’s wrong of me: maybe the city does add some extra information as to how you consume that record.

So I grabbed a stack of records. Then, obviously, I started searching through iTunes, sticking in various things about London I could think of. Stuff I hadn’t listened to for a long time came up. That gave us a little more choice of music. From that point on it became self-selecting really.

The first ten minutes of the mix feels like a collage. It’s like a morning commute.
I’m glad you picked that up. I was worried people would be like, “Is he just shoehorning loads of tracks in?” but it was to have that effect. It’s most obvious in festivals when you talk in between stages but it’s true in London as well. You walk past all these different cultures; maybe you don’t directly engage with them but they float around and somehow become a part of your life.

In terms of specific tracks, I'd never heard The Sabres of Paradise before. They're amazing!
No way! I suppose I can see that: Sabres was very much of its time. It’s also quite an autobiographical choice. I grew up in the suburbs outside London. When I started getting out of shitty bands with mates and getting into electronic stuff, I started going to the city more and more. At that time I was mainly listened to stuff from Warp but Sabres of Paradise were really important too. Their music made sense to someone who had come from a band background. Although it’s loosely house music, it’s clearly influenced by dub and things that aren’t electronic. So there were ways in for someone who wasn’t well versed in electronic music at the time.

Then you move onto Actress and Burial, whose sound has become synonymous with London.
They were both people who when I was thinking about London, I didn’t have to Google it: they immediately come to mind. It just sounds of the city; it sounds London-y. I know that’s not a word but you know what I mean, right? There’s a certain kind of coldness to it that I think London really has. It’s not that London isn’t pretty but it has a real edge to it; there’s a latent aggression to the city that’s in their music.

Autechre appear later on. They’re clearly not from London but I associate them with the city because I’ve seen them more here that anywhere else. We used to live in Manchester and before we moved down to London we used to get on the train and go to these warehouse parties in the Docklands [in East London] that Warp would do. It was really dark and you couldn’t tell who was playing, apart from when Autechre was playing! One of the reasons I moved to London was to be close to that stuff.

London has changed a lot since those days. Do you think rising land prices and gentrification will be a fatal blow to the scenes you grew up frequenting?
It’s difficult to know. I mean, clubs have always started up and closed down. When a bunch of them closes down it leaves a sort of vacuum. I’ve seen it happen a bunch of times and, in that vacuum, you normally end up with these really good warehouse party scenes, that dips down again when the legit club scene gets back on the case, normally a bit further out the centre of town. But now it seems to have got to a point where everywhere sensible as a new location is done. I feel sad about it. Being able to find an empty warehouse somewhere you could cycle home…it’s a wonderful thing for a city. You feel some sort of ownership of the space.

To cut against that though, when the Tubes start going overnight it might come back. London’s always going to be a magnet for creative, interesting young people. They’ll find somewhere else!

Tracklist:
David Axelrod — London
Super Furry Animals — Battersea Odyssey
The Sabres of Paradise — Jacob Street 7am
Actress — Maze (Long Version)
Burial — Lambeth
Bruce — Not Stochastic 
Midland — Double Feature
Matt Walsh — Shake The Mind (Daniel Avery Remix)
Mr. G — M’s Retrograde
Radio Slave — 122 BPM
Russell Haswell — Gas Attack (Stingray Remix)
Benjamin Damage — Monolith 
Autechre — VLetrmx21
PJ Harvey — The Last Living Rose

Next in the series: Krystal Klear's Love Letter to Dublin. Listen to xxxy's Love Letter to Berlin here.