Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Funky Friday

toronto sunrise image courtesy of www.interactivepages.com/stuff.html

It's not often that I get to an extended get down on the Abstract Index. The funk is almost always in the mix, explicitly or not, but naturally I jumped at the chance to fill in Michael Clifton's "Funky Fridays" show last week at the punishing timeslot of 5:30-8:30AM (good on ya, Michael...). I used to do a morning show ('87-'89 - yikes!). At best, the timeslot allows you to be alone with your thoughts, your tunes and a tankard of coffee, with a calm energy that's not yet worn down by the day's many trials. Or you can get your freak on really early to rouse the audience out of bed. I was feeling a bit of both this past Friday, and just went off. Mind you, I had to make sure I hit one third Canadian content which, as Lisa Simpson says, is "a challenge I can do".

Unfortunately the archive is pretty lousy - a very poor quality mono MP3 (which is mono in the sense that one jack isn't plugged in to some patch bay at CIUT, creating inadvertant dub when the drum channel of a stereo signal gets wiped out). On the other hand, it's a very small file to download. And let's face it, funk has often thrived on limited sound quality.

The hour from 6-7AM is now up, along with its corresponding playlist.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - October 24/07

Belgian electronic/industrial label Sub Rosa has always dedicated itself to anthologizing the sonic traditions of the world, from the chants of Tibetan Buddhist monks to pan-European electronic music of the early 20th century. Their new double disc collection – Persian Electronic Music Yesterday and Today 1966-2006 – is one of the most fascinating releases in the label’s 20 year history. This set sheds light on 40 years of electronic experimentation in a country with deep and ancient artistic traditions.

The two composers profiled in this set, Alireza Mashayekhi and Ata Ebtekar aka SOTE, both employ the characteristic microtonal quarter steps between notes of Persian scales. Their compositions feature deconstructed Persian musical conventions expressed with pure electronic synthesis and treated instruments. Mahayekhi leans more heavily on processed instruments, and the effect of his pieces is fascinating. As soon as one steps into the Persian harmonic world, even familiar instruments seem new because of their relationships to one another. The track I played last week "Mithra" could've sounded irredeemably cheesy with its early digital synthesis sounds, but the overall harmonic orientation and the constant glissandos from on quarter tone to another organized along the lines of classical Persian composition is absorbing.

SOTE, born in the 70s, brings a more electro-acoustic cum IDM approach to his work (he's released music on Warp). He also works with pure synthesis more often than augmented traditional instruments. But he still has an ear to the past in order to fuck with the present (and future). Despite his love of "gotcha!" style sonic surprises which reference the shock tactics of the 50s and 60s tape music composers, he's a crackerjack synthesists, coming up with bold, clear sounds which interact uneasily with musique concrete like strategies and exploded Persian forms. The track from this week in some ways is more identifiably Persian, with heavily processed strings and percussion which give a clue to their cultural inspiration. Nevertheless, someone called up and wanted to hear some Conlon Nancarrow, which would indeed have made a good mix.

There's lots to chew on with this disc. One could compare it with another disc I blogged about last year - Sharokh Yadegari and Keyavash Nouri's "Migration" - but all these composers use very different methods. Really, you should hear both to appreciate their different ideas on how to combine Persian forms with electronics.

japan/universal indians - healing force (cuneiform)
for velasquez - william hooker/jason hwang (knitting factory)
micro tuning - ata ebtekar (sub rosa)
ok bamboo - shuta hasunuma (western vinyl)
raqset al hajjalah - hossam ramzy (arc)
mar sem fim - maracatu nunca antes (no label)
dirtylush stinkwife - mu-ziq (planet mu)
it's a war war war - ghislain poirier (ninjatune)
mashallah - zeb (wonderwheel)
mistaken identity - brain damage feat. dylan bendall (jarring effects)
geamparale de la babadag - toni iordache (asphalt tango)
excerpt from "radio blanche" - nadja etc.
algae and fungi pt 1 - biosphere (touch)
miss kaba - eric truffaz (blue note)
pretinho babylon - digitaldubs (verge)
hard and tuff - dub syndicate feat. yasus afari (lion and roots)
fort augustus/dub - junior delgado (taxi)
kingdom dub - scientist (kingdom)
world dub - bim sherman (revolver)
homeward bound - prince far i (daddy kool)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Abstract Index Podcast!

The Abstract Index podcast graphic.

