Friday, October 27, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - October 25/06

It's official - 2006 is the year of Funky Turkey. And if you haven't cleaned out your fridge from Thanksgiving's leftovers, I'm sure you can relate to some funky turkey...

I'm certainly not the first guy to stumble on the majesty of Turkish prog/psych - I should watch that terminology coz them's fighting words if used in the wrong circles - but there does seem to have been a spike in reissues lately.

Whereas someone like Edip Akbayram was a certifiable rock god in Turkey , this album by Mustafa Ozkent is somewhat more obscure. Ozkent arranged for the A-list of Turkish rockers in the 70s, but put this instrumental album out as a lark. It promptly failed, and he went back to arranging.

The sample monster that dwells deep in my soul has counted a good half dozen freestyle-friendly breaks on this album. The bio from Finders Keepers records plays up the sampladelicacy of the disc, describing it as the "Turkish Incredible Bongo Band". With two drummers, a percussionist, a bassist who likes to play lead, and a brace of psychedelic, custom built guitars screaming at you from across the stereo spectrum, that seems about right.

Some thoughts-

1) Anyone who still believes that the explosion of youth culture which occurred at the end of the 60s was confined to California and the UK had best look at its reverberations around the world. There is more and more material available from places as diverse as Turkey, Peru, and Thailand which show that youth, drugs and grooves were a potent combo everywhere in the world. Let's not even get into the Bollywood of that era.

2) There will be more and more examples of these kinds of obscure one off recordings as different countries yield more pet projects of musicians behind the scenes with access to studio downtime get together to create experimental, maybe marginal, yet danceable music. The stories of Ozkent, the Incredible Bongo Band, Boris Gardiner (Jamaica) or Maranata (Uruguay) seem similar in this way.

The only disappointment, as my friend Cam noted, is that the music wasn't actually performed by the monkey on the cover.

the circle - badawi (ROIR)
god bless the ottoman empire - a hawk and a hacksaw (leaf)
requiem for a fox - sandro perri (constellation)
hazel - hassle hound (staubgold)
emmioglu - mustafa ozkent (finders keepers)
freedom flexibility - kahil el zabar's ritual trio (delmark)
thunder in our hearts - jabula (counterpoint)
ocean wave - the ripple effect (golden beams)
52 incorporated - tinkertoy (noise factory)
me done - ari up rmx. by light in the attic)
enseralen gojo (remix) - bole 2 harlem (sounds of the mushroom)
radio-waves - vektor (independent)
hooligan (extended mix) - john holt (studio one/soul jazz)
all the time lyric a rhyme - tippa irie (soul jazz)
in a dis yah time - sugar minott (moll-selekta)
scientist's earth dub - roots radics/scientist (roots)
trompet - djosos krost (quango)
upfull living - augustus pablo (shanachie)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - October 18/06

Mei Tei Sho was my favourite discovery of last year. I think they're one of the best bands in the world - or rather, were, since the lineup which made this disc late in 2005 has since disbanded. Two members of the band will continue the name, while three others will pursue separate projects.

Their sound? They call it afro-jungle-jazz but that misses the hip hop, rock and dub elements so prominent in their work. They're far from the first hyphenated-genre band, but their ace in the hole is their magnetic frontman Jean Gomis. He's who is a cross between Ninjaman, H.R. and Zack De La Rocha, but sings in English, French and Wolof on topics ranging from politics to identity with the odd moment of tenderness thrown in. He exudes righteousness, but it's an inclusive righteousness - in a band composed of Senegalese, Turkish, and Algerian how could he not be calling for inclusion? Most songs are in tricky, subtly Balkan time signatures with choppy guitar and double-time drums, with more than enough hooks to distinguish one from another. The soprano sax of Eric Prost adds a certain smooth jazz component to the mix which is more prominent than on their last album Lo Ba, but even then Prost gets into harmonizers and other effects to turn his instrument into a melodic wash without sounding too sweet. The live dub mix on this album graduallly explodes all the sounds in the band - vocals become massively echoed hits, dubbed out guitars turn into droning textures. All the while, the band puts out punk energy and message, electrifying the crowd. The band is road-hardened - any sense of incomplete fusion-for-the-heck-of-it is dispelled upon first listen.

I've never heard such a range of musical influences delivered with such conviction and overall rocking-outedness. I hope Mei Tei Sho mark II deliver the goods

romeo heart (slight return) - sandro perri (constellation)
white phosphorus - andy haas (resonant)
space needle - damsel (temporary residence)
camel clutch - andre afram asmar (mush)
rahtid - brain damage feat. sam clayton (jarring effects)
blues 10 - milcho leview (sonar kollektiv)
dementia - lounge lizards (editions eg)
bikoutsi - sally nyolo (riverboat)
bula - pnu riff (compost)
puddles - ultra magnus (M1)
nanfulen - super manden (smithsonian folkways)
marimbita e chonta - la cumbiamba eneye (chonta)
a usted - roberto lopez project (independent)
goddess - pathless (sonar kollektiv)
a woman like me - spanky wilson/quantic soul orchestra (tru thoughts)
blackberry brandy - roland alphonso (trojan)
boom shacka lacka - hopeton lewis (treasure isle/heartbeat)
jah righeteous plan - willi williams (studio one/soul jazz)
cold outside - rob symeonn (redbud)
ghetto youth (live) - mei tei sho (jarring effects)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - October 11/06

