Saturday, March 31, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - March 28/07

True freakiness is a virtue to me, right up there with soulfulness. I wouldn't describe myself as a freak, and I sure don't look like one, but anyone who listens to the Abstract Index radio show knows that I value the constant challenge of improvised mixology. I feel that community radio is a license to explore music as much as possible in a public forum, especially given the huge and unique library curated by Music Director Ron Burd. A big part of my self-styled mandate is to champion like minded souls. On this show I played some Roland Kirk and this link pretty much defines what I mean by a "freak". All of us can only hope to get to a fraction of where he was coming from. And I'd say there are some freaks out there listening, judging from the calls I get.
What's the difference between someone who fancies themselves a freak and the genuine article? The passage of time tends to bear out one's true colours. Just look at all those ex-hippies runnin' tings throughout the world. On the other hand, there's Jimi Tenor. He has been around for some 20 years, starting out as an industrial musician but gaining his first wave of international notice with the Lounge era of the mid to early 90s which coincided with the death throes of acid jazz. The lounge scene was willfully plastic and didn't breed much music which stood the test of time, and Tenor's work may have been consigned to the cutout bin (do those still exist?) due to his spaced out neo-Austin Powers persona. Even worse, the labels put on him - "the Barry White of Finland" and 'the Elton John of jazz" - don't exactly bespeak artistic integrity. But he's no poseur.
This new album "Joystone" is his best yet, and has Ubiquity, one of my favourite labels, backing it. Tenor takes a turn into Afrobeat, accompanied by an ensemble called Kabu Kabu, who worked with Fela. It's pretty late in the hipster game to be jumping on the Afrobeat bandwagon, but Tenor takes Nigerian-American rhythms to places they've never been. Joystone hangs together like a grandiose, smarmy, funky, cosmic whole. His arranging skills are on brilliant display here - this record is the only disc I've ever heard that integrates an eager-to- please pop vibe with Afrobeat. More than a few moments bring Jamiroquai to mind, but the music isn't at all imitative like Jay Kay has been throughout his career. There is a comprehensive understanding of the rhythms behind Afrobeat, which are beautifully integrated with great harmonic movement and melodic brilliance. The dark and jagged keyboard sounds prevent the album from sounding one-dimensional, and feature a wide array of vintage gear, with some serious pitchwheel abuse on many tracks. Best of all is the lack of concern for authenticity. Tenor's fluffy lyrics about 'heaven in your eyes' and 'love is the only God' are hilariously banal and delivered with a thin whisper that hardly bears out the Barry White comparisons. But the perverse mixes on each song (why do the drums come in halfway through the first chorus of "Anywhere, Anytime"??) and the deep space production recalls the most oblique records of the Impulse 70s years. Heck, this disc stacks up well with contemporary electrojazz on Thirsty Ear. RIYL: Tony Bennett arranging Africa 70 with Weldon Irvine guesting on keys.

10 plagues - socalled feat. killah priest (jdub)
ma hine cocore - vieux farka toure rmx. by yossi fine (national geographic)
states of grace - proffessor undressor (kelp)
anywhere anytime - jimi tenor & kabu kabu (ubiquity)
ubombo - madale kunene rmx. by smith and mighty (b & w)
ahimana - tinariwen (outside)
bing bang bong - uzume taiko ensemble (uzume)
flautist with hat and shoe - gebhard ullman/steve swell 4tet (CIMP)
cross eyed - brian groder (latham)
slippery hippery flippery - roland kirk (emarcy)
chabi kho jaye - lata mangeshkar & shailendra singh (rough guides)
joro boro - balkan beat box (jdub)
do whatever sets you free - johnny frigo (luv n haight)
disco connection - lord rhayburn (numero)
el mondongo - los corraleros de majagual (soundway)
jah give - jah cutta feat. dean fraser (stomp)
jah has a plan - humble (soundcheck)
judgement come dub - slimma (universal egg)
black red dub - abassi all stars (universal egg)
joker smoker - tristan palmer (greensleeves)
corazon de leon - up bustle and out rmx. by kabanjak (collision cause of chapter 3)