Yes it's true, I've finally caught up to 2004 and have made my first steps into podcasting. I intend to archive 4 weeks of shows at any given time, plus occasional treats like non-broadcast interviews and items from the vault of radio shows past... My page can be found here.

I'm no professional, I can't even find it listed in iTunes yet although I'm reasonably sure I added it to the directory. If you have any problems with or suggestions for the podcast aspect of the Abstract Index, please let me know.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - October 17/07

One change to format of the playlist this week: for 20 years I've indicated that artists who put out themselves without a second-party record label are notated as "Indpendent". As of this week, I'll call it "No Label", which is more more accurate. As more and more music is released outside of the "record label" business construct, it should be notated as such, rather than further conflating the notion of "independent" as it relates to said construct with the larger debate of the nature of "indie".

I toyed with the notion of eliminating the label from the playlist - after all, if you're curious about the track, why not just google the name? But record labels are still powerful brands, if not always the most effective marketing/renumeration tool for an artist's needs. I also appreciate all the promo that comes my way, and that's usually the work of the label. Finally, googling the label is usually a reliable way to get good info on the tracks I play.
For me and most of my media bredren and sistren, expectations are raised when they see an envolope in the mail from a favourite label. Ambiances Magnetiques has gotten heavy play on the Abstract Index radio show. They've really surprised me over the last few years as they continue break new ground with very diverse releases, and I have to admit I'm more enthusiastic with what they're putting out these days that a few years ago. The surprises continue with stalwart AM participant's Michel F Cote's new disc, (Juste) Claudette. This is one of the ballsiest jazz records to come out of Canada in years, with the possible exception of last year's ZMF Trio disc. There’s a whole lot of soul inside this music, though it’s twisted in all kinds of horrible ways. From the get-go, Cote’s drumming is unashamedly groove-oriented, though very roughly so. Jesse Levine’s Sun Ra-like organ parts guarantees that outer spaceways are nearer than you think. Alexandre St. Onge’s bass plays off the lower range of the organ remarkably well. Bernard Falaise’s guitar work often reminds me of Derek Bailey's work on "Mirakle" (played 2 weeks ago) - nonlinear but still falling in all the right places. With processed pocket trumpet thrown into the mix, Miles Davis and Jon Hassell comparisons are inevitable, though this sole brass influence provides sonic difference to the rest of the band. Although these songs are typically less than four minutes, sometimes they descend into nondescript though aggressive bluesy shuffles, taking a half point away from this record’s overall score. Yup, Ambiance Magnetiques surprised me again - I’m surprised these players had this record in them, and that it would come out on this label.

relax - stella chiweshe (piranha)
north fork trinity - rv paintings (root strata)
tarmac berlin - burkhard beins (room 40)
muhajer pt. 1 - victor nesrellah/mel m'rabet (no label)
mithra op. 90 - alireza mashayekhi (sub rosa)
for freddie stone - tony wilson sextet (spool)
the mime - sandro perri (constellation)
mume wangu - orchestra makassy (arc)
hey jude - overton barry trio (light in the attic)
gallium - eddie prevost/derek bailey (arrival)
arms oil - michel f cote (ambiances magnetiques)
they call it love - bettye lavette (anti)
a little bit more - dennis brown (shanachie)
new world order - cocoa tea (minor 7 flat 5)
depth in the middle - high tone (jarring effects)
irie meditation dub - nucleus roots feat. don hartley (universal egg)
i man version - willie williams (blood and fire)
leggo beast/mark of the beast dub - abyssinians (heartbeat)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One AIM, Multiple Destinies

Tune in to the Abstract Index radio show at 7PM tomorrow for a conversation with AIMToronto's Scott Thomson. We'll be speaking about his new performance space, Somewhere There, and the upcoming AIMToronto Interface with AMM co-founder Eddie Prevost.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - October 10/07

Icarus is what I thought might happen to drum and bass at a certain point. The slicing and dicing of breakbeats gave way to 2 step, techstep and other more elemental styles at the end of the 90s, and many of the most polyrhythmic artists moved on to glitch, breakcore and other means of sample deconstruction.

