Thursday, March 30, 2006

This is a musical connection!

A few posts ago I wondered "what's it gonna take to bring indie rock and global sounds closer together?" Go find out tomorrow night at the Glissandro 70 release. I haven't heard the record yet, but it's billed as guitar loops meet West African polyrhythms channelled thru Arthur Russell. Considering one of the guys involved, Craig Dunsmuir, is an Toronto indie scene stalwart, and the other is my buddy Sandro Perri who comes by his Afrobrazilidelic polyrhythms honestly, I've got high hopes. To me, it's always seemed inevitable for anyone who does repetition-based music to want to expand their vocabulary by checking out other repetition-based music from around the world. Club music has been far more accepting of this in the last 10 years than rock has, but the re-release of My Life In The Bush of Ghosts harkens back to a time when it was more fashionable to mix global influences with rock rhythms. Back then, when describing groups like Savage Republic, the Contortions, Pigbag or even early Sonic Youth it used to be called it "exotic", "tribal" or "multi culti" - terms which have been almost entirely discredited now. Scenesters continue to revive music from that era, but distance themselves from its perceived cultural appropriations, and subsequent forms music which incorporates influences that aren't from around the way. Sandro, in the article in Eye Magazine, notes that "Craig's never been to Africa...(but) Craig's really good at distilling particular influences and making them his own" . And that's what you've gotta do to get out of that self-defeating "Fear Of (other) Music" (not the record store, we've all seen that clip...).

My point of view continues to be that when you're living in Toronto, you have the means to experience top quality African musicians, events and music should you choose to investigate even a little. You may never experience the context in which African pop originated, but you live in the context in which much of it is presently produced, and may subsequently travel back to Africa to become influential (the late great Tarig Abubukar is one Torontonian example). You may not get a doctorate-level education this way, but you can certainly certainly pick up on the right signifiers, and pay cover at your favourite venue instead of being accused of "appropriation".

But I digress - I can't wait to see what promises to be the only live performance of this dynamic duo tomorrow at the Tranzac. It takes a lot of people to fill up that back room, so don't sleep.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Abstract Index playlist Mar 22/06

Weather must be getting nicer... grooves are getting jollier... Exhibit A - Luiz Eca. Vampisoul has done it again, retrieving a long lost artefact of abstract Brazilian samba soul for the now generation. Apparently a company called Lazarus did it first, and that's where the attached image is from (the worst thing about the Vampisoul edition is its fuzzy artwork), but this should reach more ears.

Eca was the leader of avant-bossa masters Tamba Trio who disintegrated at about the time this album was recorded in 1970. This album features all of Eca's favourite tricks: stop-on-a-dime changes, massed voices, and ever changing grooves. These characterized the Tambas' latter years (their Samba Blim set produced by Creed Taylor has just been reissued) and this album takes several baroque steps further. Notable participants include percussionist Nana Vasconcelos at his very best, and vocalist Joyce. The album is a hyperactive blend of Eca's piano, horns, vocals and percussion with a more pronounced samba soul feel than the Tamba Trio had. This album remained unreleased until 1978, when it was originally issued in select Mexican hotels, which was the primary business of the label owner. This will be the swizzle for many summertime nights to come...

the beer mystics' last day on the planet - brain damage feat. bart plantenga (jarring effects)horns version - mapstation (scape)
peters bounce - daniels meteo (meteosound)
i'll pay my rent on the daytime nocturnal - mike shannon (scape)
poppy blush - hassle hound (staubgold)
homen da sucursal/barravento - luiz eca e la sagrada familia (vampisoul)
different paths same destination - gustavo aguilar get libre collective (circumvention)
milonga del angel - helmut lipsky/l'art du passage (eclectra)
goodbye, au revoir - tim posgate horn band (guildwood)
yekermo sew - mulatu astaque (buda musique)
love is all you need - madelaine bell (perfect toy)
soul y tierra - alexis baro (groove united)
mamadiyel - daby balde (riverboat)
tin tin deo - francisco aguabella (cubop)
it's gonna be a good day - blo (strut)
super god - som imaginario (clyde alexander and sanction (p and p) this is my 'link of the week'
dubbing is a must - dub syndicate (collision cause of chapter 3)
joe kool - mei tei sho (jarring effects)
understand this - up bustle and out (collision cause of chapter 3)
jumping master dub - mikey dread (auralux)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Underground Resistance

Just confirmed my first DJ gig of the year (jeez, almost three months gone already.... I'm slippin'). It's at Sister Ray, Kevin Hainey's PWYC noisy monthly next Tuesday at the Drake Underground. Here's the details, in Kevin's inimitable prose:

Sccisster rrayy 7: slash toronto hevvenstarring, in order of appearance:

BLUE SUNSHINE [taylor on violin/vox, her of gastric female reflex co-founding, before her departure, with jon, he aka 13 moons, also of disguises:: think folkdronemares drifting thru you]

KNURL [KNURL!! aka Pholde, for less harsh tones. ALAN FUCKING BLOOR, ladies and gentlemen. toronto's long gunning soldier of harsh creation, and recent thurd addition t' toronto's living legends, CORPUSSE., web dudes]

