Saturday, January 28, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jan 25/06

Nostalgia is a funny thing. I couldn’t help but think about the selectivity of what's revived and what's not when playing one of the rump-shakingest tracks on last week’s show, by Nymoba et Kamale Dynamique from the recently reissued compilation of his early 80s work. Its’ fatback bassline provides more conviction in the bottom end than most soukous would by the end of the decade. I wonder how much more soukous would be complimented by contemporary DJ mixers with their tremendous EQ possibilities. Nowadays, you could boost the entire bass shelf at the flick of switch, which tended to be deficient in the original recordings (though not this one…)

Nyboma is now a singer with the highly popular Kekele, an acoustic, nostalgic group reviving the lovely sounds of Congolese rumba. The Kamale Dynamique stuff represented a sea change in Afro-pop that replaced the rumba sound in the first place. For many years, soukous ruled the roost, then big-beat club oriented tunes in the wake of Mory Kante’s million-selling “Yeke Yeke” upped the ante, the tempos, and the electronics. With the success of Buena Vista Social Club in the 1990s, many labels began to encourage nostalgic and acoustic sounds from around the world that came around full circle with Kekele, and revived the careers of Orchestra Baobab, Bemebeya Jazz and many others.

Stern’s, the best African label on the planet, is having it both ways: they’re responsible for both Kekele’s and Kamale Dynamique’s releases. So you can choose your Nyboman pleasure: Mr. White Suit or the ‘back in the even earlier day’ version. Soukous is ripe for revival – the twenty-year statute of limitation for nostalgia has come and gone, and far less worthy stuff from the 80s has gotten its due.

Here’s last week’s playlist:

fringe bananas - carsick (drip audio)
fall in fall out - biosphere (touch)
helicopter de cristal - lucky dragons (pregnancy series)
love theme - robert stillman (mill pond)
clubland - david buchbinder (indie)
mizrab - gabor szabo rmx. by prefuse 73 (impulse)
urban practice - dell & flugel (laboratory instinct)
mr. right now - apollo nove (crammed)
set sweet no worries - eccodek (indie)
garden of light in the shade of grey - dub gabriel (azra)
i can't take that - brother resistance (victory world)
nandeha izahay homaly - donne roberts (indie)
sure know how to love me - darondo (ubiquity)
apurate - lebron brothers (nascente)
som, sangue e raza - antonio carlos e jocafi ( strut)
the ghetto 74 - leroy hutson (curtom)
double double - nyboma et kamale dynamique (sterns)
shout at the disco - little scotty (p & p)
ginnigong miser - bobby ellis and the professionals meet the revolutionaries (third world)
yes yes yes - errol 'flabba' holt (blood and fire)
woman of the ghetto dub - phyllis dillon (question) - great link...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jan 18/06

One of the best things about broadcasting from a campus community station are the unexpected moments. Last week, I was wondering how I was going to start the show when I spotted a new disc by Assif Tsahar on his Hopscotch label just lying around on top of the new release rack. Pretty much everything this Ayler-influenced saxman and bass clarinetist does is worth listening to, and to see him in a trio with heavyweights Hamid Drake and Cooper-Moore grabbed my attention. The disc didn't disappoint, and it set the pace for the first hour. That's something that just doesn't happen with Internet radio, which so often is some guy at home with his MP3s. I love the endless surprises of a CD archive in the multiple tens of thousands.

Another little vignette occurred when blasting the extremely fine Barrington Levy reissue (unsurprisingly called Barrington Levy In Dub) when Devon (aka "the Producer" from Reggae Riddims) exclaimed "Now that's REAL dub!!". Which it is, of course, but it his reaction echoes the liner notes which remark that these super-rare dubs of Levy's dawn-of-dancehall riddims were intended for a domestic, not foreign audience. No chiming clocks, barking dogs or stereo boinging - just subtle spatial efx, waves of EQ modulation and echo to julienne your speakers. Auralux does a tremendous job with their remasters, and the high end of this disc is just brilliant. Sure it's only 33 minutes long, but well worth it.

Here's the playlist:

ducong the sea cow - assif tsahar/cooper-moore/hamid drake (hopscotch)
hymn - andy haas/don fiorino (revenant)
to live - drumheller (rat-drifting)
mulume - basokin (crammed)
jesu ohun - gangbe brass band (world village)
superstructure - dell and flugel (laboratory instinct)
niedrige decken - jaki liebezeit/burnt friedman (nonplace)
au feu - the hummers (sisyphus)
radio caca - jackson and his computer band (warp)
nalubale - samite (triloka)
jabuticaba - celso machado (festival)
little ricco's theme - bobby vince paunetto (rsvp)
rush hour in hong kong - louie ramirez (vampisoul)
mehbooba mehbooba - kronos quartet (nonesuch)
ay bembe - nova lima (mr. bongo)
gafiera universal - banda black rio (rca)
wir wissen nicht - binder & kriegelstein rmx. by shantel (essay)
so jah says - jah beng (strictly roots)
oriental style - bush chemists (ROIR)
trod with jah dub - barrington levy (auralux)
i'm just a girl - hortense ellis (soul jazz)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Thymeless Reggae World

Spent some quality time last night at Thymeless, downtown Toronto's home base for sweet reggae sounds. As usual DJ Chocolate and Patrick Roots delivered a wicked variety of old and new sounds, cultural and uplifting all the way. Special guests included MC Kalmplex and local legend Chester Miller, sounding like Dennis Brown overtop the murderously loud soundsystem which is Thymeless' trademark. Another special selecta was representing Treajah Isle Records on Eglinton West, a community institution of reggae retail.

