Monday, July 31, 2006


The best named summertime music festival in Toronto will soon be upon us - Bummer In The Summer.

This is the work of Wolfgang Nessel and his loyal henchmen. All those who love noise, free folk, psych, weird guitars, improv etc. should make a date for the Tranzac this weekend.

I will be spinning and spinning and spinning - for 5 hours to be exact - in the Tiki room. Pulling out all the stops for this gig, I am. Bringing dub efx to juice up the psych-dub-global-skronk with beats mix that I intend to lay down.

If this summer has been just too damn happy for you I recommend several hours of bummerization.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jul 26/06

First of all, thanks to Tanya Mullings for pinch-hitting on Wednesday - she pulled over on the side of a highway to speak over the phone. Now that's a pro!

This week's disc is a trip down memory lane. I was happy to see former CIUT jazz programmer Barry Livingston pop by while Henry Threadgill's "Official Silence" was playing. We recalled the early days of CIUT which featured jazz from 1-4PM Monday through Saturday. Jazz programming was, and continues to be, a great source of fundraising dollars, if no longer at CIUT. Campus community stations were vital in fowarding the tradition and pointing the way towards all-jazz formats which sprouted up in the mid to late 90s.

Much of the jazz played on CIUT at the time was made by contemporary boundary pushers, and there was a big harmolodic scene in Toronto at the time. While my dad has an extensive jazz collection, my own jazz education (and many others) really began with then-new releases by electricians Ornette Coleman, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Bill Frisell (Power Tools!!), and Threadgill. At a time when university jazz programs were thoroughly in thrall of the Wyntonian thesis of neo-conservatism, electric jazz was still derided as sellout music and watered-down improv. As a major disciple of all things Bill Laswell at the time, it seemed obvious that Sonny Sharrock and Robbie Shakespeare were but a few Rolodex entries of separation away; harmolodism offered new ways to balance not only groove, harmony, and melody but also new techniques in electronic production and global musical vocabularies.

Threadgill is not typically thought of as harmolodic. He bears all the hallmarks, though. He's always combined ever-changing chords with haunting melodies, unusual instrumentation recalling New Orleans (especially with his use of tuba as bass) and implicit funk. Several great records were made with Laswell, including this one, feature adventurous mixes.

"Official Silence" is a well executed Carlton Barrett-style reggae drum pattern. Often, reggae is poison for jazzers who never know when to shut up in this context (NB. this is less and less true). In Threadgill's capable hands the dubwise spirit he's going for in this song is superbly executed.

juan de mata - peru negro (iempsa)
bombe - afrodizz (c4)
nr time - mizellstory (blue note)
soul love now - oneness of juju (strut)
third door on the left - binary system (atavistic)
new feet - david byrne/brian eno (nonesuch)
trafelato - ennio morricone (ipecac)
taking the fun out of it - justin haynes/nick fraser (independent)
serenity - frequency (thrill jockey)
official silence - henry threadgill (columbia)
i believe in music - bob and wisdom (light in the attic) - this disc is now #8 in the Canadian charts!
eternal love - the sheiks (light in the attic)
doin the do - bobby byrd and the jbs (polydor)
tell it like you feel it - quantic (ubiquity)
see mi yah - rhythm and sound feat. willi williams rmx by hallucinator (burialmix)
walls of silence - noiseshaper (sounds from the roof)
rockers deliverance dub - vibronics (tanty)
my selector - dubmatix (dubmatix)
consecrate yourself - josie mel (minor 7 flat 5)
boom shack-a-lack - junior reid (soul jazz)
man at work - lester sterling with king cannon (moll-selekta)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Something to Mull Over

Tune in tomorrow at 7Pm for a conversation with Carrie Mullings (and/or possibly her sister Tanya - there's always the possibility of surprise in community radio).

We'll be speaking about the upcoming tribute to her father Karl Mullings at Hugh's Room this Sunday. Mr. Mullings' legacy figures prominently in the Jamaica to Toronto story. His career as a manager was very active by the 80s, promoting Jackie Mittoo, Lovindeer, Carlene Davis and Glen Washington. I'm looking forward to finding out more about the industry challenges faced by reggae performers in Toronto from the seventies onward, as well as hearing some anecdotes about some undoubtedly lively times in the Mullings household.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jul 19/06

There's a fresh crop of Wackies for summer 2006.

