Classic Melting Pot

Phonte – The Good Fight

When Little Brother called it quits last year, it left me more than a bit sad since the group had been one of the best and most reliable Hip-Hop acts of the 2000s. But just this week we’ve gotten new LPs from 9th Wonder and Phonte, with a full-length on the way from Rapper Big Pooh. As long as the gang continues to produce music, I can’t complain about LB not being together anymore. Phonte & 9th Wonder work together quite a bit on this LP, and not surprisingly those tracks are the strongest on Tigallo’s debut with “The Good Fight” as the best of the bunch. A recessionary take on staying in the Rap game when it no longer seems to pay off, “…Keep it real ‘Te and don’t ever sell out, but how the fuck you sell out when ain’t nobody selling?”

The #1 thing dominating my mind this past week was the executions (and stays of executions) here in the US. It was a strange juxtaposition on wednesday. Two men executed, one a white supremacist in Texas who without a doubt murdered a black man, James Byrd Jr., by tying him to his truck and dragging him to death, the other a black man in Georgia, who was found guilty of killing a white cop. The Troy Davis execution got all the press, since for a number of years evidence hadd been building that there was more than enough reasonable doubt to commute his sentence, but the State of Georgia saw things differently. What I found more fascinating was that in the Texas case the family of James Byrd did not want the death penalty. It unfortunate that more attention hasn’t been paid to this ultimate punishment, but after a week like last week, hopefully there will be. I felt a need to do what little part I could, and so even though I didn’t have them on vinyl, I began the show with two anti-death penalty songs from Steve Earle. I also included “Blues for Brother George Jackson” from Attica Blues and a few other songs that seemed to fit the mood if not directly connected to the issues. The mood brightens in the second hour (except for the story about Sly Stone living on the street, but hopefully that will change soon), courtesy of the Meters, Headnodic (on teenie tiny 5″ vinyl!) the Flamin’ Groovies and more. Next week there’s a real good chance that we might have some super special guests, keep your fingers crossed!

Melting Pot on KPFK #57: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #57: Second Hour

Playlist: 09-25-2011

{opening theme} Boris Gardiner – Melting Pot – Is What’s Happening (Dynamic)

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Steve Earle – Over Yonder (Jonathan’s Song)/Billy Austin – Just An American Boy (Rykodisc)
Talk Talk – Wealth – Spirit Of Eden (EMI)

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Archie Shepp – Blues For Brother George Jackson/Ballad For A Child – Attica Blues (Impulse!)
Max Roach – Motherless Child – Lift Every Voice (Atlantic)

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John Coltrane – Soul Eyes – His Greatest Years (Impulse!)
Novella Nelson – Mean World – Novella Nelson (Arcana)
Al King – What You’re Looking For – 7″ (Ronn)
Clarence Reid – Down The Road Of Love – 7″ (Alston)

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The Meters – Hey Pock-a-way – 7″ (Sansu)
Eddie Palmieri – Pa La Ocha Tambo – Live At Sing Sing Vol. 1 (Tico)
Dj Lengua – Perdido – Cruzando (Club Unicornio)
Headnodic feat. Gift of Gab & Lateef the Truth Speaker – Noddy By Nature – 5″ (Brick)

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Sly & the Family Stone – Can’t Strain My Brain – Small Talk (Epic)
Harry Ray – Ride Your Pony Girl – 7″ (All Platinum)
Tim Maia – Reu Confesso – Tim Maia (1974) (Polydor)
Roy Ayers – Keep On Walking – Everybody Loves The Sunshine (Polydor)
24 Carat Black – I’ll Never Let You Go – Gone: The Promises of Yesterday (Numero)

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The Packers – Pure Soul – Hole In The Wall (Pure Soul)
Myron & E with the Soul Investigators – It’s A Shame – 7″ (Timmion)
Barbara Greene – I Should Have Treated You Right – 7″ (Renee)
The Flamin’ Groovies – Evil Hearted Ada – Teenage Head (Kama Sutra)
Magic Sam – I Feel So Good (I Wanna Boogie) – West Side Soul (Delmark)