(image courtesy of Rock Paper Scissors)

In conversation with ace conceptual guitarist and good friend Nilan Perera, I once wondered whether it was possible or desirable that Toronto's many types of improvising musicians should collaborate for the betterment of the entire scene. He wasn't sure that collaboration between, say, Toronto's fast growing Cuban community and the Sister Ray (RIP) noise posse would work out. Proficient improvising in Cuban jazz tends to mean someone who's got good pitch, sight-reads well, and blows hard and fast over changes and grooves. Most non-idiomatic improvisers are concerned with sonic exploration - musical notes, traditional harmony and grooves are often secondary; homemade, electronic instruments or severe effects processing make fixed pitch irrelevant. There are no changes and no grooves. These are generalizations on both sides, for sure; there are more and more examples of free Latin music than ever. Going way back, Kip Hanrahan set the tone by putting Arto Lindsay and Jerry Gonzalez together in 1981. And there are too many just-left-of-IDM hybrids to count which marry freedom and rhythm.

My personal bias is that too many free improvisers, particularly those who do not play fixed pitch instruments, try to reject any kind of 'influence' on their freedom. But, as I try to demonstrate each and every week on the Abstract Index radio show, texture and groove can trade off in interesting ways, making for a rich listening experience. As an improviser, listening to different instruments and improvising techniques from around the world is an important way to broaden one's own voice. The aim isn't to be imitative: that's why I like Nilan's playing. He has a strong grounding in blues, electronic music and his Sri Lankan heritage informs his sonic arsenal - and he's a tremendous free player. Hey, I can see Ryan Driver and Hilario Duran hanging together, both greatly skilled musicians with attuned to interesting sonic effects.... The multicultural reality of Toronto should make this sort of thing easier, I'm surprised that it doesn't happen more often. Hello, Canada Council? Here's a proposal for you...

Another intersection of improvisation in different cultural contexts was "Dance" by Sharokh Yadegari and Keyavash Nouri from their CD Migration. Yadegari is a musician and computer programmer, and Nouri is a Persian traditional violinist who experiments with extended techniques such as prepared. Yadegari has developed software he calls "Lila" which samples and transforms the live input of the violin. The processing is relatively straight up (compared to Bob Ostertag): lots of loops, delay, ring mod, panning, some harmonization - this is not unlike so much laptop improv which takes a live input and reflects it in a funhouse mirror.

But the musical content which goes into the software set this apart from any number of similarly-constructed improv projects. According to the liner notes, the concept of a certain style of Persian harmony involves layering complementary melodies on top of one another as opposed to a chordal-based harmony. Now I'm no expert in classical Persian composition (how many times a day do you think the exact same thing?) but any kind of dubwise processing would lend itself harmony of this type. Most importantly, both musicians are good listeners, which is vital to these kinds of sessions.

Yadegari points out many conceptual differences between (the vast majority of) Western music and Persian music. Here's an example:

“The concept of notes and scale is something we in the West have accepted and it’s hard to think any other way about music,” explains Yadegari. “Within Persian music, even tuning is up for debate. A person can pick up an instrument and say ‘I don’t like this fretting’ and they change it. The subtle differences in tuning may define a musician’s signature sound. My instrument, Lila, allows for something like that, because all the ideas in the software are based in this concept that almost everything is negotiable.”

Hey, with an attitude like that I think a throwdown with Merzbow is just around the corner. Although Nilan is probably geographically closer, and I know he'd be up for it.

departing landscapes - nathan hubbard (circumvention)
dance - shahrokh yadegari & keyvash nourai (lilasound)
dementia - jesse zubot (drip audio)
a refreshing night - ken aldcroft's convergence ensemble (trio)
macedonia - dusko goykovich (sonar kollektiv)
samba walk - patricia & orlando (sonar kollektiv)
llegue llegue - los van van (luaka bop)
teme - african guitar summit (CBC)
save me - e.t. mensah and the tempos (rounder) great link...
don't mess with a hungry man pt 1 and 2 - quantic soul orchestra feat. spanky wilson (ubiquity)
souvlak #3 - boom pam (essay)
weather the wind - eric chenaux (constellation)
moment returns - triosk (noise factory)
ghost friend (live) - mei tei sho (jarring effects)
chantal - bidjoi sisters (riverboat)
pachanga - la cumbiamba eneye (chonta)
aya bellew - bole 2 harlem (sounds of the mushroom)
chapter one - djosos krost feat. jah bobby (quango)
milk and honey - sly and robbie feat. ali campbell & luciano (koch)
island girl dub - dubblestandart feat. ari up (collision cause of chapter 3)
message for the world - jah children band (independent)
mad world dub - mossman (dispensation)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - September 27/06

I’m fairly new to Romanian music, having only started to pick up on the fascinating collisions of cultures and styles of Eastern Europe while researching an article last year. As with most features I write, I can’t stop researching once I’m finished the piece. One of the most welcome reissue series I’ve come across this year has been Sounds From A Bygone Age. This series is dedicated to the reappraisal of vintage Romanian recordings of the 60s. Each of these reissues has been a revelation of Roma and other Romanian sounds in the Soviet era. The sound quality of each is lush and soundstagey, having been recorded in well appointed state-owned studios in Bucharest.