The most idiosyncratic, arbuably best American reggae label (respect to Wordsound, BSI, ROIR and many more) will see three more of its mysterious back catalogue reissued by Rhythm and Sound's Basic Channel imprint.

This article is a both a source of and a link to a great deal of info on the the Wackies collective in the Bronx, circa mid seventies to late eighties. Lloyd "Bullwackie" Barnes emigrated from Jamaica in the mid seventies, setting up a record shop and studio. Recordings appeared on many different labels until the Wackies label and logo were well established in 1983. Major artists recorded there, such as Sugar Minott, Leroy Sibbles, and Horace Andy (who recorded the original version of "Spying Glass" there, later covered by Massive Attack). Jackie Mittoo recorded at least one album there, and the theme to Patrick Roots' show on CIUT which follows mine every week is the Jackie-Wackies classic "Cowboy Lollipop".

Wackies picks up where the Black Ark left off. Still very psychedelic, with oblique strategies on EQ, the warm disorientation of these records seems so different than most other 80s productions. By the end of each track rhythms and vocals are very heavily distorted by lo-fi reverb and echo; the feel is more industrial feel than Jamaican dub. The musicians, too, don't play the current rhythms of Jamaica, and there is a different musical vocabulary contributing to Bronx reggae to further distinguish their sound.

In these mixes, even the most powerful vocalists merely float through these mixes. Such is the case with Jezzreel. A keening vocal duo, they are presented in showcase style with vocals disintegrated by dub over the course of 6 minutes. Each track is a gem, and "Roman Soldiers" probably has the most militant tempo of the six tunes on the disc.

Thanks to the efforts of Rhythm and Sound, Wackies is better distributed than ever before. Speaking of R and S, they also have a new collection of remixes out that furthers their tech-dub sound.

north - fond of tigers (drip audio)
need a break - matthias von imhoff (indie)
time is a wasting - the silt (rat-drifting)
datura - marsen jules (city centre offices)
awake - haco/hans/jakob/marcos (accretions)
hawas - trio joubran (harmonia mundi)
toucouleur - ernest dawkins new horizons ensemble (delmark)
blacks and blues - bobbi humphrey (blue note)
zion lion - sound dimension (heartbeat)
in this drum a secret - eccodek (eccodek)
bizuru dub - eccodek (eccodek)
dick contino - sex mob (thirsty ear)
uranus sirtez - reptile palace orchestra (omnium)
bambo makwatila - green arrows (analog africa) - funny review...
tepo - baranata with miatta fahibulleh (bbe)
kabioye - lekan bablola (mr. bongo)
h.i.v. - wale oyejide (shaman work)
unleashed dub - kaly live dub (pias)
roman soldiers - jezzreel (wackies)
pollution - john clarke (wackies)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jul 12/06

This week's disc isn't a perfectly realized moment of brilliance, but it's got a lotta soul. Harry Miller is best known as the bassist for Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, a British big band which lasted for about 20 years from the late 60s onward until Mcgregor's death in 1990. Their core was composed of South African exiles who managed to bridge Ellington, Ayler and kwela music seamlessly. They evolved from the Blue Notes, a mixed race band that came together in the 50s, and suffered from the hardening of apartheid laws in the early 60s. Once they were invited to play in Europe, they never looked back, and did not return for many years.

The most active members in London were pianist Chris Mcgregor, Dudu Pukwana on alto, Miller on bass, Mongezi Feza on trumpet and Louis Moholo on drums. The latter three players are all featured on this disc, recorded by Radio Bremen in November 1975, only a month before Feza died of pneumonia while mistakenly committed to a mental institution. His playing is the best part of this disc - like the smoothest and most articulate 60s Miles in spots, only to outfox Don Cherry in others. Miller and Moholo are dynamic together, a strong undercurrent of funk only underlined by the kwela changes. Keith Tippett handles the piano chores and whether comping or soloing, he adds so many different colours to the head-solos-head structures of each of these lengthy pieces.

Miller's Ogun Records, still run by Hazel Miller, was the label which released the greatest amount of South African/British jazz, often in collaboration with other great European improvisers like Evan Parker, Elton Dean and Lol Coxhill. This turned out to be very important as all the South African improvisers save Moholo, died before their mid fifties, under-recognized to say the least.