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{closing theme} Kenny Baker – Mississippi Waltz – Plays Bill Monroe (County)

Archie Shepp – Attica Blues/Steam
Archie Shepp – Blues For Brother George Jackson

When earlier this week Troy Davis was executed in Georgia, despite some serious doubts in his case, I knew that I would be starting off this week’s show with a comment about it and some songs in honor of Troy and others who remain on Death Row despite the distinct possibility of their innocence.  Without even having to go through my records, this one immediately came to mind (in fact, this record was unshelved in a pile of records by my shelfs, and the record in front of it had fallen down, as if the record itself wanted to draw my attention to it).  Archie Shepp recorded Attica Blues in 1972 in the wake of one of the darkest periods in the history of the American penal system, the Attica Prison Riots of 1971.  The song remains an indictment of not simply the prison system, but more particularly the injustices that arise from inequality in the larger society, something that is most reflected in the people we incarcerate and execute, who are disproportionately poor and men of color. Musically, “Attica Blues” is perhaps the closest thing to a “riot” in sound that’s ever been recorded, the heavy rhythm churns out from the start, strings add this almost spine-tingling tension, and then when the voices, horns and percussion join together, it sounds literally like an explosion. Thrilling, enthralling and almost frightening all at the same time, the song sounds like nothing else I can think of, truly unique.

In addition to the music and the beyond passionate vocals from Henry Hull, Joshie Armstead and Albetine Robinson, there is a short recitation that follows the chorus from much revered lawyer William Kunstler, perhaps best known as one of the lawyers from the Chicago 8.

Only when Nature doesn’t take it’s natural toll, am I worried with the Human Soul,
Some people think that they are in their rights, when on command they take a black man’s life,
Well, let me give a rundown on how I feel, if it ain’t natural, then it ain’t real,
I wish I were better…

Something about that “I wish I were better” line has always haunted to me, in light of Troy Davis’ execution it makes me think of the legal system and the zeal with which so many Americans still seem to suport the death penalty, even though, as appears to be the case here, we have undoubtedly put to death innocent people…for them and for Mr. Davis, I wish we were better…

“Attica Blues” is mixed on the album to flow directly into “Steam” a song that, lyrically, perplexed me for a long time, until I found out that Archie Shepp’s brother’s nickname was “Steam”.  The song is dedicated to him, a victim of violence, and I’d rank it as one of the most beautiful compositions of Shepp’s career as well as one of the most touching tributes I’ve ever heard.

Also included is a tribute to “Soledad Brother” George Jackson (born 70 years ago today), who’s killing in August of 1971 sparked the riots at Attica a month later.  “Blues for Brother Jackson” is a 20+ strong big band instrumental with a fiercely funky backdrop provided by Beaver Harris (drums), Walter Davis (piano) and Roland Wilson (bass).  Along with the other material on the album, much of it written by Cal Massey along with Shepp & Harris, it serves as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done in order to make sure that “every man [can] walk this earth on equal conditions, [and] every child could do more than just dream of the stars.”

Peace be with you all,

Michael

The Magnificent Four – You’ve Got Me

Of all the songs it was my pleasure to play on Sunday for the Wardell Quezergue tribute, it is this one that sticks in my mind the most of all. I’m always amazed at the extraordinary quality of “previoulsy unissued” tracks. This is something that was likely recorded in 1971 and might have been heard only a few times until it was finally reissued on this 2006 collection by Grapevine, the title of which refers back to the chorus of this sweet soul song. In some ways I can understand why a song like this wouldn’t have been issued in the 1970s. It doesn’t sound quite like a finished song. More like a demo, with a largely stripped down sound out of step with many of the lush orchestrations already making their way into the sweet soul sound of the time. Additionally, the quality is not top notch, it’s clear that the source had begun to deteriorate over the years, but still thank God this song made it through the years and someone had the good sense to release it even with the imperfections.