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - March 21/07

It was the first day of spring, and we're all thinking about the darling buds of March.
There's something about a tribute to the herb that makes all graphic sensibilities go south. This is a particularly bad example, but before you pass judgement, you should take a broader perspective on "high" and "low" cover art with this anthology of reggae artwork. And then there's the best known ganja comp, Big Blunts.
Greensleeves has put out high grade to ditchweed releases since the mid 70s. This comp might appear strictly disposable, but the compilation walks a fine line between not-quite-played-out classics, a couple of out of the way 70s-era 12" and a broad spectrum of new sounds composing about half the album.
Ganja compilations always hang together well; made interesting by the range of topics applicable to the theme. From law enforcement issues to the munchies, some of the most vivid and descriptive lyrics ever to come out of Jamaica revolve around this evergreen subject. Production wise, of course, deep, slow grooves highlight the early going while the contemporary tracks display the continuing relevance of dub to today's reggae production.
The hidden gems are Tristan Palma's "Joker Smoker" - a hilarious tribute to Minnie the Marijuana Moocher - and last week's track "100 Weight Of Collie Weed" by Carlton Livingston. With a pure falsetto that evokes Cornell Campbell, smuggling herb and evading roadblocks never sounded so sweet.
stop in the name of love - margie joseph (stax)
ready if i don't get to go - prince phillip mitchell (grapevine) great link to an overlooked performer
why can't we live together - tinga stewart (blood and fire)
mr. president - psyco (mind)
sovnlos - badun (rump)
tarantella rusticana - wadada leo smith & gunter baby sommer (intakt)
revuela - radio zumbido (quartermass)
cachaca - juba dance (audio 8)
mehbooba mehbooba - r. d. burman (rough guides)
acrobat -drumheller (rat drifting)
marib - paul rutherford/barry guy/phillip wachsmann (eminem)
varashan - ziya tabassian (ambiances magnetiques)
oudische - thilges (staubgold)
black water - arto tuncboyaciyan/serj tankian (essay)
mf rainbow - dub alchemist (interchill)
mi altar voy a almar - up bustle and out (echo beach)
steve mcqueen - patchworks (guidance)
never be unfaithful - gregory isaacs (trojan)
100 weight of collie weed - carlton livingston (greensleeves)
row fisherman - junior delgado (soundboy)

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Krar Power

Daniel Nebiat. Image courtesy of Wavelength.

Twas a big night for Wavelength last night. Krar-ist Daniel Nebiat mashed up the place. There are many in the Wavelength extended family who enjoy the Ethiopian/Eritrean strip along Bloor near Ossington so it seemed logical at some point that there would be an opportunity for some musical crossover, especially following last month's panel discussion. A few emails between Wavelength and Music Africa begat Wavelength #356.

I'll let Stilleposter 'Demian' describe his (and the crowd's) reaction: "I thought Daniel Nebiat would play a more low-key folky set but shifted gears and really loved his super disco soul funk African groove." On top of that Nebiat brought a large dollop of Fred Frith meets Earl Scruggs vibe to this brand of disco. But disco it was - those booming DMX beats quickly engaged the dance punk/Hall and Oates-lovin' side of Wavelength patrons. Waleed Abdulhamid was an effective bassist, alternating between playing within the frequency of the krar or laying down subterranean grooves which gave the circular forms of the music greater dancefloor drama. But Nebiat was a star, playing to the ladies, grooving out with some truly twisted displays of polyrhythm and polytonality on the pentatonic krar. If there was any skepticism in the crowd, it vanished quickly. Even without the krar, Nebiat held the crowd with ease. The twenty or so Eritrean patrons also loved the vibe - and most likely Sneaky Dee's very capable sound system. Nadine McNulty from Music Africa told me that Sneak's may well become a hangout for them; they loved the atmosphere, the accepting vibe of the crowd and the trippy visuals.

I don't want to make too much of one admittedly wonderful night, but everyone was overjoyed beyond their expectations - Jonny and Wavelength, Nadine and Music Africa, the bands and everyone in attendance. More collaboration is sure to follow. When capable indie-minded organizers start working together, great works result.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - March 14/07

Over two years in the making, Soundway's latest labour of love "Colombia! The Golden Age of Discos Fuentes - The Powerhouse of Colombian Music 1960-76" (whew! That title is almost tl, dr) is finally available. Miles Cleret has really outdone himself here - and I haven't even peeped the liner notes yet which detail the full history of the venerable Discos Fuentes label.
Soundway releases are getting less funky. I mean that in the best possible way. Every disc contains at least a half dozen floor fillers, but it's not always those that feature a breakbeat that do the trick. Cleret has a knack for finding tunes with the right kind of rhythm vs. bass separation which plays out well on a large PA. The rhythms are rough and rugged cumbias, New York and Cuban flavoured salsa and more regional styles. They sheer abandon of these sides should entice anyone with any sense of rhythm. One would be tempted to say that the sound is altogether rougher than NY at the time - but I'm not going to start an international incident here. That debate involves too much music and too many variables...
I heard the licensing took some time. Discos Fuentes has been around since 1934, and well... you know how major labels can be.... Maybe they wondered what the hell was going on when permission was asked for some of these obscure tracks. However it worked out - best case scenario: there's much, much more to come - I'm sure both parties will be satisfied with the result.
Bonus: though I haven't seen the liner notes, apparently they provide a comprehensive history of DF.