The latest volume features the “disturbing and androgynous” falsetto vocals of Dona Dimitru Siminica over profoundly melancholic Wallachian-derived love songs. How to describe the vocals? I’ve never heard a falsetto like it – he’s compared to Tiny Tim in the liner notes, but that belittles his command of his vocal style. Nor will comparisons to Smokey Robinson or Curtis Mayfield cut it - maybe the closest comparison in terms of feel if not timbre is Jimmy Scott. His falsetto a burnished, honeyed quality, and soaked through with heartbreak. One lyric translates as “I was having too good a time next to her/to notice she loved the other man” – a classic blues couplet to be sure. Instrumentation is dominated by accordion and cymbalom and offbeat rhythms which also recall ska. Just fascinating stuff: evocative, weirdly familiar and highly affecting. If you like the idea of the nuevo tango of Astor Piazzolla mashed up with Antony and the Johnsons and a touch of Jackie Wilson, this may be up your alley. Great music to get hammered to.

cine are fata mare - dona dumitru siminica (asphalt tango)
for the cosmic whistler - drumheller (rat drifting)
groove disorder - handslang (indie)
cancel - venetian snares (planet mu)
gani lasmar - hossam ramzy (arc)
barra - hadja kouyate & les guineeans (frikyiwa)
sangisangy - african guitar summit (cbc)
ponteio - edu lobo (verve)
after ararat - nostalgia (tru thoughts)
siompon - ariesta biwara (shadoks)
this old world is going down - modulations (numero)
dancing time - the funkees (afrostrut)
nata raaj - debashish bhattacharya (riverboat)
dedicated to ronnie boykins - dierdre murray & fred hopkins (ambiences magnetiques)
instrumental - marche mokolo (riverboat)
el cielo - radio citizen (ubiquity)
material man - u roy feat. max romeo (tabou 1)
materialist - horace andy (trojan)
dig out dub - irie band (independent)
real love - tamlins (mango)
computer malfunction - sly and robbie (island)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Full Time Index

After 5 years of platooning (hey it worked for Rance Mulliniks and Garth Iorg), the Abstract Index radio show will be inheriting the Audible Woman's first-Wednesday-of-the-month timeslot as of December. The AI will be heard 6-8 PM Eastern time every Wednesday.

While this is a good thing for continuity's sake, I'd like to salute the Audible Woman's 20 year plus journey through North American campus community radio. Starting at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, then moving to CIUT in 1991 Sarah Peebles' show has explored the work of women in expermental music, sound art and performance art. Her vast knowledge and creative programming made this a unique show in North America. Lately, Stephanie Moore has taken the reins, but the radio show will be heard for the last time in early November. There has been discussion of a podcast, which is the next frontier for this type of niche programming - Mike Hansen's Why Not Jazz, which covered similar territory, albeit in a less female fashion was formerly heard on CKLN, and has found a good home at C3R.

Bottom line is, good programming will continue at CIUT from 6-8 PM on Wednesdays. I'll let you know about any Audible developments. Sarah and Stephanie, thanks for sharing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Riddim Twins Get Their Due

Check out Exclaim this month for Brent Hagerman's profile of Sly and Robbie.

The Riddim Twins were probably my single biggest influence in terms of writing music and arranging rhythms back in that stage of my life. From their approach to welding decades-old influences to modern technology, to their sheer musical ability and synchronicity as a duo, these two never cease to amaze me. I may not agree with Brent about the Sinead O'Connor record (their collaboration with Mad Professor is my favourite of their recent work), but they have lost none of their abilities over time.

Brent's timeline is neither too focused on the minutiae, nor on the Modern Drummer aspects of their instrumental and production prowess. I especially like his introduction which highlights the continued lack of critical respect given to reggae.

The interviews with both men went extremely well, so I hear. Brent tells me that Robbie told him to come and hang with him the next time he was passing through Canada. I want in on that action...

And since you asked, here are my favourite Sly and Robbie discs:

A Dub Experience - Sly and Robbie dubbed by Paul Groucho Smykle (Mango 1984)
Padlock - Gwen Guthrie (Mango 1983)
Live At The One Love Peace Concert - Peter Tosh (JAD 2003)
Nightclubbing - Grace Jones (Island 1981)
Red - Black Uhuru (Island 1981)