Whereas Derek Bailey may have coined "non-idiomatic improvisation" which continues to inspire musicians seeking new languages from their instruments, the South Africans wore their idioms on their sleeves. It was profoundly joyful and angry, culturally specific and universal all at once. So many British players were inspired personally and professionally by their music. Robert Wyatt said: "Somehow, those South Africans had discovered by the mid-60s how to combine song and dance with all the new ideas that were coming through free-jazz at the time. It was like a kind of free dance. I hadn't believed that was possible before. They filled a vacuum of meaning in music for me after [John] Coltrane died in 1967. They had that accessible soulfulness you associate with black popular music, but with the edge of something new being made."

Thanks to Cuneiform Records for keeping the spirit alive!

family affair - isipingo (cuneiform)
comparsa de los locos - eddie palmieri (tico)
here we go again - wayne mcghie (light in the attic)
zalim - edip akbayram (shadoks)
mume wangu - orchestra makassy (arc)
boulmanyie - orchestra baobab (sterns)
cloud nine - bill hemmans and clay's composite (sss)
evening dance - lubo alexandrov (enja/justin time)
the tortoise - frequency (thrill jockey)
quebec on my mind - billy robinson (do right)
ka anyi jifota - chief stephen osita osadebe (rough guides)
bolero somnulabo - manual galban & ry cooder (nonesuch)
martin denny - sex mob (thirsty ear)
living in the ghetto - jezzreel (wackies)
you like to borrow - john clark (wackies)
new broom pt. 2 - new establishment (studio one/heartbeat)
green guava - lord tickler (pressure sounds)
captain of the ship - sugar minott (blood and fire)
away with the bad - glen brown (shanachie)
fire coal version - sound dimension (studio one/heartbeat)


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Maple Leaf Soul

A bit late on this, but here's the link to the profile I wrote about the Jamaica to Toronto CD/event.

The CD is available through Light In The Attic records (thanks for the image), fine folks all around who never give less than 110% with each reissue.

If you haven't heard about this wonderful compilation yet, it details the musical endeavours of the first wave of Jamaican immigrants to Toronto in the 1960s. Initially, professions such as nursing drew a great deal of women from the island, to be followed shortly by their families.

The musical climate was tough for R & B musicians, despite the popularity of the music itself. Soul was seen strictly in terms of imported music. Jamaica To Toronto presents a wealth of the barely issued gems and private recordings which, together with the Ready Or Not collections, more fully illustrate Toronto's non-rock and folk scenes at the time.

On Saturday, July 15 Harbourfront will be presenting a one-time-only reunion of many of the artists on the disc: Jay Douglas, Everton Paul, Lloyd Delpratt, The Mighty Pope, Bob and Wisdom and Noel Ellis (son of Alton).

The next step in LITA's "Jatdot" project will be the re-release of Noel Ellis' first album - this will undoubtedly shed light on the earliest days of Toronto's soon-to-be prolific reggae scene. In all, there will be seven discs in this series.

Stay tuned for a documentary on this subject by CIUT, and tune in live this weekend for a broadcast of this concert and others at Harbourfront's Roots:Remix festival (featuring the King Of Latin Soul, Joe Bataan!!!!!).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Balkan Blab

Tune in tomorrow to the Abstract Index radio show at 7PM ET to hear an interview with ace guitarist Lubo Alexandrov. His excellent release on Justin Time a few months ago is a breakbeat-centric take on Balkan rhythms with some intense ensemble playing. Ramachandra Borcar produced the album, giving it his characteristically uncluttered yet full-bodied sensibility.

Lubo's in Toronto with his band Kaba Horo as part of the Small World Music Global Cafe festival.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jun 28/06

Frankie Paul = Summertime

You a go feel it...

cocinando - grupo fantasma (antone's)
mazatlan - azteca (follow me)
all wrapped up - melvin sparks (prestige)
hidden strength - ted moses qunitet (do right)
country rake fight - matt steckler (innova)
bikutsi rock - les tetes brulees (shanachie)
piga ua - ottu jazz band (rough guides)
dodgeball - ultramagnus (afro rock)
capoeira - apollo nove feat. seu jorge (crammed)
arrival - carsick (drip audio)
dominic - aldcroft/shaw/sorbara (oval window)
transparent things - ikue mori/zeena parkins (mego)
I will not forgive you - edip akbayram (shadoks)
ghettos of the mind - pleasure (fantasy)
keep on coming in the dance - lone ranger (soul jazz)
dub glitter - michael rose (m)
skanking and rocking - dubmatix (
dem a go feel it - frankie paul (greensleeves)
rich man poor man dub - barry brown (moll-selekta)

Friday, July 07, 2006

You've Got Me Love Dancing

Fun times last night at Harbourfront seeing Salif Keita, but the real discovery was the opening band, Afrafranto. It was hard to pick up the name, actually, because of the string of non-sequiturs in the stage banter. Nevertheless, it's the same group that appeared at the Now Lounge as part of Music Africa's Palm Wine showcase this past February.

