The Director's Cut: London Elektricity - Building Better Worlds

Hospital head honcho London Elektricity talks us through his new album.
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Label boss of Hospital Records and the late Med School and celebrated producer London Elektricity has just released his Building Better Worlds album on his imprint today. With such an emotive, inspiring body of work, we were desperate to learn more about the release since our very first listen. Luckily enough, London Elek has agreed to share some insight into each and every track on the album, offering a deeper understanding of each track. Listen to the album below while reading London Elek's thoughts and processes for a new appreciation of Building Better Worlds, out now on Hospital Records. 

1. ‘Final View From The Rooftops’ ft. Cydnei B

The tune that nearly broke me. I wrote and recorded the backing track in 2005 when I was making the Syncopated City album. I wrote and sang a song on it and it was rubbish. Then, every time I worked with a singer/songwriter - through the Yikes and Are We There Yet album periods, I’d give them this backing tracking hoping they’d crack the nut. Abject failure. Track was shelved. 

So, for this album, out it came again, but this time I had the sense to send it to Steve Pycroft who orchestrated the London Elektricity Big Band in 2017. Within 2 hours he sent me the most amazing orchestral themes, but recorded using Sibelius, a composer’s sketch tool. I loved what he’d written, tried to write something even better and failed. So I enlisted Natus (who’s at the Royal College of Music) and his mates to replicate the parts and it sounded fantastic, but one thing was missing. A voice. I remembered my old friend Cydnei B who I went to Middlesex Polytechnic with in 1980. She’s an amazing Soprano - who specializes in extended techniques. That basically means weird stuff, like a modular singer. We had the best day in the studio - catching up on the last 26 years (don’t worry I feel young) and when she opened her gob - the gold came tumbling out - AND she could whistle the theme. Suddenly I was Ennio Morricone, and my useless sketch had become something unique and, something I’m genuinely proud of. In the context of this album, this tune represents standing on the highest point of a dying world to take a last look before you depart to built a new, and hopefully, better one.

Building Better Worlds Cover Art

Building Better Worlds Cover Art

2. ‘Build a Better World’ ft. Emer Dineen

I originally sent "Possible Worlds" to Emer and she wrote this. It didn’t fit the vibe of "Possible Worlds," but I know a brilliant song when I hear one so I isolated the vocal, plugged in my Wurlitzer EP 200 and my Fender Jazz bass and jammed on it. Throw in some liberal use of harps and Omnichord, and you have the track. It’s deceptively simple and catchy. The lyrics evoke my album title from an intensely personal point of view, and really add to the concept. Emer is one of several amazing vocalists on this album, but she lives in Balham so she’s nearest.

3. ‘Possible Worlds’ ft. Inja

Again, I wrote this track as an instrumental, guitars and North African strings and everything and went through 3 vocalists before I settled on Inja and his diatribe on what it means to him to explore possible worlds. The chorus and huge supporting vocals are by Vonne, an emerging R&B vocalist from Sydenham - a local woman who kicks hard. We had the most fun in the studio building Rotary Connection (Google it) style vibes on this. The best bit is right at the end. Oh - I don’t count a 2nd drop as an opportunity to repeat the first half. In this tune, the 2nd drop features a 64 bar synth solo. This isn’t music for DJs. it’s music for turntables and listening.

4. ‘Love Prescription’

I hinted at this with "Fast Soul Music." A kind of Salsoul / Barry White vibe - lush disco strings and full band vibes, but D&B. With this tune, I decided to mess with the formula and gave it a 12 bar structure - which, if you’re brave enough to play it out, really gets people excited, and it’s quite hard to come out of it. 12 bars are much more urgent than the usual 16 bars in D&B, and time seems to pass quicker, even if the tune is 7 mins long! This tune is me, rolling deep.

London Elektricity 

London Elektricity 

5. ‘Kubrick’s View’

If you’re a film buff you’ll know that Stanley Kubrick’s view is symmetrical and usually first person. I have no idea how that translates musically, but I kept it in my mind when I was making the tune. Several people have said this should be a Bond theme. I cannot disagree. That would make my life complete, but I doubt the Broccoli family will ever get to hear this. It’s a simple affair with a strong orchestral theme.