There are so many things to love in this song, that stripped down sound and that slight bounce to the beat, the flat out fantastic lyrics and singing. I keep thinking that this must be a cover, no song this good, could be an original and be almost completely lost to time, but I can’t find another song with that “Strung Out, Wrapped Up, Chained & Bound” chorus.  Beyond the fantastic chorus, there’s just a great sentiment throughout and when the lead sings the line, “You’re just the missing piece of the puzzle to make my life complete” with that falsetto on “complete,” my heart just melts.

One of the biggest drawbacks of getting music digitally these days is the lack of all the information from liner notes and the like, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s not a lot of info about this group. The sound reminds me of the Penny & the Quarters  lost soul gem “You & Me” that Numero unearthed and Ryan Gosling immortalized in Blue Valentine. That kind of exposure eventually led to Numero tracking down the group’s members. I doubt there will be a similar story for the Magnificent Four, but I still wanted to do my part and bring this exceptional bit of sweet soul to as many people as I can for as long as I can.

Still a little in disbelief that I actually played the Game of Thrones parody song “Damn It Feels Good To Be A Lannister” to start the show, but what can I say, I love that show and was really pulling for Tyrion Lannister aka Peter Dinklage to win an Emmy for the role, and lo and behold he won! So, looks like the song is correct. The rest of the first hour features a lot of new music, brand new Wild Flag (featuring Mary Timony from Helium and Carrie & Janet from Sleater Kinney), Atlas Sound, Robin Hannibal of Quadron, AM & Shawn Lee, Staff Benda Bilili, and a few other choice cuts before we paid tribute to Wardell Quezergue in the whole second hour. This was actually one of the most difficult tributes I’ve done, just because Qeuzergue was involved with so many records, sometimes listed under his full name, sometimes as DC Wardell, The Big Q and several other aliases. Also, since a lot of his work was arranging it didn’t always turn up on the printed labels, but I think I was able to choose the 20+ best tracks from his catalog, including some of the biggest songs he was associated with “Mr. Big Stuff,” “Groove Me” and “Misty Blue” plus some truly dynamite soul numbers that most people don’t know about, like personal favorites from Smokey Johnson, Robert Parker and Gus “The Groove” Lewis. Quezergue tribute begins right at the beginning of the second hour, enjoy the tunes and say a prayer from “the Teacher”…

Melting Pot on KPFK #56: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #56: Second Hour

Playlist: 9-18-2011

{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – 7” (Stax)

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Connor Shields & Teague Case – Damn It Feels Good To Be A Lannister – Single (Youtube)
Corinithian Singers – Why? (It’s A Shame) – Boddie Recording Co. (Numero)
Hawthorne Headhunters – Teleport – Myriad Of Now (Plug Research)
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou – Egni Miton? Nin Mi Na Wa Gbin – The 1st Album / Funky Rob Way (Analog Africa)

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Googoosh – Pishkesh – Googoosh (Finders Keepers)
AM & Shawn Lee – City Boy – Celestial Electric (ESL)
Robin Hannibal – Transit – Bobby EP (Plug research)
Atlas Sound – Te Amo – Parallax (4ad)
Astrobal – Message from Kobe8 – Poetry & Science Fiction (Plug Research)

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Wild Flag – Endless Talk – Wild Flag (Merge)
Sebadoh – Junk Bonds – Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock (Sub Pop)
Staff Benda Bilili – Avramandole – Tres Tres Fort (Crammed Discs)
Ajit Singh feat. Asha Bhosle – Main Akeli Raat Jawan – Sitar Beat Vol. 2 (Guerilla Reissues)
Superstar Quamallah & Deqawn – Manhattan Reflections – Talkin’ All That Jazz (Brick)
Wardell & the Sultans – Dance Time – 7” (Imperial)

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Royal Dukes of Rhythm – The Flirt – Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Frisco Records Story (Ace)