Icarus have gone further down this rabbit hole into what the liner notes refer to as “concatenative synthesis”. They let loose a series of algorithms which rearrange sample shards into new forms. This is not a random process, but neither is it as comparatively linear as chopping up one breakbeat to modulate over the course of a song. The three dimensional possibilities of a method of synthesis affecting rhythm, texture and pitch in spontaneous ways are not at all academic here but continually exciting. But that may not be the whole story here. I've no idea what they're actually doing live - and I played one of the live tracks "First Inf(ae)rence" this week. It's likely that laptops are the main means of performance, but something tells me they're working up a greater sweat than their peers. The excellent communication between the duo makes Sylt is a fantastic record, better than the sum of its parts. At over 70 minutes, Icarus have their way with simple sounding notes which turn into mountains of sound.

Selfautoparent - Icarus

first inf(ae)rence - icarus (rump)
des prunes - michel f. cote (ambiances magnetiques)
nyamarupa - alejandro franov (staubgold)
you're the one - sandro perri (constellation)
swing ta vie - nawal (nawali.com)
abankwa - mr. something something feat. ikwunga (world)
la raiz - radio mundial (rough guides)
si me la pan la cojo - augusto santos (iaso)
lone ranger - orgone (ubiquity)
urban fable #1 - people (i & ear)
daily four - moha (rune gramofon)
crunchy hands - smash and teeny feat. john butcher (spool)
no-otropics - jesse zubot (drip audio)
kaziranga beat - ananda shankar (fallout)
na hine cocore - vieux farka toure rmx. by karsh kale (modiba)
truppa truppa - shukar collective (eastblok)
saranga - ifang bondi (syllart)
everywhere you go - bim sherman (pressure sounds)
hydroponic dub - subatomic sound system (nomadic wax)
perdido - noiseshaper (sounds from the roof)
soul piper/dub - improvisators dub (wagram)

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - October 3/07

The reggae massive at the Blood and Fire message board is already downplaying this release, but for the reggae-curious, or even those at the intermediate level, the new Bim Sherman retrospective is well worth picking it up. Contributors to This B and F thread opine that this collection of Jamaican singles from 1974-79 is nothing new, they've all been around for years. This may be due to Sherman's higher profile in England as a longtime member of the On-U Sound posse. His high, wavering tenor was the soul of so many alien-reggae concepts devised by Adrian Sherwood - one could make the argument that his best work was done during the 80s with another worthwhile flourish during the 90s (collected reasonably well on a compilation called "The Need To Live" released shortly after Sherman's death in 2000).

This compilation shows that his independent streak - all tunes are self written and self produced, a fairly unusual occurence in Jamaica - was very much a part of the first chapter of his career. No tossed-off lyrics here, each track contains deeply articulated roots sentiments and subtle wordplay. In many instances, the music is propelled by Sly and Robbie showing their typically careful attention to detail that characterized their 70s rhythms. Spooky keyboards which foreshadowed the later On-U sound material. One interesting aspect to this disc is the variable speeds of the vocal and dub selections. The master tapes seem to have no "true" tempo, which is further clouded by Sherman's variable pitch. Thus depending on the 7" from which these tunes are remastered, identical rhythms can have very different tonalities and harmonies. This happens on many reggae reissues, but on this one it's quite overt - in a good way!

double suicide - sandro perri (constellation)
deseo y culpa - gaby kerpel (nonesuch)
canta de ossanha - tamba 4 (a & m)
present - derek bailey/jamaaladeen tacuma/calvin weston (tzadik)
keet - icarus (rump)
12 buschka - gultskra artikler (miasma)
our man in cleveland - arkana music (independent)
justice league - orgone (ubiquity)
new apala afro - orlando julius (vampisoul)
el bueno, el feo y el malo - nilo espinoza (vampisoul)
dndabp - mr. something something freat. ikwunga (world)
flood - the acorn (paper bag)
imidiwan winakalin - tinariwen (outside)
serengeti stroke - pan-atlantics (compost)
everybody has some dues to pay - little beaver (jazzman)
where should i go - burnt friedmann feat. steve spacek (nonplace)
liquid boy - HIM (virgin)
dub a dub - ranking dread (greensleeves)
golden stool dub - bim sherman (pressure sounds)
jah jah live forever - johnny osborne (light in the attic)
musical science - dub specialist (soul jazz)
workshop - burning spear (mango)

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

One More Jam

At long last, the full transcript of my interview with King Jammy has been posted at Exclaim. Also check out an email interview done with Deadbeat for the "Dub Voyage" article.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - Sept 26/07

