Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - April 19/06

Soul Jazz' work on reissues should be very familiar to regular listeners of the Abstract Index. They are one of the very best reissue labels in the world. This doesn't mean that everything they do is flawless; some of their Studio One compilations are pretty thin, and sometimes their graphic design is brutal (I'm still trying to figure out the tracklisting for New York Noise 2).

However, like a steroidal Mark McGwire, they never go too long without hitting one out of the park - and their new compilation of Tom Moulton's (see swarthy pic above) mixes justifies everyone's love. This collection will become a necessary resource for all discophiles, it's right up there with Strut's double disc Larry Levan Live At The Paradise Garage set in capturing the most unbridled creativity of disco. Moulton's work is less dubwise than Levan's or Walter Gibbons', but his sense of appropriateness of where each instrumental section of a song ought to unfold is unparalleled.

The liner notes also paint a vivid picture of post-Stonewall gay life in New York, especially the Fire Island scene where Moulton first tried his hand at manipulating the dancefloor. His techniques exploded the pop song format to an approach more suitable for the dancefloor. Moulton wasn't flashy, his edits were transparent rather than transformative. Moulton was always about making good songs better, and this collection is about 2/3 full of primo Philly soul stretched out well beyond the confines of a 7" single . The notes do a superb job of describing his technical innovations at work and the sense of the enthusiasm that Moulton still has towards simultaneously experimenting with and paying tribute to great grooves.

The crown jewel of this set is the opening cut - an unreleased mix of Eddie Kendricks steamrollin' "Keep On Truckin", originally from 1973, but sounding so, so fresh some 30 plus years later.

keep on truckin - eddie kendricks (soul jazz)
pombaral - sao paolo underground (aesthetics)
versus - ezekiel (jarring effects)
magma mama - ramasutra (semprini)
panama esta bueno y... ma - los exagederos (soundway)
ok-oyot system - extra golden (thrill jockey)
let no man put asunder - first choice (salsoul)
mei libertei - toni tornado (emi)
mach - john oswald (fony)
subincision - andy haas/fred frith (avant)
how postmodern of me - quinsin nachoff (songlines)
kolo chimera - amsterdam klezmer band (essay)
babylon by bus/dub - ex-centric sound system feat. prezedent brown (EXS)
mistaken identity - brain damage feat dylan bendall (jarring effects)
esa una banda en dub - nortec collective feat. calexico (nacional)
african - h20 feat zubz (out here)
life is not easy - meditations (makasound)
holy mount zion - zion all stars (studio one/soul jazz)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Abstract Index playlist April 5/06

Thank you to all who became members of CIUT last week. You may still donate online - please do, in fact, since I fell a little bit short of my target.

Thanks to all the guests and phone volunteers who helped out, too: Michael Barclay, Sebastian Cook, Grant Smales and JuLion from Canadian Reggae World plus Diane and Cecil.

Fundraising shows are never about the music, it's all about the message. But I did get a fair amount of exciting new releases last week, and one of the best was a new double disc from Stella Chiweshe, the queen of Zimbabwean mbira.

Double Check is an interesting release: disc 2 collects tunes from 1987-2002, mostly backed with electric bass and drums. For some, these songs will be the very definition of Afro-pop hell. Part of Chiweshe's oeuvre is to reach younger generations and make them dance to the message in the music, to borrow a phrase from the O'Jays. But some people simply will refuse to listen to this because it smacks of Worldbeat Mark 1: the 80s. Others still frown upon a woman playing an mbira in the first place, not to mention taking it outside of a strictly traditional context. But she's overcome prejudice at home and abroad to forge a long lasting career as one of the primary exponents of Shona music, and an experimentalist at that. If anything, disc 2 shows the remarkable consistency of Chiweshe's vision: the songwriting, the production technique and the instrumentation still sounds fresh and not at all dated.

On the other hand, the anti-Afro-pop faction would drool all over disc one, which is a new recording appropriately entitled "Trance Hits". This disc may be exactly what this faction thinks of as 'real African music' - 'tribal' rhythms, indigenous, acoustic instruments with minimal adornment, and an avowed un-Western sound. It is a fantastic disc, utterly trippy in many sections, and a great showcase for Chiweshe's skills and ideas. Check out "Mhandu Ye Hove"'s simultaneously ascending and descending mbiras shimmering like water on a moonlit lake. It's one of my favourite tracks so far this year.

