Friday, December 21, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - December 19/07

I'd have blogged about this weeks ago, but I was hoping a better quality image would turn up. As it is, the rough and rugged colour photocopy on my CDR copy is somehow appropriate to the music within.

I'm a latecomer to this thrilling and deranged band. Those deeper (and darker and more united) into the scene formerly known as Torontopia have already lionized Alex Lukashevsky's band as one of the truly unique sounds of this city. How fitting that Rat Drifting - home to so many strange visions in songcraft - should be releasing this. This marvellous live album has pop songs at its core, complete with catchy rhymes, whose basic progressions are exploded by the improv-minded band. The balance between songs and freakouts gets perilous at times but is always maintained.

It doesn't hurt that the band contains a few of my favourite musicians in Toronto. Ryan Driver is someone I've written about before at length, and here he sticks largely to synthesizer (though also chiming in on flute and ruler-bass). Nonetheless, between his synth tones, Brodie West's sympathetic sax squawks and Tania Gill's keyboard sounds, there's a great din happening at around 1K Hz in all these songs. It's difficult to tell who's doing what, and we like it that way - Lukashevsky's guitar tones (which sounds - probably just a coincidence - like main Rat Drifter Eric Chenaux) play the Ornette role in this music, corralling the musicians into changes, stating and modifying the main themes as he goes. Speaking of Ornette, I'd call this music harmolodic, although rooted in pop, not jazz. 'Harmolodic' is a term that I probably use too frequently, but it's a good description of the give and take between the melodic, harmonic and rhythmic (and textural) elements within these songs.

Can't write about this disc without a tip of the hat to Nick Fraser, who is the funkiest drummer in Toronto not playing funk.

This was my final show of the year, rounding up some of my favourites from 2007. It was by no means systematic or ranking-oriented (one might say I have "ranking dread") - I had to leave one or two of my faves at home simply because I couldn't track down the damn paper sleeves. Do I go more digital next year? Consulting my magic '08 ball, all I get is: "reply hazy, try again"...

Hour 1 Podcast
Hour 2 Podcast

izdiucz - thilges (staubgold)
downstairs - nublu orchestra (nublu)
kirui - co streiff sextet (intakt)
rug boy - claudia quintet (cuneiform)
the alien - ananda shankar (fallout)
mera nam hai shabnam - asha bhosle/r.d. burman (bombay connection)
are you tired of me already? - thongmark leacha (sublime frequencies)
feso jaiye - the sahara all stars of jos (soundway)
imidiwan winakalin - tinariwen (harmonia mundi)
ma hine cocore - vieux farka toure remix by yossi fine (modiba)
cachaca - juba dance (audio 8)
elsa - los destellos (barbes)
masterpiece - deep city band (numero)
thunder - lord thunder (vampisoul)
family tree - sandro perri (constellation)
blues for a bright day - drumheller (rat drifting)
sweet misery - tony wilson/peggy lee/jon bentley (drip audio)
was - michel f cote (ambiances magnetiques)
i saved a junky once - deep dark united (rat drifting)
light of day - lal (PTR)
casa diamante - maracatu nunca antes (no label)
evolution - treson & burna (canadian reggae world)
favi rock - abassi all stars (universal egg)
version galore - love trio and u roy (nublu)
nine years - ticklah (easy star)
cumbia del leon - the lions (ubiquity)
peace version - brentford disco set (soul jazz)
how can i leave you/one love - heptones (heartbeat)

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Pon De Replay

The post title is actually relevant, it's not a completely blatant strategy to ensnare Google hits...

If you're in Toronto, the Abstract Index radio show is being rebroadcast at midnight on Thursdays (or zero hour on Fridays if you prefer). Most of the CIUT music shows are being similarly recycled. Project Bounce, which occupied the 12-5:30 slot for five years, has moved on, and rather than launching seven new shows at once, all the daytime and evening music programmers get an encore for the time being.

I'm pretty happy about it, people often tell me that my flow is well suited to the late night hours. I've always enjoyed doing overnights, and it's a bonus when I don't even have to be at the radio station.

