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Pirate Radio Returns

Playlist by Tim Maughan
Illustration by Jasjyot Singh Hans

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The songs that inspired, infused, or otherwise infected Tim Maughan’s prescient debut novel Infinite Detail.

In Infinite Detail author Tim Maughan imagines the moments just before the near-future total collapse of the Internet, as well as its aftermath. For our newsletter, he lamented the bygone era of pirate radio in the UK which inspired the novel. We asked him to share the soundscapes that stirred the story’s eerie and all-too-real imagined alternate reality. This is Tim’s soundtrack to the “Before” and “After” of Infinite Detail.


1. Special Request: “Soundboy Killer”

2. Special Request: “Capsules”
Released around the same time I started Infinite Detail, Paul Woolford’s Special Request Soul Music album became a defacto soundtrack for writing the book. Pitchfork called it ‘a striking debut album that captured the golden age of UK pirate radio and rave culture as though preserving it in amber’ which sums it up prfetty well. It encapsulated, for me, a very personal struggle between nostalgia and looking forward when it came to music, that ended up being a sub-plot of Infinite Detail, albeit concentrated and exaggerated by being set in a world where the future appears to have been cancelled.

3. Instra:mental: “No Future”
The lyrics say it all.

4. Pessimist: “Grit”
If Special Request fueled the beginning of the book, then Pessimist’s self-titled debut got me through the final rewrites. Seemingly driven by the same kind of jungle nostalgia, but resulting in wonderfully bleak dystopian Bristolian soundscapes rather than hands in the air euphoria.

5. Dillinja: “The Angels Fell”
I’ve got a long running in-joke with a friend that I’m threatening to write a horribly self-indulgent 10,000 word essay on how The Angels Fell sums up my personal aesthetics. The joke is that it really doesn’t need any words at all; just listen to how it seamlessly melds a sample from the Blade Runner soundtrack with ice-cold 1995 jungle breaks and it all makes sense.

6. PFM: “The Western”
An unashamedly nostalgic choice for me, instantly triggers rose-tinted memories of urban vistas, the mid-90s London rave scene, and recording drum and bass mixes off the radio on to C90 cassettes, that got played and played until the tape broke.

7. Peverelist: “Roll With The Punches”
The opener to the Worth The Weight: Bristol Dubstep Classics compilation and a perfect reminder that real dubstep is more about space, minimalism, and Jamaican-British sound system culture than cheap wobble bass, formulaic drops, and awful American frat-boy posturing. Death to brostep.

8. The Sabres of Paradise: “Flight Path Estate”
The track that unwittingly donated it’s title to a fictional album in Infinite Detail. Taken from an album that I’ve been listening to while writing for way too long, but somehow still sounds relevant and fresh after twenty-five years.

9. DJ Krust: “Warhead”
There’s a lot of competition, but if I was forced to pick one track that sums up Bristol to me it would be “Warhead” by DJ Krust. I cant hear it without thinking about both long walks to work in constant drizzle and rum & ganja addled stumbles through sun drenched crowds at St Paul’s Carnival. A jungle classic with the world’s greatest bass drop.

10. FSOL: “You’re Creeping Me Out”
I’ve been a Future Sound Of London fan since the very earliest days, from their Stakker Humanoid era rave classics through to their almost bloated-rockstar style descent into psychedelic prog rock. Somewhere in the middle they perfected making slo-mo, dystopian soundscapes, built around field recordings and twisted electronics. The perfect soundtrack for endless unwritten novels and unfilmed movies.

11. Underground Resistance: “Kill My Radio Station”
UR—Detroit techno’s answer to Public Enemy—deliver a furious and unapologetic attack on the corporatization of the city’s once legendary radio stations, and the damage they see them inflicting on communities. The perfect theme song for destroying the internet before it’s too late.

11. Paula Temple: “Colonized”
Usually, if you ask me what I’m listening to at anytime, I’ll reel off a list of predominately techno. Not so much when I was writing Infinite Detail—for a start I tend to leasn towards more ambient stuff when writing, plus this book called for a very specific, localized Bristol sound. One exception was Paula Temple, whose hard edged techno tracks always seemed to sneak their way onto my writing playlists.

11. Carl Craig: “Red Lights”
There’s something about Detroit techno, and especially Carl Craig’s music in particular, that encapsulates the city perfectly. It almost seems to celebrate the city’s infamous decay as something far more important than lazy ruin-porn, to recognize that collapses can also create opportunities and feed imaginations.

11. Robert Hood: “Sleep Cycle”
Look, it’s physically impossible for me to make a playlist that doesn’t include at least one track by Robert Hood. A true musical genius, he’s as important a figure in the history of minimalism as Steve Reich or Phillip Glass—it’s just he always keeps it hard, moving, futuristic, and Black.

11. Andrea Parker: “Angular Art”
Andrea Parker is one of those criminally underrated and underrepresented names - from her early obscure techno EPs through to her glitchy, electro-infused IDM she’s always seemed slightly ahead of the curve.

11. DJ Grand Wizard Theodore: “Subway Theme”
When I first moved to NYC I would just have this track on repeat as I walked and rode around the city. Listening to it now and I can’t help but see a Q train subway car bathed in light as it breaks out of the tunnel onto the Manhattan bridge, hurtling past graffiti soaked roof tops and glass encased towers. It’s nostalgia for further back too, for a childhood NYC I only knew from hip-hop magazines, spray can art books, hip-hop lyrics, and album cover artwork.

Infinite Detail book cover

Infinite Detail

MCD × FSGO, 2019

The Guardian's Pick for Best Science Fiction Book of the Year!

A timely and uncanny portrait of a world in the wake of fake news, diminished privacy, and a total shutdown of the Internet

BEFORE: In Bristol’s center lies the Croft, a digital no-man’s-land cut off from the surveillance, Big Data dependence, and corporate-sponsored, globally hegemonic aspirations that have overrun the rest of the world. Ten years in, it’s become a center of creative...

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