Kate Hutchinson is veritable musical authority. As Time Out’s nightlife editor, she charted the birth of grime and dubstep and accidentally gave rise to London’s short-lived trend of ‘micro-clubbing’. At the Guardian Guide, she made cover stars of Four Tet, Anohni, Mica Levi and others, and hosted the newspaper’s first ever Facebook Live series. She continues to contribute regularly to The Guardian, The Observer, Dazed, Vice, Mixmag and a whole lot more, covering everything from Pakistani raves to combatting sexual harassment in clubs. She DJs regularly, hosts her own show on Worldwide FM and programs all the pitch-perfect playlists at Smith favourite, the Pilgrm. Somehow, in between all of that, she found time to talk us through her favourite travel tunes…
What’s the song that immediately transports you somewhere else?
Currently the track that’s doing it for me is Pasteur Lappe’s ‘Na Real Sekele Fo’Ya’, which came out on a brilliant reissue label called Africa Seven in 2015 and then again last year. He’s a Cameroonian funk dude and poet, and I love how he scats on this track around the sekele beat, which is from his native Douala. Another is ‘Me Ho Asem’ by Ghanaian highlife musician Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band – it has the slinkiest groove imaginable and gorgeous brass; a direct line to a street party in Accra.
Which song always reminds you of home?
‘This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)’ by Talking Heads. ‘I’m just an animal looking for a home and / Share the same space for a minute or two…’ – because where else is home but in someone you really fancy’s arms? This song doesn’t strictly remind me of Basingstoke, with its many roundabouts and visions of me in the early 2000s with dodgy hair braids and Slipknot t-shirts, but it does make me swoon and pine for slow-dancing romance. When I played this to my mum and stepdad, during one of our tipsy ‘remember this old song?’ sessions in the living room, she said it sounded like the Teletubbies and that always makes me smile.
The ultimate road-trip song
One of my favourite things to do isn’t just the festival itself but the road trip there. It’s the party-hungry thrill of dodging traffic, needing the loo every five minutes, and narrowly avoiding sudden death when my friend Hannah is at the wheel. The last time we drove to a festival – Green Man in Wales – we listened to ‘Multi Love’ by Portland acid-fried soulsters Unknown Mortal Orchestra endlessly and I am convinced that there is no better song to be careening through the misty rolling fields of the Brecon Beacons to. It has Prince-like falsetto, handclaps, proggy harmonies and lyrics about gender-fluid polyamory in its pink-hued tunnel vision, great for when the car begins to drift over to the other lane as you admire the baby lambs and your life twinkles like a rotating kaleidoscope before your eyes.
Ideal sunset soundtrack?
When the sun is dipping, you need smoky music that is dripping with sauce. And for that, you can’t beat Sade. There’s no bad time to hear Sade but ‘Your Love Is King’ is made for smouldering evenings with architectural cocktails overlooking a vast cityscape. I’m giddy that she’s made a comeback recently and hope she makes more music. Kings of the sunset are also DJ Harvey and Mark Barrott, who command the decks at Hostal La Torre in Ibiza (a hippie alternative to the commercialised San Antonio hellscape). The former’s compilation for Pikes hotel last year and the latter’s releases on his International Feel label are delicately – not cheesily – laden with bongos, flutes, acoustic guitars and other typically Balearic flourishes.
And your poolside party jam?
The pool is in Brazil, obviously, and the jam is ‘Quero Pouco, Quero Muito’ by Filó Machado, a damn-funky Eighties hero from São Paulo who makes AOR disco that sounds like Scarface set on the Copacabana. It’s taken from the excellent Too Slow To Disco: Brasil compilation, curated by Ed Motta, which is bulging with summery, thongkini-tight pop from obscure and forgotten mustachioed geniuses.
Your favourite song about travelling?
‘Chicago’ by Sufjan Stevens is about travelling the relatively short distance from the Windy City to New York in a van with a mate and without any belongings. That might not sound like the most adventurous or glamourous stretch to sing about, but the theme of starting over – and new places being full of wide-eyed possibility – gets me every time. It’s also dreamily great for long anxious train journeys so you can pretend you’re coasting on a cloud, with a choir, and not creased up on a lumpy seat during rush hour.
Required airport listening?
Really this translates into required running music, as I am prone to missing flights and pegging it through departures without my shoes on. For this soundtrack of me-against-the-clock (and the man) I choose Jon Hopkins’ new album Singularity. Half of it sounds like you are starring in your own airport dystopia, being chased by brutalist security guards waving tiny plastic bags that won’t hold all your toiletries. The other half comprises gentle, pearlescent piano music for when you’ve made it onto the flight, found your seat, and discovered that the fleecy blanket comes for free.
Is there a country you have a particular musical obsession with?
The new electronic music that is coming out of Uganda at the moment feels very exciting – it mainly revolves around a Kampala-based label called Nyege Nyege Tapes, a collective that specialises in avant-garde beats and what they call ‘outsider’ music. Their artists play raves in the surrounding area and collaborate at a makeshift studio, experimenting with everything from soukous to techno. One local star is ‘electro acholi pioneer’ Otim Alpha, who was recently involved with Damon Albarn’s Africa Express and whose album Gulu City Anthems is a catherine wheel of polyrhythms at an ear-bogglingly fast pace. Another interesting and frenetically raw sound is singeli, a sort of stripped-back happy hardcore that comes out of the Dar es Salaam region and is documented on the label’s Sounds of Sisso compilation. The label throws a festival every September and I’m hoping to go there and experience it first-hand this year.
Best musical memory from a holiday…
A few years ago I went to Cuba on a whim, joining three girlfriends who had already planned to go travelling there. I booked just before Christmas, flew on Christmas Day, and we spent three weeks boomeranging around Havana, Trinidad and Viñales where reggaeton music ruled the roost. Everywhere we went, whether a rave-in-a-cave or a seaside open-air dance, the same clutch of songs boomed over the speakers (Cuba’s limited internet means that new music is usually passed around via a network of USBs) as we hopelessly tried to salsa: Justin Bieber’s ‘Sorry’, Enrique Iglesias’ ‘Bailando’, J Balvin’s ‘Ay Vamos’ and ‘Hasta Que Se Seque el Malecón’, a track by local artist Jacob Forever. It’s indebted to the stretch of wall that runs around Havana, which they call ‘the world’s largest sofa’ and is where young people go to make out at night. I can’t say I went but a few swivel-hipped lads did try their best.
You’re going away for a while – which records are essential packing?
A lot of the music I play out revolves around disco, funk, house or syncopated beats from around the world, but when I’m alone on the beach or wandering around new places getting lost I tend to revert to the same sad-girl/boy music – stuff that sizzles with angst and feels spacious and detached. LA singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers released a superb debut, Stranger In The Alps, last year and it comes with a killer backhanded breakup song in ‘Motion Sickness’. Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze by Kurt Vile is a great slice of lo-fi stoner rock for lazy days. And I’ve listened to Iron & Wine’s Our Endless Numbered Days on pretty much every holiday I’ve ever been on and will never tire of it. There, the secret is out: I am the world’s most emo traveller…
Kate Hutchinson presents a Worldwide FM show from 11am–1pm on the third Friday of every month. You can hear her previous shows with Stewart Lee, Seun Kuti, Songhoy Blues, Nicola Cruz and more at worldwidefm.net.