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Royal Dukes of Rhythm – My Heavy Load – Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Frisco Records Story (Ace)
Wardell & the Sultans – I’m Broke – 7” (Imperial)
Earl King – Trick Bag – 7” (Imperial)
The Dixie Cups – Iko Iko – Iko Iko (Red Bird)
Professor Longhair – Big Chief Pt. 1 – 7” (Watch)
Gentleman June Gardner – Hot Seat – Bustin’ Out (Emarcy)

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Jean Knight – Mr. Big Stuff – Mr. Big Stuff (Stax)
Robert Parker – Let’s Go Baby (Where The Action Is) – 7” (NOLA)
Smokey Johnson – I Can’t Help It – 7” (NOLA)
Bonnie & Sheila – You Keep Me Hanging On – 7” (King)
The Unemployed – They Won’t Let Me – 7” (Cotillion)
The Gaturs – Yeah You’re Right, You Know You’re Right – 7” (Gatur)

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Ruben Bell – Superjock – 7” (Alarm)
Irma Thomas – She’s Taken My Part – 7” (Cotillion)
Gus Lewis – Let The Groove Move You – 7” (Tou-sea)
Robert Parker – Get Ta Steppin’ – 7” (Island)
Jean Knight – Do Me – 7” (Stax)
Gentleman June Gardner – It’s Gonna Rain – 7” (Emarcy)

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King Floyd – Groove Me – 7” (Chimneyville)
Dorothy Moore – Misty Blue – Misty Blue (Malaco)
Charles “Soul” Brown – Standing On The Outside – 7” (NOLA)
The Magnificent Four – You’ve Got Me – Strung Out: The Malaco Sessions (Grapevine)

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{closing theme} Smokey Johnson – It Ain’t My Fault Pt. 1 – 7” (NOLA)

John Klemmer – Free Soul
John Klemmer – My Heart Sings
John Klemmer – Children Of The Earth Flames

I’m not sure exactly why, but it took me what seemed like FOREVER to track down another copy of this LP. I’d originally come across a copy at Groove Merchant in 1999 and parted ways with that copy during my big sell-off in 2004. Pretty much that entire time I’d been digging for another copy, only finding the cheapo budget reissue, but never this version. Eventually I just had to stalk Ebay to try and find a decently priced copy which I recently did. I don’t think this is a particularly rare record, but over the last 6+ years I never saw another copy. While it may not be super rare, and lord knows I’ve seen seemingly every other record Klemmer record in bins across the country, it is a super good LP, and that might be part of the reason you don’t see it around too often.

Like a lot of LPs on the Cadet Concept record label from this period of time, Blowin’ Gold straddles a number of scenes with an eye on hippie-fied consumers. It features a couple of well-known covers (“Hey Jude” and Hendrix’s “Third Stone From The Sun”) and a rather lovely sign of things to come in the ballad “My Love Has Butterfly Wings”, but it’s the psychedelic tracks that kept me on the lookout for this LP for so long. In addition to Klemmer on Saxophone, this record features a crack rhythm section with Phil Upchurch on bass and Morris Jennings on drums, Richard Thompson on some very game piano and organ throughout and a true under-rated master, Pete Cosey on electric guitar. Cosey just about takes over on the über-heavy “My Heart Sings” even with his guitar pushed down in the mix. With the drums and organ pounding away, Klemmer skwaking out his notes, Cosey’s guitar still screams out of the right side of the speakers in all kinds of fuzzy distorion, at times not even sounding like a guitar, but more like an additional skronking saxophone. Soooooooooooo very heavy, I can almost forgive him for the truly silly 1960s spoken introduction.

Speaking of heavy, “Free Soul” is such a bad ass jam. It seems like a pretty conventional soul-jazz number for about 10 seconds, then Klemmer lets loose with those epic trilling notes that just sound like a great Hip-Hop break while at the same time sounding like no one would put that passage in a break (well, maybe the ending more so than the horn part). Without a doubt one of my all-time favorite left-field funk jazz tracks, especially at the end when everything falls away and we’re left with those ominous keyboard tones from Thompson. Klemmer’s playing is probably at it’s best here, another track that reminds me a bit more of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, as Klemmer lays out layers of notes, occassionally mumbling, shouting or screaming around and through his sax.