Make no mistake, Chiweshe's production acumen and approach to songwriting and groove-building on both discs are two sides of the same coin. You can't call disc one the epitome of African music, and dismiss disc two out of hand. Chiweshe is absolutely in command of her art - it's been a long hard road for her to acheive what she wasn't supposed to be doing in the first place, and if she wants to use dub effects and a discreet synth pad on the 'acoustic' disc, that's just fine by me. Individual artists aren't so easily pigeonholed.

good old music - funkadelic (westbound)
yakar inceden inceden - edip akbayram (normal)
dir yagrur masali - hardal (normal)
sunce sjajno - boban markovic orkestar (pirhana)
wanyanya - stella chiweshe (pirhana)
soul drummers - ray baretto (fania)
madrugador - bio ritmo (promo)
como cantan, como bailan los negros - peru negro (times square)
something - glissandro 70 (constellation)
analogue shantytown - glissandro (constellation)
nothing beats failure but a try - ronald shannon jackson and the decoding society (caravan of dreams)
nu tones - nomo (ubiquity)
dice game - sound directions (stones throw)
cool runnings - dennis brown/prince jammy (blood and fire)
patient man - dub syndicate (collision cause of chapter 3)
bord plate - twilight circus (m)
sinsemilla - dr. israel (roir)
leggo beast dub - gregory isaacs (trojan)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

You're soaking in it...

An earlier post about the great times to be had when at Thymeless experiencing a SuperheavyREGGAE session has evolved into a full scale article in this month's Exclaim.

In Exclaim's "Music School" section, there is a section to profile notable musicians and musical environments called "What/where I play". This subject was a little of both. The main point of the article is to illustrate the sound system's inclusive sensibility, blurring the lines between performers and patrons, so we decided to call it "Where I Play". There are plenty of sound systems in Canada, Jamaica, England and all around the world, but this one seems to capture the very essence of Toronto reggae.

The next chapter in the superheavyREGGAE story occurs this Saturday.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Abstract Index playlist Mar 29/06

It's always fun to spend days and days packing up a CD wallet with about 150 discs for a gig you know won't even require half that amount. What's a little less fun is taking that wallet to the radio station the next day and trying to remember the song titles to go along with the artists in order to enlighten the audience. Of course this would be helped if there were a computer with Internet access in CIUT's on air studio, and that brings me to the Spring Membership drive.

I would love to see some of this drive's cash go towards infrastructure that aids the programming experience at CIUT. Not so long ago, the station emerged from a potentially crushing six-figure debt. The first benefit of being debt-free is the ability to make managerial decisions that aren't governed entirely by money, or the lack thereof. Going forward, it would be nice to join every other community radio station in the world and be able to archive each show's playlists, and that starts with the means to enter songs in real time in the on air booth. I know our music director Ron Burd is in favour of this! And Internet access on air would allow real-time email requests and the ability to look up song titles when one is just equipped with a wallet... please visit the CIUT website to pledge online, and make sure to listen on tomorrow for fun, prizes and special guests.

This week's image? Gotta be Candido, performing at the National Jazz Awards on April 10. I bet that outfit's stayed deep in the closet since the photo session. I think his disco-era "Dancing And Prancing" LP is a career high point for him. It points forward to the stripped down, sequencer friendly arrangements that would evolve into house music a few years later. All you Blue Note/Verve latin jazz purists can go to hell, this kicks just as hard if not harder than his work for those labels, and holds up better today.

harlem opera - ronald shannon jackson and the decoding society (antilles)
oklahoma (live) - curlew (cuneiform)
ponra - lenin i shumov (blocksblocksblocks)
howling circle - erik friedlander (cryptogramophone)
siege - savage republic (nate starkman and sons)
thousand finger man - candido (salsoul)
perspectiva - hilario duran (alma)
safari - roland kirk (mercury)
atras das portas da tarde - luiz eca & la sagrada familia (vampisoul)
el cine - charanga cakewalk (triloka)
el mouka - aisha kandisha's jarring effects (barbarity)
seamless - tanya tagaq gillis (jericho beach)
soul oscillations - kieran hebden/steve reid (domino)
olhossss... - sao paolo underground (aesthetics)
no vacancy - sugar minott (moll selekta)
well cold - dub syndicate (lion and roots)
one bully drive - little tempo (m)
awakening dub - dub trio (roir)
ecological dub - mad professor/jah shaka (ariwa)
ear protection - kaly live dub (pias)