tausenadelwind - reuber (staubgold)
medicine hat - menage a un (high mayhem)
do it - brotherhood of breath (fledg'ling)
moonstruck - malone barnes and spontaneous simplicity (luv n' haight)
jim na go waay - mr. something something (world)
refazenda - gilberto gil (WEA)
cantoria - quarteto em cy (odeon-EMI)
hotel des estrelas - gal costa (EMI)
last tango in paris - willie rosario (fania)
mestizos - luis ochoa & cimarron (cubanmusic)
malawoo - africando (sterns)
salsa na ma - fruko y sus tesos (soundway)
bra - cymande (collectibles)
tamatant tilay - tinariwen (outside)
skunkaliscious - zeb (wonderwheel)
insane abduction - almamegretta (interchill)
drongo dub - highvisators (jarring effects)
reference guide to all the available light - once 11 (the agriculture)

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Queen West Represent

Set some time aside on Sunday to head down to the Gladstone Hotel - a venue which is growing into the hub and soul of West Queen West. If there's doings a-transpiring in the community, it's even odds that the Gladstone will be the venue.

This event is entitled "Queen West West Equitable Development Beach Partee". There are two aims: raising awareness of the interconnections between longtime Parkdale residents, business interests, the arts communities and all stakeholders in this vibrant part of Toronto. And there's money to be raised for homelessness-aid organizations PARC (Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre), and Na-Me-Res.

The night's entertainment highlights, as far as I'm concerned, are Ghostlight and an improv group featuring John Oswald, Scott Thomson, Eric Chenaux and Jake Oelrichs. Also on the bill are The Phonemes, Garbage!Violence!Enthusiasm!, Ghostlight and DJ Misty Rock N' Roll. It kicks off at 9PM.

Carl Zoilus Wilson is helping to organize this. It sounds like the event is still evolving, so check his blog for possible updates over the weekend.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - March 7/07

Omar Souleyman is based in Northeastern Syria, where he purveys some of the most strident and spellbinding dance music on this planet -but what do people consume while . Sublime Frequencies, who seem to be shifting their focus from radio collages to single artist compilations and field recordings, have assembled a mix of tunes culled from some 500 of his cassette only releases since 1994.

Deemed "too street" by those who would be in a position to import and export music within the world music industrial complex, Highway To Hassake finds itself in the burgeoning niche of "non-world music". I define this imaginary niche in extra-musical terms - it's non-English speaking music which hits in a way that provokes a purely physical, not just intellectual, stimulus. It can't just be "good for you" intellectually, it's got to be something you can relate to on a gut level. As Carl Wilson so astutely pointed out a few months ago "relatability" can be troubling in that it has a whiff of lowest common denominator about it - but that's not always a bad thing. So non-world music could be Balkan beats (i.e. "it's just dance music, no need to get all cultural about it") to Konono #1's dissonance ("what a total mindfuck, so much better than contrived world fusion") to Turkish rock ("cause it just ROCKS"). Whatever provokes instinctive reaction.

Souleyman is relatable to Western audiences on the mutant DIY techno front. Last week's track "Ley Jani" features six different flavours of solo instruments over a fast, rudimentary soca-like pattern, everything crushing your head at tempos north of 130 BPM... raving, I'm raving! Phase shifted, pitch bent keyboard and baglama solos are seemingly played at quadruple speed and the source cassette's self contained compression makes the sound boom and hiss. Souleyman himself lets loose with controlled fury and a wash of delay kicked up with feedback. It's a sound that will send you running back to your TASCAM with fresh inspiration.