They laid down a sweet and economical groove with a lot more funk and jazz influences than palm wine originally featured way back in the 50s; to me it sounded more like palm wine's successor - highlife. The jazzy content came from the laid back fluidity of Juno Award winning guitar stylings of Pa Joe of African Guitar Summit, who at one point laid down a solo which sounded like George Benson on 'ludes. The electric bass was an inherently funky addition to palm wine in its latter days, as singer Theo Yaw Boakye explained, and gave the music more urgency than usual. Together with someone pounding out a four to the floor beat with their foot - which may have been unintentionally over-miked - the sum total was like hearing an hour's worth of the groove behind Loose Joints' "Is It All Over My Face" with West African chord changes.

Check out the African Guitar Summit and much much more at the ultimate Toronto summertime event: Afrofest, which takes place at Queen's Park this weekend. CIUT will be broadcasting the whole thing (I'll be representing from 1-4PM on Sunday).

While you're there, get yourself some chicken stew from New Bilan, the best Somali-Bangladeshi (sp?) restaurant in town...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Golden Voice

It is with great pleasure that I link you to my career profile of Salif Keita. This is a story I chased for more than six months. I found out late last year that he was going to be playing Toronto for the first time in 8 years, and knew this was a golden opportunity to do a major story on his complicated career trajectory. As you may have noticed, I like to advocate for artists and issues I'm passionate about. A "timeline" in Exclaim brings with it a showcase of three of the artists' essential albums in HMV stores across the country - in the front of the store, not in the back corner which is the traditional dumping ground for any world music discs.

Keita has overcome a uniquely traumatic childhood to formulate an improbably successful career in music. He truly had nothing to lose, as the story indicates. Throughout the piece, I wanted to stress that his music, until recently, was a very acquired taste. Many would dismiss his albums as glossy and contrived world pop (even as these same armchair critics would profess unironic pleasure in homegrown contrived pop music).

But you can make up your own mind if you see him at Harbourfront on July 6.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jun 21/06

I give it two thumbs up, too. This is the album cover of the year so far; it's also one of my biggest musical obsessions of June, heading into July. Everyone I've played this to has been absolutely knocked out. The most interesting occurence was when DJ Sipreano and Jay Douglas (compiler and subject of the forthcoming compilation Jamaica to Toronto) walking into the on-air booth at CIUT and Douglas exclaiming "This guy's from Turkey??" in disbelief that these funky, funky sounds could be so familiar and so far-removed from the American musical inspirations which influenced his own work. Reason #5948 why I love CIUT...

Edip Akbayram possessed a stunning wardrobe and his own thang in the early 70s. He followed up the revolutionary Anadolu pop music of the 60s with his wildly successful fusion of hard rock, funk, prog, psych with more identifiably Turkish instrumentation and time signatures. Above all, his vocals recall the intensity of Jim Morrison or Ozzy Osbourne - never rising to a scream but always full of no-bullshit conviction. Disc 2 just won't stay out of my discman (yes, I still use it constantly and don't own any portable MP3 devices). It's Funkadelic goes east - if Maggot Brain and Standing On The Verge are your preference, rather than post-One Nation Under A Groove. This is essential listening for anyone with a fondness for Q107's Psychedelic Sunday (and who in Toronto doesn't? C'mon, admit it...). Buy it.

political blues - world saxophone quartet (justin time)
sabor - quantic (ubiquity)
music plans - senor coconut (essay)
piccadillo - eddie palmieri/cal tjader (verve)
papa y - ultramagnus
laare yoo - baaba maal (palm)
mehmet emmi - edip akbayram (shadoks)
loka dances - tasa (tasamusic)
gori - catherine potter (shadaj)
helicopter de cristal - lucky dragons (states rights)
octette #1 - bill dixon (soul note)
arafura - biosphere (touch)
sorry bamba - porry (luaka bop)
lambs bread - tommy mccook (blood and fire)
blaze a fire - dubmatix (
haunting ground - bim sherman (on-u sound)
the soundless hum of prayer - philosophy major (wordsound)
pluk a dub - amsterdam klezmer band (essay)