[Weekly Playlist] KUU

Meet KUU. Comprised of LA-based singer/songwriter Shungudzo and Grammy-winning producers Riton and Alex Metric, KUU is a supergroup in the style of Major Lazer. This makes all the more sense since they’re signed to Diplo’s Warner Records / Higher Ground label.

Earlier this year, KUU shared their debut single “How Could I Ever,” a slow-burning slice of electronic euphoria. To date, the track has garnered over 2 million streams. They’ve recently shared the follow up, “We’ll Always Have This Dance,” which sees KUU channel the hedonistic beauty of house music’s golden age, combining soul-drenched vocals, euphoric piano chords and pumping kick drums to masterful effect.

Formed two years ago, after a lost weekend at legendary Ibiza nightspot Pikes, channeling the infamous 80s Balearic Beat scene, KUU distills the essence of this era into their music. We asked KUU to put together a playlist of songs that inspire their music. Dive in below and prepare to be transported.

Teed – Islas Canarias

Our friend Teed made an EP of ambient music to birdsong sent to him from people around the world during lockdown. This is bird sounds from the Canary Islands. Somehow bird sounds keep finding their way into the KUU tracks we’re making, so this feels like a good place to start the playlist!

Tears For Fears – Pharoahs

When first getting into house music in the late 90s I heard this in a DJ set and it blew my mind. Repurposing something like this to work in that context was something I’d never come across before, and tears for fears doing an ambient record was something I never expected. It’s a perfect sunrise / sunset track. 

Grace Jones – Slave To the Rhythm (Hot Blooded Version)

What can you say about Grace Jones other than AMAZING. She sounds sublime and the production from Trevor Horn is ridiculous. We’ve listened to this in the studio working on KUU music a lot. 

William Onyeabor – Something You Will Never Forget

William Onyeabor is one of my favorite artists of all time. He’s often described as synth-funk, which isn’t incorrect, but I’d also say that his music is totally unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. I love the sonic choices made within his music and his willingness to break production and songwriting “rules” at every turn.  His music is a great reminder that, really, there are no rules. 

Durutti Column – Otis

Released on the seminal Factory records and with early production credits from Stephen Street. This is a warm hug of a record, about as Balearic as they come. Reminds me a lot of The KLF – Madrugada Eterna (another favourite sadly not on Spotify), makes me think we need to do a KUU slide guitar record.

Bat For Lashes – Feel For You

I have been obsessed with this track for a long time now. Ticks all the boxes, great synths, quirky production and a beautiful heartfelt vocal. All the things we aspire to get into our music. We’d love to get our hands on it and do a KUU remix one day.

Jesus Loves You – Loves Gonna Let You Down

A side project from Boy George in the late 80’s / early 90s. As acid house was sweeping the UK he made an album influenced by what he was hearing. I love how fragile and up-close the vocal is and he sounds great against this production. Always a sucker for sad songs you can dance to!

Foals – Wash Off (KUU Remix)

Always a pleasure to work with the amazing Foals. We did this around the time of seminal producer Andrew Weatherall passing away, so he was in our thoughts when we made this. The records he produced have been a big influence on the project and I think you can really hear it in this. 

TSHA – Moon (Edit)

We are big fans of TSHA. The London based producer seems to be going from strength to strength at the moment. It feels warm and hopeful but has a touch of darkness to it, great emotional electronic music.

Channel Tres – Topdown

A couple friends introduced me to Channel Tres last year. “Topdown” has been a go-to song for me since then. Hailing from Compton, CA, I love how Channel Tres combines his fresh spin on dance music with sounds that are super reminiscent of the old-school LA hip hop scene. 

Dionne – Come Get My Loving

Amazing early house tune from 1989. Right at the start of KUU when I really started to get obsessed with this era of dance music this was one of the first tracks that sent me down the rabbit hole.

Nlele Kalusimbiko  Konono No1

Konono Nº1 is a group of musicians from Kinshasa, the Democratic of Congo, that builds a lot of their percussion instruments out of junkyard items. Congo has a really beautiful and diverse music scene. Also check out Petit Noir and another favorite of mine, Mbongwana Star to get to know some other great Congolese musicians. 

KUU – How Could I Ever

Our first single released earlier this year and one of the first songs we wrote together before we even knew KUU was a thing. We wrote songs together for the first year or so not knowing what it was for, but loving the process of working together and the resulting music. Based round a sample from the French artist Zaka Percussion’s 1982 record “Metis”, this is KUU in a nutshell. 

DJ Mujava – Township Funk

DJ Mujava is a South African DJ, and this song — “Township Funk” — is often credited with helping South African dance music go global. If you’re looking for new dance music, I highly recommend diving into the many phenomenal artists and unique genres that exist in SA. A new favorite of mine is Sun-El Musician. 

Patoranking – Available

Patoranking is a Nigerian artist, and this song was made alongside South African producer and DJ, DJ Maphorisa. This is the song I loop to make running feel less mundane. I love the vocal production as well — the group vocals add so much energy to the track. 

KUU – We’ll Always Have This Dance

Our brand new single and in fact the most recent track we have written together. This was created remotely between London and LA during the depths of lockdown earlier this year. It feels like a song we needed to make for this moment in time. 

Daniel Avery – Lone Swordsman

As mentioned earlier Andrew Weatherall has been a big influence on this project. When myself and Henry lived together around the time of starting KUU, the club mix of “Hallelujah” by The Happy Mondays was always getting played in our house. This track from Dan is a beautiful tribute to the great man.

Massive Attack – Unfinished Sympathy

Collectively one of our favourite records ever made. If you are making emotional electronic songs there really is no better benchmark. A beautiful song, a great vocal performance, warm and interesting  production – it’s got it all! One day we would love to have the string arranger Will Malone do something for us, his part in this track really adds a whole other dimension. 

Deep Forest – Sweet Lullaby

Another group that gets played a lot in the studio when making KUU music is Deep Forest. An awesome melting pot of synths and world music. This feels like a perfect closer to the playlist.