GRAVITONS [formerly aston/manzinani, multitalents mani m. and jill a. rake the rock scapes with harsh aggro guitar and free jazz drum ryddyms, switching up 'struments and just getting right into it. other collab projects also blossom from this highnrgy t'ronno sun]FORKTINE [the man colin hinz, a longrunnin legend of local noise-sound spontaneity, dude builds instruments "from Meccano(R) construction toy parts along with inexpensive musical instrument parts and some industrial surplus electronics". astounding sound all around. check the pic here:, and sound+ here: is going really good with this sunburned hand of the man cd-r right now]

I'm going to be spinning my version of noise: aggressive jazz, global psych, harmolonowave, and agitated electronics. See you there!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Abstract Index playlist Mar 15/06

Aaah yeah! Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid's "Exchange Session Vol. 1" has been rocking my headphones recently. This CD dares you get up with it. Both Reid and Hebden are well matched, having first collaborated on Reid's Spirit Walk. Reid's eternal deconstruction of near no-wave drum grooves are well matched with Hebden's pulsating blend of new thing jazz references and savage processing. The energy level is way, way up here and it made for a nice segue from the Full Metal Revolutionary Jazz Ensemble. The incredible trumpet work on that track was courtesy of the late great Raphe Malik, who died Mar 8.

I must admit, and it should be obvious to regular listeners, that I like "exciting" improv. My tastes often run to music with overwhelming information, whether it's excessive dub, crazed electronic manipulation, jigsawed polyrhythms or furious free improv (or all four at once). I always get a get a tremendous physical and mental response to music with these stimuli. I have fond memories of going to the Victoriaville festival 16 years ago, partying non-stop for 4 days, then hooting and hollering at Henry Threadgill's Very Very Circus and Noma which exhibit at least two, two and a half of those "fun points". Of course, I have come to appreciate less frenetic forms of improv - like Mujician, for instance, which came up during the second half of the show. Mike Hansen, who recently left campus radio station CKLN after 22 years, and now does a podcast at has pointed me towards a lot of less frenetic improv over the years, and certainly the Rat-Drifting label (see below) seems to have found a third way between calm and stormy. Nevertheless, between the first three tracks of last week's show (the third being a live recording of my 'lectronics from years past with partner in combustion Nick Holmes), the on-air monitors were screaming for mercy.

passport to freedom - full metal revolutionary jazz ensemble (fmrje)
morning prayer - kieran hebden and steve reid (domino)
underwire - combustion lente (bubble one)
fenetres - brain damage feat. mohammed amraoui (jarring effects)
a divine image - sound directions (stones throw)
tema dos deuses - som imaginario (rev-ola)
dracula simon - anga (nonesuch)
nothing but human nature - alexis baro (groove united)
kompa - chris speed (songlines)
daichovo - storesveit nix noites (bubblecore)
track 1 - rozasia (independent)
jangylyk - tengir too (smithsonian folkways)
stop giving your children standardized tests part one - laura barrett (independent)
exquisitely woven spritual communication track 13 - mujician (cuneiform)
20 - beans with william parker and hamid drake (thirsty ear)
black box disco - vortex ost (soul jazz)
cosmic dust - sharon bailey (salsoul)
reasons - nomo (ubiquity)
puppy fat - diesler (tru thoughts)
confide in dub - boogiewall soundsystem rmx. by mad professor (ohm grown)
dub ites green and gold - prince jammy/johnny clarke (blood and fire)
u man dub - improvisators dub meets high tone (jarring effects)
gatyeni - teba (out here)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Abstract Index playlist Mar 8/06

Turning to local matters - especially since I completed spaced on any mention of Ali Farka Toure's passing last week - I've been spinning the latest disc from junkyard jazz octet St. Dirt Elementary School. It's called Fall (In Love) By April, and is a big step forward from their debut. What I'm liking about it is the ballads - moody, dramatic and almost hyper-melodramatic. The track played last week would have fit right in to a Tim Burton movie, with what sounds like a theremin or a musical saw lurking in the background, but is probably leader Myk Freedman's spooky slide guitar. This music is just as playful as it is doleful, though, and always seems to come up with unusual combinations of instruments to make its point. During the solo sections, chords are splashed across so many different instrumental voices, it's pure Ellingtonian otherworldliness. Nobody's doing jazz like this anywhere. Perhaps with Rat Drifting's steadily growing profile (they were featured in The Wire's not so long ago), there will be some worldwide interest in the band.

here's the playlist:

in the garden - nicole mitchell (dreamtime)
a.r.c. - tied and tickled trio (morr music)
a classic letter saying i'm gone - st. dirt elementary school (rat drifting)
ingenious pursuits - thomas stronen (rune gramofon)
shuffle - clayton thomas and robin fox (room 40)
bottled paycheck - once 11 (the agriculture)
table rock dub - dub trio (ROIR)
traz na alivio - apollo nove (crammed/zirguiboom)
kouai - wangtone (jarring effects)
talking tabla dub - up bustle and out (collision cause of chapter 3)
drongo dub - hi-tone + improvisators (jarring effects)
tunnel one - tommy mccook (heartbeat)
behold the land - culture (heartbeat)
jah light - love joys (wackies)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Apollo Nove interview on CIUT Toronto

The March issue of Exclaim is on stands now. I did a little Q and A with Sao Paolo based sonic panoramist Apollo Nove, who's just released an excellent disc called Res Inexplicata Volans. His label, Zirguiboom/Crammed describes it thusly: "twelve melodious, deep, moody songs whose atmospheres hover somewhere between psychedelic rock, eerie electronica and spaced-out folk."