The full schedule of repeats can be found here.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - December 12/07

The first time I heard John Butcher, I hated his sound. It seemed like a supremely introverted, unexciting jumble of spittle noises and half-hearted sighs through a soprano saxophone. At a Polwechsel show, the supremely minimal improv group of which Butcher is a member, I fell asleep. But I've kept listening to him over the years and have come around to his approach.

I've heard him in a very wide range of collaborations in which he's demonstrated his remarkable improvising skills. He seems to adapt to any setting, both stylistically and with his beyond-compare dynamic control. But what finally won me over were his good ol' listening skills; he establishes clear if oblique communication with any player, and often raises their game.

On this collection of solo pieces, he's rounded up recordings from around the world. The track heard this week was recorded in a cave in Japan, and, for a change, the reverb doesn't overwhelm the saxophone. There are about two minutes of this track which conatin some of the most ear-shredding high frequency pitches I've ever heard come from an acoustic instrument. This is contrasted with generous space between the blasts, and the tiniest flutters of almost-notes which explore the 'verb in an entirely different way. Elsewhere he experiments with feedback to great effect, pun intended. As usual his phrasing and melodic sense barely touches on jazz at all, the listener has to surrender themself to Butcher's personal sound universe. I'm no expert on this JB, but this disc is easily among my favourite work of his.

Hour 1 Podcast
Hour 2 Podcast

broken home - harlem river drive (roulette)
sun cycles - nicole mitchell/black earth ensemble (delmark)
wallou - guelewar band (syllart)
belema - opotopo (soundway)
musikana - harari (counterpoint)
do you feel it? - ohio players (westbound)
angela jeanette - juba dance (audio 8)
deja - sidestepper (palm pictures)
coro miyare - fania allstars (caliente)
first zizoku - john butcher (emanem)
let's carve together forever - fond of tigers (drip audio)
man and dog - tony wilson/peggy lee/jon bentley (drip audio)
melina's bath pt. 2 & 3 - rembetika hipsters (socrates pizza)
spanish alpha - mossman (dispensation)
mortar dub - dub trio (ipecac)
istanbul's secrets dub - up bustle and out (groove attack)
be not dismayed - daddy rings (groove attack)
don't think about me - horace andy/jah woosh (trojan)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - December 5/07

The best jazz flautist around today is back with another strong album. This one ought to reach more people through the venerable Delmark label, still putting out Chicago's essential music after more than 50 years. I think it's a (good) sign of the times that there is a reasonable degree of crossover between this venerable indie label and Chi-town's other venerable indie label, Thrill Jockey (holla to Okka Disk , too). Mitchell, Fred Anderson, Jeff Parker (who's on this album), Harrison Bankhead, Rob Mazurek, Hamid Drake, Ed Wilkerson and others have released music on both labels. From this outsider's perspective, that looks like a whole bunch of creative musicians collectively advancing themselves.

While she does play a less common instrument in jazz, it's her imaginative arrangements which have showcased her versatile playing in its best light. While the album starts with a fairly predictable but swinging head/solo/head fashion, it moves into more involved song structures as the disc wears on. As mentioned above, Jeff Parker plays guitar, and in a way substitutes for Mitchell's expansive use of percussion on her first three records. She always treated percussion in a highly tonal fashion as well as rhythmic, so Parker's rhythm parts often sit where the percussion used to be. Tomeka Reid's expressive, dramatic cello is another beautiful aspect of this music, and hotshot trumpeter David Young has some good moments too. Running the gamut from blues to minimalism to freedom ("The Creator Has Other Plans For Me" is a great riff on the title of the too-often covered Leon Thomas/Pharoah Sanders tune), Black Unstoppable is brimming with soul - the kind you need in your windy city during these winter months.
life wants you to love - nicole mitchell/black earth ensemble (delmark)
okwukwe na nchedkwube - celestine ukwu & his philosophers national (soundway)
a sparrow - nifty (blocksblocksblocks)
ave genghis khan - mutantes (luaka bop)
for fela kuti #2 - tony wilson sextet (drip audio)
zut! - deep dark united (rat drifting) played this two weeks in a row - zut alors!
tamaghis - tied and tickled trio (morr music)
dub rock - soundstorm (soul jazz)
recurrents - parkdale revolutionary orchestra (no label)
anyango mbeo - kenge kenge (riverboat)
keep on looking - sharon jones & the dap kings rmx. by kenny dope (daptone)
mr. lucky - betty wright (numero)
fever - mary queenie lyons (vampisoul)
money won't save you - boscoe (*)
martha cecilia (realentada) - mario galeano (no label)
ethio-steppers - the lions (ubiquity)
libros sagrados - gondwana (putumayo)
dispensation - daddy rings (groove attack)
why oh why - ernest & sound dimension (studio one)
ghetto organ - jackie mittoo (studio one)