As you can see in the album graphic, Souleyman cuts a striking figure: bedecked in a keffiyah, with a police-issue moustache and Ray-Ban Aviator-style glasses he's strictly business like EPMD. There are slower, folkier numbers on the disc, but my doctrine of relatability includes hypercaffeinated tempos and disorienting polyrhythms.

isadora - celia cruz (great site!) & fania allstars (columbia)
que mujeres - son ache (indie)
fiesta religion - alex cuba (caracol)
ke djulo - seckou keita quartet (arc)
matadjem yinmixan - tinariwen (outside)
leh jani - omar souleyman (sublime frequencies)
eid for dakana - group doueh (sublime frequencies)
parlor - asa chang & junray (leaf)
ruchenista! - slavic soul party (barbes)
cemalim - erkin koray (world psychedelic)
guayaba - la sonora de l. lucho feat macedo (vampisoul)
rompe coco rico - juan pablo torres (waxing deep)
vehement - queen mab trio (stichtig wig)
the eleusian mysteries movement 1 - evergreen club gamelan ensemble (artifact)
sky drops - ori kaplan's percussion ensemble (knitting factory)
quiet dawn - nostalgia 77 (ubiquity)
fisherman's jig - juba dance (audio 8)
lord help me - amnesty (now again)
woman of the ghetto - phyllis dillon (question)
inna jah children version - dhaima (joe gibbs)
africa land - carol kalphat/clint eastwood (hit run)
complain not - chatta (indie)
bhabi wrong dub - echo (in tha chamber)

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - February 28/07

Tinariwen's new record could find a wide and diverse audience. First, there's the all-important "authenticity" factor which, rightly or wrongly, is still so important to an audience's perception of the legitimacy of a world music act. As Tuareg rebels in Mali and Algeria, these freedom fighters have unimpeachable cred. Their super-indie DIY cassette recordings which preceded their full-fledged recording career reinforce it.

Blending all kinds of influences from around the Sahara, from Gnawa and Mande traditions, to Arabic ululations and Santana, their sound rechannels American blues influences with high lonesome desert ambience. Their association with Robert Plant, likely netted them a producer in Justin Adams, who has always been better known to me as Jah Wobble's right hand man in Invaders of the Heart.

Aman Iman is remarkably catchy. Some chord changes seem straight from the Sheryl Crow songbook, but it manages to be profoundly accessible without sacrificing the band's power. They've achieved a universal groove which balances trance inducing moments with time honoured pop licks. Everyone I've played it for gets that involuntary neck bounce so characteristic of the sweetest hip hop.

Finally, there's the hair. That hair has star quality.

turn it up - assif tsahar/cooper-moore/chad taylor (hopscotch)
toumast - tinariwen (outside)
jalsat atabat - omar souleyman (sublime frequencies)
ghati nen el bal - rached kabbaj (barbarity)
sote sote adhi raat - salma agha/sapan-jagmohan (bombay connection)
happyfour twenty - christ (benbecula)
sans titre - les george leningrad (rythmo tropicale)
caterwaul - zavoloka vs. kotra (nexsound)
boom - pau torres (testing ground)
sakti/shiva - fred anderson/josh abrams (thrill jockey)
zig zag - colin fisher (ncra)
hot n' heavy - ethnic heritage ensemble (delmark)
akom 7 - follow follow (ombu)
stop to make a change - nostalgia 77 (ubiquity)
gb - tutty moreno (far out)
con la luz del la manana - sintesis (waxing deep)
electrocharge - dennis bovell (LKJ)
a rebel soul - aswad (island)
ire ire - keith hudson (pressure sounds)
natural mystic - jennifer lara (studio one)
behold - culture (virgin) nice bio...

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Paid The Cost To Be The Boss

Not Springsteen, JB that is.

When I found out that the Godfather of Soul died on Christmas Day, I immediately pitched a career retrospective to Exclaim. There was already something lined up for the February issue, so it's finally out now.

Mine is not the first career retrospective of JB's career - and Wax Poetics, as mentioned in a previous post, does him so much justice that it's a must read for all who are interested. There are many well-researched appreciations of Brown's legacy, but I'm happy with how this story came out. It's a mix of the most important moments of his career, some trivia, good anecdotes, and the specific insight of Alan Leeds and Fred Wesley.

You can read it here.

By the way - I totally spaced on this last month - in February's Exclaim I profiled Rat Drifting records. The piece ended up having an irreverant tone, which if you're acquainted with any of the principals of the label, kinda makes sense. Most of all, Rat Drifting succeeds in navigating the treacherous economics of making music on the fringes of improvisation. The label serves as a hands-off marketing and distribution leg up for a wide range of projects from a like-minded group of participants, and has been the only Toronto based label of its type since Unity records, or perhaps even Sackville records (though Sackville was also geared to American artists).

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