Part of the reason reggae events are so much fun these days is that cultural reggae (as opposed to dancehall which is a totally different story) is so strong in Toronto these days. Last year in particular was very strong. Solid to excellent albums were released by Truths and Rights, Odel, and the Dream Band. The combination of quality artists, well-promoted releases through community radio and online, and a few obliging venues has renewed the infrastructure of reggae in this city.

Oh yeah, go check out the Canadian Reggae World sponsored reggae summit at Harbourfront's Kuumba festival on Sat Feb 4.
Twenty plus years ago, reggae looked like it was going to be an important force in Toronto's music scene. The Bamboo was arguably the freshest club of the "original" Queen St. W. scene. Talented expats like Leroy Sibbles and Jackie Mittoo were cornerstones of the community, new bands abounded (including Truths and Rights), dub poetry was particularly strong in this city, and reggae shows at the Palais Royale and the Masonic Temple/Concert Hall were frequent and well attended. The relatively new NOW magazine and CKLN radio were major champions of the music. In short, these were heady times and seemed to signal the maturation of the Jamaican artistic community within. This era is chronicled in Klive Walker's Dubwise.

Then it declined in the mid 90s. There has never been a major reggae record label to come out of Toronto, and important promoters like Lance Ingleton and Jones and Jones did less work as the nineties progressed. Alternative print media turned away from reggae, although the Metro Word began publication around this time. Reggae was no longer as hip as it used to be, and the rise of hip hop and club culture in this city became the main alternatives to rock. Community radio stations kept the pace, with CIUT coming on board by the late 80s and CHRY serving an important local community around York University. Bands simply were not as popular as they used to be and there were fewer venues.

The current resurgence is due to DJ culture and the internet. Since dub made a major impact about 10 years ago, DJs became at least as important as bands in terms of getting people out. Nights like Superheavyreggae and Dub and Beyond are fundamental to the current goings-on. As well, new entrepreneurs have learned from the past and are more organized and media-savvy than ever.

With that in mind, Canadian Reggae World is a much-needed portal to all sorts of reggae activities. Just a glance at February's "Reggae Around Toronto" calendar shows the frequency of live activity. I had the great pleasure of finally meeting the site's webmaster, JuLion, last night, along with dub poet Michael St. George, and we all commented on the strength and diversity of reggae in Toronto these days. It's a mix of local, international, uptown, downtown, old, new, dub, roots and dancehall all blended together - and Thymeless brings it all together in fine style.

By the way, make sure to check out CRW's Reggae Summit on Feb. 4.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jan 11/06

Greetings folks-

It's fitting to get my playlist archive started with the first show of the new year. The Abstract Index radio show can be heard at CIUT 89.5 FM in Toronto, from 6 to 8 PM on Wednesday nights except the first week of the month which is devoted to the Audible Woman.

This was my 2005 roundup. I'm happy that it was much more of a free for all than a bunch of ranked categories. I participated in those types of lists here and here. When I'm doing this show, I'm always more likely to go for an improvised free-for-all than a sober, highly organized recap of the major events of the last year. It's about capturing the flavour of last year.

The first part of the show was a more aggressive, improvised mix. One of my favourite tracks in any genre this year opened up the show - a 15 minute avant-second line barnstormer (thanks Nate for the recommendation). There were also three tunes which featured great turntablism, perhaps no better than in the Tetrault/Yoshihide track. Yoshihide played on my favourite improvised disc of the year, too - ROVA's "Electric Ascension".

The latter part of the show was funkier. Still, I wasn't able to get to any Latin stuff (favourite disc, and airplay champ of the AI for 2005: Los Pleneros De La 21) or any funk for that matter. At least there was room for a couple of balkan beats tracks, another big obsession of last year. And Konono No. 1 was one of the most interesting crossover successes of last year: look for Congotronics 2 to be just as massive. I'd love to see a Congotronics bandwagon effect happen in the same way Afrobeat blew up.