He was quite an entertaining interview, and you can hear it this coming Wednesday at 7PM Eastern time, on 89.5FM near Toronto, or online. Among other insights, he spoke about Rita Lee (Os Mutantes) latter day freakiness despite years of pop star vanillization. He's also got some great anecdotes about the incredible Hammond organ contributions of septuagenarian Juarez Santana.

Tune in if you can...

Friday, March 03, 2006

Que Viva La Musica!

Interesting news in an email from the legendary Fania label - the single most important Salsa label ever (see below), and certainly one of the most important labels ever based in New York - is officially coming back to life.

According to an article in Hispanic Magazine, Protel Records of Miami, which is corporately related to Richard Branson's V2, bought the label last summer. The first 30 titles have been recently remastered and are now available at, with liner notes by their "virtually resident scholar" John Child.

Check out the Hispanic Magazine article for an entertaining interview with pianist "El Judío Maravilloso" Larry Harlow, and for more details on Fania past and present. Suffice to say, with a catalog of over 1000 albums, this will be a reissue goldmine.

I hope the association with V2 will dramatically boost this incredible catalog's availability. I know I can't wait to spend some money. Maybe the musicians will get more than a taste this time around.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Feb 22/06

Started off last week with a one two punch of the late great Ray Barretto. Back when the Record Peddler had just moved from Carlton St. to Yonge, they had several vinyl collections of Fania material reissued on Charly Records (the great UK reissuers of the early 80s). One was an outstanding comp called "Hard Hands" which featured some of Barretto's most progressive late 60s and 70s work. The minute I heard "Tumbao Africano" I was hooked for life; its combination of West African percussion patterns, Cuban bata drums and twisting avant jazz charts was Barretto at his most challenging and compelling. Soul Sides and the Pablo Guzman in the Village Voice do this ambassadorial figure justice.

One of his undisputed career highlights was his key role in the Fania All Stars 1973 concert in Yankee Stadium. This concert helped establish the concept of Salsa (or "brown-power music" as Soul Sides termed it) as a major commercial force in New York and many points beyond. Tens of thousands attended this show. Barretto and Mongo Santamaria literally brought the house down with their conga battle on the intense "Congo Bongo", which caused ecstatic fans to flood the field, ending the show off prematurely. The other track "Oracion" is from another album that year: the jazz- funked, Rhodes-soaked "The Other Road".

Speaking of brown power music, the track that led off the second set is from one of my most rotated discs of the moment. I say "most rotated" because I can't quite make up my mind about it. It's a real head-scratcher for categorization, and in some ways a riposte to those who would use the argument that 'world music' champions inferior musicians and who are unknown at home. Kane is from Senegal, but his home has been Paris since the late 90s soaking up cosmopolitan sounds. This disc was recorded in Paris and in Scotland with Martin Swan of celtic fusioneers Mouth Music producing and adding touches such as fiddle and accordion. Kane plays acoustic guitar and guimbri- he's no virtuoso, but at his best he's got a captivating vibe. He's incorporated Gnawa rhythms, instruments and musicians with funk, reggae, rock and blues in an almost entirely acoustic blend. So often, acoustic instrumentation is used to make fusion sound less contrived, but as with Mouth Music, Swan's production leans on the dub and atmospherics without being heavy handed. Augmented by delay, the deep resonance of the guimbri, beats and bass take over in the best tracks. There are a few twee moments on this disc, most notably the Putumayo friendly opening number, but overall it's a strong example of world fusion with substance championed by discerning labels like Riverboat.

congo bongo - fania all stars (fania)
oracion - ray barretto (fania)
codex - william parker and the olmec ensemble (aum fidelity)
psychiemotus - yusuf lateef (impulse)
mirth of perth - st. dirt elementary school (rat drifting)
horses - robert stillman (mill pond)
winter samba - shrift (six degrees)
sweet lies - mike shannon (scape)
chicano zen - charanga cakewalk (triloka)
nabi - nuru kane (riverboat)
the winner - barrington levy (pressure sounds)
sedate remix - josh roseman unit (enja)
circle in seven - zarbang (arc)
mahli - souad massi (wrasse)
ber ber - kaly live dub (pias)
superstar - ranking dread (moll selekta)
choice of colours - jackie mittoo and the brentford disco set (soul jazz)
choice of colours - ranking joe (m10)
federated backdrop - sound dimension (soul jazz)
folk song version - tafari syndicate (pressure sounds)