Now that I think of it, it’s funny, but when I hear “Children Of The Earth Flames” I don’t see Klemmer at all, instead in my mind I literally see Rahsaan playing this tune. I know that Klemmer’s playing gets compared to ‘Trane’s all the time, but here he seems more inspired by Rahsaan and Eddie Harris, especially with the electric effects on his horn. The playing at the start of this song sounds almost like two separate horns playing in tandem, which is likely while it immediately reminds me of Rahsaan, along with it’s off the wall funkiness.

I’ve never been able to get into Klemmer’s other work, after the aural freakouts of this LP they all just seem too pedestrian. This is one of those records that is so good, you wish there was more of this sound. Knowing what I know about recording techniques around this time, it’s actually very likely that there’s a reel-to-reel full of alt-takes and unreleased tracks just sweating away in some Chicago basement. Until someone discorvers them, I’m just thankful that I was able to get reunited with this album.

Cheers,

Michael

Quantic – Cuidad Del Swing

I’m not sure that I agree with the title “Best Of” for this collection of music from the first 10 years of recordings from Will Holland aka Quantic. It’s not that the music on the collection isn’t fantastic. Much of it is (as a “Best Of” I think they could have condensed the best of the best tracks into a single disc, but that’s just me), but Quantic is a very young musician. In the last several years he’s released some of his best work (particularly Tradition In Transition with his Combo Barbaro) and it’s very likely that his best is yet to come…if that’s the case, will they just have Vol. 2 in another 5 – 10 years? Or will it be, “The Even Better Best” of Quantic? No matter what, as long as Holland keeps releasing stellar tracks like I’ll keep listening and playing his music, and so should you.

foto © Jacob Blikenstaff

An under-rated though very appreciated (for those who know) legend passed away recently, Wardell Quezergue, one of several architects of the New Orleans soul sound, passed at 81. I’m in the process of planning a big tribute set for the Sept. 18th show when Melting Pot returns to the KPFK airwaves, but for the time being here’s 5 of my favorite Quezergue related songs, a couple of which I only had the faintest hint he was involved in until recently.

Smokey Johnson – I Can’t Help It

This isn’t just one of my favorite Quezergue related productions, it’s one of my single favorite soul instrumentals of ALL-TIME!!! There’s probably not a single song that I love to finger snap and soul clap on the beat to than this one with those the drum patterns and that rhythm…lord that rhythm! Just pure magic to dance to.

Robert Parker – Barefootin’

One of the breeziest NOLA soul songs, the first big hit on Quezergue’s NOLA label. I’m more partial to the flipside “Where The Action Is” but y’all already know that and it’s real hard to deny what a joy it is dance to this gem.

Dorothy Moore – Misty Blue

I’ve heard this song literally hundreds of times, it’s one of my faves and one of my wife’s all-time favorites, but I only just realized that the gorgeous arrangement that, along with Moore’s great vocals, lifts this one into legendary status was arrainged by none of other than Mr. Q.

King Floyd – Groove Me

It’s UNBELIEVABLE to me that ANYONE would hear this song and think, “Yeah, we’re gonna pass…” but that’s exactly what Atlantic Records did on this single, so Quezergue and gang put it out on their record label Chimneyville and it promptly became a big-time hit and later on Atlantic came crawling back. This one is from a pretty legendary session at Malaco studios in Alabama that also yielded Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff” maybe the biggest song Quezergue ever had a hand in. “Groove Me” is another all-time favorite of my, just a total smile inducing soul song with some of the best sentiments around love you’ll find in an upbeat mover of a song.

Smokey Johnson – It Ain’t My Fault

Another Smokey Johnson instrumental, with it’s opening drum lines, it just screams second line, the piano melody is a New Orleans staple, and one that’s been sampled a few times which Quezergue only recently got a settlement around. So much soul…Thank you Teacher!