Thanks once again for listening and for all the calls. It's a privilege to do this. Here's the playlist:

3 on 2 - the respect sextet (roister)
musicians and animals - rob clutton (rat-drifting)
live at wfmu - keith fullerton whitman/greg davis (carpark)
wond - mat maneri (thirsty ear)
lyon no. 1 - martin tetrault/otomo yoshihide (ambiences magnetiques)
bandung - alex von schlippenbach/aki takase/dj illvibe (leo)
drift in groves of bamboo - nilan perera (synaptic circus)
mr. panhuysen - laconnor (drip audio)
synthesizers east of siam - unknown (from radio pnohm penh, sublime frequencies)
drewslate - claudia quintet (cuneiform)
dark secrets - david murray quartet with strings (justin time)
naam - christy azuma and uppers international (soundway)
tp colour cafe - konono no. 1 (crammed)
love child - mei tei sho (jarring effects)
mamo - shukar collective (riverboat)
inel inel de aur - rona hartner/dj click/shantel (essay)
poor man struggle - ranking joe (m)
african dub - twilight circus/michael rose (m)
song of sharing - nazarenes (hearbeat)
rub a dub - sugar minott (auralux)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Living In North America – James Brown at Casino Rama

Well, better late than never on this…

Last weekend, James Brown made his third Toronto-area appearance of the last 2 years. He played Casino Rama, somewhat north of the city. The show was more than a little surreal - I’d never been to a casino, let alone see my all time favourite recording artist play one.

According to MC Danny Ray we were in Toronto, not Rama, Ontario. Sure Toronto has its urban sprawl, but a 2 ½ hour drive through rush hour traffic and snow goes beyond even the most generous definitions of the Greater Toronto Area.

JB’s been playing casinos since his late-60s Frank Sinatra aspirations (check out Live At The Apollo Vol 2). Of course, the funk has proven to be his legacy and this was likely the most physically demanding show most Rama patrons are ever likely to see. And this was no Vegas funk, it’s the real thing.

Anyone who’s seen JB since 1975, when he billed himself as ‘The Man Who Never Left’, will come out of a show thinking “he’s still got it”, even at age 72. His diction, phasing and overall lung power are still there, he’s light on his feet and has more skill with mic stand acrobatics than David Lee Roth and Prince put together.

His fashion sense is still… his own. His emerald green tux reminded me of an Andy Williams Christmas special I saw last month, right down to the booties. By the second song, he was already sweating hard. My wife Sarah remarked that “does the show end when his sweat stains meet in the middle of his shirt?”. This turned out to be a pretty good estimate.

The current band is the Soul Generals, and featured 2 drummers, bass, tenor sax/trumpet/alto sax, a Neil Peart sized percussion array, and remarkably, 4 guitarists. Sometimes all the guitarists played in unison, but “Doing It To Death” delivered at least 3 interlocking parts that pushed it into King Sunny Ade territory. The Soul Gs don’t sport any stars from back in the day, but lead hornsman Jeff Watkins was very good, adapting Maceo’s style with some interesting harmonic choices. James isn’t singing as much as he used to, so Watkins got a lot of minutes off the bench.. He doesn’t insist on being the multi-instrumentalist of years past, but took a few turns on a thin-sounding Hammond patch on what appeared to be a Yamaha DX7. If this were a funk nouveau band like something in the Daptone orbit, you know there’d be a real Hammond bound in rich Corinthian leather on stage. But this was just one of the many touches that proved he’ll never answer to analog fetishists who would rather see him impersonate his peak period of the 60s and early 70s.. Debris from every decade since the 50s swept up into the James Brown revue, from dance routines to astrology references to 80s-vintage equipment. The pacing is still a huge factor. Would a contemporary funk band stop the show cold for a moment of silence in honour of Lou Rawls? Would there be extended (admittedly less compelling than decades past) jazz and blues setpieces to vary the tempo? All the gear-shifting by the band and backing vocalists made the funk hit harder.

Casino Rama’s entertainment facility is very well appointed, and the mix, sightlines and psychoactive light show contributed favorably to the overall vibe. JB gutted it out for almost an hour and a half, although there was no encore. We were left to contemplate this ad-lib from “Living in America”: “Canada, the United States, you know, it’s all America – North America!” Sir John A. is doing the boogaloo in his grave.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Introducing myself...

It's time to join 2 billion other blogs. But really, this one's gonna be different.

My name is David. I live in Toronto. This blog is going to discuss music for the most part. Toronto has been an incalculable influence on my musical, political and epicurean sensibility - that's what happens when you live in a ridiculously multicultural city for most of your life.

I've got outlets for writing and DJing. You can find examples of the former at Exclaim magazine, where I am an assistant editor covering soul, jazz, reggae/dub, non-idiomatic improv (Derek Bailey RIP) and global sounds. I have issues with regard to 'world music' and I'm sure there will be many a post devoted to exploring them. I host a radio show at CIUT-FM, heard Wednesdays from 6-8 PM Eastern time (except the first Wednesday of the month). It's an open format show, but my tastes always run to heavy polyrhythmic sounds - whether you can dance to them or just flail along to the sonic intensity. Part of the purpose of this blog is to serve as an archive for my playlists from the radio show. I DJ live as well. I play dub in all its forms; whether it's Jamaican or techno or a slapback echo gone wrong, it's my mission to trace a journey from the effects rack of the studio to your synapses.

If you would like to join my email list, please contact me.

I hope you find this blog interesting (if not this post).