Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy is a highly respected and experienced musical selector and curator, founder of the album listening event and content hub Classic Album Sundays and an authority on music, sound and the vinyl renaissance.
Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy is an undeniable musical tour de force. A disco doyenne. The audio connoisseur you want in charge of your party. A curator with a deep understanding of the profound ways in which we connect with music. A sophisticated broadcaster with a velvety voice and an
enviable crate of understated gems.
Over the last 30 years Colleen has gone from being an aficionado of the NYC underground, mentored by dance music legends David Mancuso and François K, to an internationally renowned tastemaker and in-demand selector and remixer, whose events have helped to shape the cultural landscape and change the conversation. Her flagship of these is Classic Album Sundays, which turned 10 in October, and has become a global phenomenon. What started as a Sunday afternoon event in London to celebrate iconic, genre-hopping records on a high-end sound system soon erupted worldwide, and helped to pioneer the
audiophile and listening bar movement, as well as the vinyl renaissance, with a book, Classic Albums By Women, released last year. There are now CAS events across Europe, USA, Asia and Australia, at institutions such as Royal Albert Hall, The British Library, V&A Museum and Edinburgh International Fest, live streams that have blossomed during lockdown, and with special guests including Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, Jarvis Cocker, Jazzie B, Thurston Moore, KT Tunstall, Nile Rodgers, Sister Sledge and many more.
For Colleen, Classic Album Sundays was a punk-rock reaction against the diminished quality of music thanks to the download age, as well as an eclectic approach to record curation. It’s about championing the real joy behind music, the ethos that has underlined much of Colleen’s career: the art of listening. “When I founded CAS a decade ago,” she says, “it was to redress the way we listen to music in the 21st century – encouraging people to take the time out to savour an entire album, uninterrupted, and without diverting their attention to the noise of modern life.” It turns out that, despite our attention being increasingly splintered these days, many people were keen to find a “communal experience” in this way. “It tapped a cultural nerve,” Colleen says.
Key to Classic Album Sundays’ success is the rather special experience of getting to hear an album on an audiophile hi-fi sound system and discovering previously unheard details. This is an audio love affair that, for Colleen, began back in 90s New York, when she was broadcasting her popular disco/house shows on WNYU – like Manhattan’s answer to Mary Anne Hobbs – and cutting her teeth at David Mancuso’s legendary Loft. It started as a private party in 1970, long before disco music had been given
a name, and where DJ legends like Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan would find inspiration for their own clubs The Warehouse and The Paradise Garage.
Two decades later, Colleen found herself going to The Loft every week, often on her own. “It completely transformed my life,” she says of the experience. Eventually she became Mancuso’s protégé, filling in for him and even musically hosting The Loft by herself. Only a few other selectors, including François K and Larry Levan, have enjoyed such a privilege. In 2000, David told Time Out New York City, “She is very devoted and very pure about the music. She’s one of the only people I would trust, both with the music and with the equipment, to fill in for me.”
The Loft was pioneering for its inclusivity and progressive ideology, providing a safe space in which people could socialise, dance and celebrate life irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation or economic status. As evidenced by the Loft compilations David and Colleen produced for Nuphonic, the varied musical selections also pushed boundaries – “the music had all of the deep, psychedelic and emotional soul that I found in rock music, but had never heard in dance music until then,” says Colleen.
And The Loft’s ingenious sound system forever changed Colleen’s relationship with music. “It is an audiophile hi-fi rigged to perform like a club PA, but purely reproducing the music in honour of the artist’s original intent,” she explains, the result of which was crystalline sound that brought the records to life.
Colleen has brought her own eclectic musical sensibility to the international circuit as Cosmo. She toured extensively in the USA, Europe and Asia, off the back of her hugely successful radio shows – so popular worldwide they were even bootlegged in Japan! - as well as holding down guest slots at François K’s club nights, Body & Soul and Deep Space. She relocated to London in 1999 and seventeen years ago, Colleen co-founded the Lucky Cloud Loft Party with David and a non-profit team, including dance historian Tim Lawrence. They invested in a state-of-the-art audiophile sound system
modelled on Mancuso’s own and threw quarterly events called The Lucky Cloud Loft Party. Before he passed away in 2016, they’d fly Mancuso over from New York to join them. Now Colleen is a musical host at The Loft in New York City, the Lucky Cloud Loft Party and was asked by David to help
oversee his legacy.
Colleen carries the torch of her own varied musical history with her unique musical mix. As well as her Classic Album Sundays show on Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide FM, she hosts Cosmodelica, a monthly excursion “spotlighting the diversity of dance music from psychedelic rock to jazz funk to disco to house”, which has branched out into nine-hour parties at Giant Steps, festival sets at Dekmantel and Houghton and a Boiler Room, as well as a closing set with Peterson at the 2017 Worldwide Festival. She has continued to innovate through the 2020 lockdown with her Balearic Breakfast request show, where she “pushes the boundaries of what is considered ‘Balearic’, far past its more shallow representation of poolside ‘muzak’.” Broadcasting live during the pandemic, she continues, has “given
the shows more meaning both for my listeners and for myself.”
As well as celebrating CAS with a varied range of digital events and more planned for 2021, Colleen has also been stepping it up with her remixes and productions. Her 2013 take on Fat Freddy’s Drop ‘Mother Mother’ is a low-key classic and, after a break focusing on Lucky Cloud and CAS, she is back this year with a highly anticipated remix of Melbourne cosmic funk band Midlife’s track ‘Vapour’. In 2020, she was also enlisted by art-pop firebrand Róisín Murphy to remix her incendiary single ‘Murphy’s Law’.
“She’s steeped in everything that’s drawn me into house music and dance music,” Róisín, a huge Body & Soul fan, said during a joint interview between the two Murphys this year.
In that same interview, Colleen espoused the importance of dance music and club culture, with words that truly summarise what she is all about. “You can be from different walks of life and have nothing else in common except for this shared passion and this one particular song or album,” Colleen said. “It just brings people together, it’s a common language and something we really need in the world right now.” It will be exciting to see where her adventures in sound go next