6. ‘Lonely Sirens’ ft. Elsa Esmeralda

YES! The return of "Just One Second" vocalist Elsa Esmeralda and a song that evokes deserts, lost highways and a kind of night time Breaking Bad feeling. Once Elsa wrote the vocal, I re-wrote the music entirely, using live Wurlitzer EP 200 and Fender Jazz bass. Elsa and I gel very well, and she has the richest vocal harmonics I’ve ever come across. This is the most cinematic track on the album for me.

7. ‘She Slowly Caught Fire’ ft. Bulgarian Goddess

Bulgarian Goddess AKA Daniela Serafimova sent me her first single and I was blown away by her 100% original writing talent and her unique voice. She then sent me 8 sketches, one of which was this. I took the vocal stems and warped them into D&B tempo and really went to town with the pitching and timing. Sent it back to Daniela, expecting a refusal, but she was into it. She got a cheap flight from Stockholm and we had 2 amazing days in the studio working on this, and "Don’t Give Up Now." This re-affirmed what I already knew, but needed reminding of. To be a producer and forming a musical bond with a vocalist is other-worldly. We built a better world with this tune, sad though the lyrical content is.

8. 'Time To Think’ ft. Inja & The Secretary-General

This was a loungecore beat. The Lady Colminator suggested that I ask Inja to write some bars for our son, The Secretary-General, aged 9. I did, and Inja, being the don that he is, agreed. He came over at half term in February with his daughter, and my son and his daughter played lego and footy for 2 hours while Inja and me wrote the verse bars and chorus respectively. We called the Sec Gen up and he nailed his part in 2 takes. Vonne came down the next day to bring life to the chorus and adlibs, and a tune we had. Sec Gen has since been performing this live at Glastonbury and Hospitality on the Beach. Remember - he’s 9 so this could well be a passing phase but it’s a good one if it is!

9. ‘I Wish You Could See It Too’ ft. Urbandawn

I wrote the mad fusion chorus first of all, in a kind of 70’s jazz fusion outburst. Then I couldn’t make a beat to go either side of it. So I called Felipe Urbandawn whose roots are in fusion, and he smashed the intro and drop. We truly gelled on this tune, and it shows what we have in common as producers and music lovers. Vonne sang the chorus I’d written brilliantly. She’s one to look out for no doubt. She was outside of her comfort zone, but smashed it as she always does. I’m opening my DJ sets with this and it goes off.

10. ‘Empty Seat at the Table’ ft. Whiney

Dedicated to my dad who died 3 years ago. When I first wrote this I got as far as the Jaco Pastorious B line and chord section, but I couldn’t progress it. Enter Whiney - he’s like the Mr Fixit in Hospital. Sent him the parts and he built a brilliant drop, sent it back and I added the percussive vocal parts and atmospherics. The result - it says nothing about my dad but who cares - he’s dead and won’t hear it anyway! Main thing - it’s a banger.

11. ‘Never Trust a Hippy’

First sketch for this album that I played in Hospitality at the Dock 2018, and it hasn’t changed that much since then. I don’t think I've quite nailed it tbh, but I wanted to represent the hippy era of 1973 and early Stevie Wonder synth production style, b2b Pat Metheny. I think I got that across, and it’s probably the simplest tune on the album in many ways.

12. ‘Well That’s a Switch’

This tune started life as "Taking Risks on a Moscow Highway" - it wasn't very good, and the best thing about it was the title. It totally changed, as tunes often do, and I ended up with what sounds like a fairly regular liquid tune that soon evolves into an orchestral workout. I'm really pleased with the thematic development and how the theme never actually repeats itself. The title came from a long list of titles I gleaned one night watching Aliens. So many good titles in that film! I almost went for "Assholes and Elbows" or "Looks Like Love at First Sight To Me" but opted for "Well That's a Switch."

13. ‘Don’t Give Up Now’

I wrote and released this in 1992 under the name of IZIT, when it was a big tune in the Acid Jazz days. I’ve always been proud of the song, as it expresses everything I feel about what it means to be a human. I’ve wanted to make a London Elek version for ages. Bulgarian Goddess was the first singer I’ve encountered who would do the tune justice, so I re-created the original at 173 and Daniela smashed her parts. It was a labor of love rebuilding the instrumental tracks, but we got there. I’m really happy to have this as the last track on the album. 

Grab the album here, out now on Hospital Records

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