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Clean Up Man

One reason I've been so delinquent on the playlist blogging... OK, my current excuse for being so delinquent on playlist blogging is that I've been busy with other writing. Here's a roundup of what's been going on.

Been doing some reviews and tings for Eye Weekly. I spoke with Hamiet Bluiett a few weeks ago, and have reviewed quite a few discs over the last few weeks, too. This link should keep things fresh for the faithful AI reader (and myself if/when I lose track).

Have also been doing some work for AOL Canada. Here's a story on Tinariwen, following up on my piece in Exclaim in April. Exclaim also put them in the Top 20 Pop Rocks list for 2007 (written by Michael Barclay, who has a great interview with the band on his blog), and has a review of their live show in Toronto last month. There profile has grown Grateful Dead-style in the interim and they're trodding the boards thru North America once again like the road warriors they are.

Also on the Exclaim front, its end of year issue has been out for a few weeks. I wrote about the excellent new disc by local Afrobeat and beyond heroes Mr. Something Something. There is also a profile of one-of-a-kind classical/breakbeat/etc. musician John Kameel Farah. As editor of the Groove and Destination Out sections, I was very pleased to see the writers come up with these choices for the year in review.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - November 28/07

All I've got to do this week is display the cover image of the new Soundway comp and I know y'all will be rushing out the door (or, uh, clicking open a new window) to buy it, sight unseen. But wait... it's not out until February, so you'll just have keep listening to the Abstract Index to get your fix, week after week...
I'll just say it's as superfantastic as everything else on the Soundway label. It gives up its funk slowly and deliciously - there aren't many immediately killer tracks on the comp, but give it time and you won't be able to stop listening. As always, Miles Cleret does a brilliant job coordinating the record-nerd info, lively commentary and beguiling grooves to produce a work which is well worth owning. If you were fortunate enough to purchase Strut Records' Nigeria 70 - its crowning achievement as a label - you'll be all over this. This kind of release - which took five years to compile - is a doctoral thesis in crate digging and contains the kind of primary research which will be invaluable to future musicologists.
The first hour of this show was done in a cumbiadelic style, enjoy.

do you feel it? - joe cuba sextet (fania)
llegue llegue/guararey de pastorita - los van van (luaka bop)
elyoyo - wganda kenya (soundway)
waraba - bembeya jazz (sterns)
rush hour in hong kong - louie ramirez (fania)
refazenda - gilberto gil (wea latina)
me chame attencao - cassiano (emi)
super god - som imaginario (rev-ola)
trem de doido - milton nascimento (blue note)
quero companheira - rubinho e mauro assumpcao (normal)
muchachita del oriente - los mirlos (barbes)
la candela viva - toto la momposina y sus tambores (real world)
jingo - candido (salsoul)
zut! - deep dark united (rat drifting)
hanne - damian nisenson (malasartes)
junk magic - craig taborn (thirsty ear)
bebe - bebe donkey (ambiances magnetiques)
eme kowa iasa ile wa - mono mono (soundway)
skyjack version - bongo gene (pressure sounds)
you don't have to know me - milton henry (wackies)
peaceful dub - sly and robbie/mad professor (ariwa/ras)
hungarian ghoulash - mad professor/scientist (ariwa/ras)
why 2K - willi williams (discograph)
rock with me baby - john holt (trojan)

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