Grupo Folklorico Y Experimental Nuevoyorquino is quite the mouthful of a name, but the two albums they produced in the mid 70s represent a startling diversity of Latin rhythms, all played by folks who had something to prove. Loosely centered around the Gonzalez brothers Jerry (conga) and Andy (bass), and veteran timbalero Manny Oquendo this group of radical traditionalists sought to go back to the roots of the rhythms then-newly minted "salsa" with a fresh, daring perspective. The caliber of playing is incredibly high on both Grupo releases, with some players like veteran trumpeter Chocolate Armenteros seeming to twist time with his oblique yet powerful phrasing. "Ao Meu Lugar Voltar" from their second album in 1976 sees them take a run at samba for the first time. This sort of Cuba/Puerto Rico/Brazil crossover was not considered cool at all in some quarters due to national, cultural and linguistic rivalries - the great Brazilian keyboardist Joao Donato faced similar criticism for experimenting with Cuban rhythms. It's a strange tune with cascading marimbas and old school horn lines in the background giving it a bit of a dubby feel in the first half until the whiplash tempo change kicks in and powers the song to its funky finale. The ensemble coalesced further into Libre, led by Oquendo and still active today pumping out some (dare I say) authentic 50s bop powering unflashy but deep dance grooves.

I always figured there would never be an opportunity to see this ensemble live, however, I read that they reunited for a show very recently...

8.6 - supersilent (rune gramofon)
awakening - vancouver chinese music ensemble (vcme)
romeo heart (slight return) - sandro perri (constellation)
old times roll, new times goal - wadada leo smith, gunter baby sommer (intakt)
nta dima - habib koite (cumbancha)
ao meu lugar voltar - grupo folklorico & experimental nuevoyorquino (salsoul)
jammin with joey - joey pastrana (fania)
el nego esta cocinado - pedrito calvo (egrem)
get yr freak on - shawn lee's ping pong orchestra (ubiquity)
sun - nadja (alien 8)
beat the dead horse - timber timbre (zunior)
food good - nublu orchestra (nublu)
run come dub - g.g. allstars (heartbeat)
life on uranus (tee hee hee....) - prince jammy (greensleeves)
round trip - high tone (jarring effects)
turbo autodrive - badawi (ROIR)
every tongue shall tell - wayne jarrett (wackies)
a yah we deh - barrington levy (trojan)

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Blanche Exposures

Our Nuit Blanche Saturday night special - Radio Blanche - was a tremendous success, Thanks to all who participated.

The Irie Band started the evening with rock solid roots and dub on CIUT's outdoor stage. A crowd materialized quickly from the steady stream of pedestrians on St. George St. Back inside the building, the mixing board and 'dub table' were set up. At midnight Ravi Naimpally and John Kameel Farah duetted on tabla and Rhodes/Nord Lead with discreet dub moments. Steve rocked the decks, while I took the dub table for a spin. At around 1:30 the Music Gallery phoned in with (I think) Nick Storring on cello. It was a bad yet interesting connection (as I'd hoped) to which I added effects, clarinet, dumbek and Bryon Gysin talking about mucus. This lead to the guitar duets between Colin Fisher and Nilan Perera. Each was stationed in a different studio and couldn't see the other, but the music they made was remarkably fluid and simpatico. The second of their duets grew from them vamping over an Orchestre Baobab track to almost thirty minutes of free form, soulful electronics.

Glissandro 70 stopped by at 3:45 AM and Craig Dunsmuir played a "cough syrup" set as he described it, going heavy on the spring reverb of my battered Audio Technica mixer. Sandro Perri laid down the next, then Craig took us all higher with a funky throwdown until well after 5. Steve played once again, then it was over to Nadja via phone from 1116 King West. This phone connection was better quality, and the heavily compressed doomy drones amplified by a cavernous space (Sandro remarked that there was a second and a half natural delay in there) sounded sublime in the studio. The transition into Timbre Timbre was amazing, as Taylor opened with slowly modulating white noise. His quiet, folky and resolutely electronic set was the perfect ending to the night.

One more thing - thanks to the University of Toronto police for responding to the noise complaint (wtf?) about CIUT's outdoor speaker, and for not informing us that you went to the trouble to disconnect the speaker yourselves. Perhaps our noise was too weird to be art, unlike the other installation 100 metres up the street.

Members of the Irie Band and friends in front of the outdoor stage

Steve Birek aka Guy Stevos (image courtesy of Steve)

Dubwise Dacks (image courtesy of Steve)

Colin Fisher in session

Nilan "Gene Simmons" Perera

Sandro Perri close to the edit

Timbre Timber near the end

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