{Congrats to the winner Dalia P!!!}

Nacional records, one of the best independent labels focus on Latin Alternative music is holding a showcase here in LA at the Music Box on Friday, September 9th. Featured on the stage will be Bostich + Fussible of the Nortec Collective, Los Amigos Invisibles and one of the best MCs in any language Ana Tijoux! If you want a chance to win tickets e-mail me at michael[at]meltingpotblog.com by 12noon Friday!!!

Ana Tijoux

Los Amigos Invisbles

Bostich+Fussible

Been looking forward to this show for a while, first “regular” version of Melting Pot in almost a whole month. Lots and lots and lots of new music, including new tunes from Dum Dum Girls, Atlas Sound, Headnodic, Veronica Falls, Total Babe, 9th Wonder feat. Phonte and then a bunch of amazing reissues, Googoosh out of Iran, Ilaiyaraaja out of India, Funky Rob out of Ghana and Zdenez Liska out of Czech Republic. It’s gonna be a couple weeks til we have another show, because next week there is a 9/11 10th Anniversary special going on all day, so enjoy this one until Sept. 18th!

Melting Pot on KPFK #55: First Hour
Melting Pot on KPFK #55: Second Hour

Playlist: 09-04-2011

{opening theme} Booker T & the MGs – Melting Pot – Melting Pot (Stax)

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The Minutemen – This Ain’t No Picnic – Double Nickels On The Dime (SST)
Veronica Falls – Bad Feeling – 7” (Slumberland)
Pollyn – Ay Ya Ya Ya (Forever In My Hands) – Living In Patterns (Self-released)
Os Ritmistas – Samba De Pacto – Oi! A Nova Musica Brasileira! (Mais Um Discos)
The Stepkids – Shadows On Behalf – The Stepkids (Stones Throw)

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Los Ecos – La Fuga Del Bandido – Peligro…Ritmo Explosivo (FTA)
Ilaiyaraaja – Ponnana Neram feat. S. Janaki – Solla Solla (B-Music/Finders Keepers)
Dum Dum Girls – Bedroom Eyes – Only In Dreams (Sub Pop)
Real Estate – Out Of Tune – 7” (True Panther)
Low – Over The Ocean – The Curtain Hits The Cast (Vernon Yard)

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A.C. Jones & the Atomic Aces – Oh Baby – Boddie Recording Co.: Cleveland Ohio (Numero)
The Bandana Splits – My Love – Mr. Sam Presents The Bandana Splits (Boy Scout)
Hunx & His Punx – Bad Boy – Too Young To Fall In Love (Hardly Art)
Serge Gainsbourg – Black And White – Comic Strip (Polydor)
Chain & the Gang – For Practical Purposes (I Love You) – Music’s Not For Everyone (K Records)
Quantic – New Morning – The Best Of Quantic (Tru Thoughts)

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Googoosh – Shekayat – Googoosh (Finders Keepers/B-Music)
9th Wonder feat. Phonte & Median – Band Practice Pt. 2 – The Wonder Years (It’s A Wonderful World)
Stevie Wonder – Hey Love – Down To Earth (Motown)
Devon Williams – Revelations – Euphoria (Slumberland)
Total Babe – You’ll See – Daytrotter Sessions (Daytrotter.com)

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Atlas Sound – Terra Incognita – Parallax (4ad)
Zdenek Liska – Aquatic Babicak – Mala Morska Vila (B-Music/Finders Keepers)
Amon Tobin – Lost & Found – Isam (Ninja Tune)
Robin Hannibal –Voltaire – Bobby EP (Plug Research)

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Headnodic – Dirty Diamonds – Red Line Radio (Brick)
Rob – More – Funky Rob Way/1st Album (Analog Africa)
AM & Shawn Lee – Promises Are Never Far From Lies – Celestial Electric (ESL)
Katalyst feat. Stephanie McKay – Day Into Night – Deep Impressions (BBE)

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{closing theme} Dungen – C. Visar Vagen – Tio Batar (Kemado)

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