Friday, October 31, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - October 29/08

Retro-soul isn't played out, but it probably peaked somewhere over the last year or so with the gossip fiesta surrounding every last move made by Amy Winehouse.

One development over the last couple of years, especially chez Daptone, has been an expansion of the retro vocabulary. Retro-soul has dovetailed somewhat with Afrobeat, the Arkestra, and Mulatu-driven Ethio-funk.

I find at times this can be contrived. For instance, the Karl Hector & the Malcouns disc on Now Again came off as a pastiche to me, though I've certainly played a few tracks from it (one of the nice things about having a radio show built from individual tracks rather than exclusively writing reviews about full length albums). Though the Malcouns are better known as The Poets Of Rhythm, one of the granddaddy groups of this whole retro soul thing, their deliberately loose songs are slapdash with the primitivist/cosmic/tribal influences. One of the problems I have with the new followers of Sun Ra is they take the exotica (esp. in his pre-1960 work) too seriously. Not that Ra was being insincere - his whole African concept and the music he composed to achieve it was genius-level abstraction - but some of the light cha cha cha rhythms of his fifties work are downright humourous. Those retro groups these days which use vague chanting and massed, "spooky" percussion to function as some kind of faux spirituality in music leave me cold. So while the funk of the Karl Hector album is fine, there are other bands that try harder to fuse their constituent influences.

The Menahan Street Band get it right. It's the first release on the Daptone subsidiary Dunham (referencing the Dunhill record label perhaps) under the leadership of Thomas Brenneck. This disc was recorded in Brenneck's bedroom. The MSB are best known as being the sample source for Jay Z's"Roc Boys", but they go much deeper than that. For instance, it's not everyday that I get to drop some Daptone into the reggae set at the end of the show, but they hit a wonderful Miami meets Sound Dimension groove. The Ethiopian horn arrangement of "Birds" is respectful but not at all orthodox going into some Tito Puente sassiness to balance out the reserve. Another triumph for bedroom recording - Mr. Brenneck, you've got a funky residence.


smeseno - lubo alexandrov (ccm)
space hole - march fourth marching band (march fourth music)
belgrade riddim - sub swara feat. march fourth (low)
ab tsimwa geza - daniel nebiat (no label)
vinu niguirayali - group ibimeni (sub rosa)
tatao - royal hartigan (innova)
dirac's theory - gustavo aguilar (henceforth)
my technical difficulties led to rhyhtmical complexities - justin haynes/jean martin (barnyard)
latino - orchestra universitaii de jazz din illinois (sonar kollektiv)
destroy the nihilist picnic - london experimental jazz quartet (bbe)
modul 44 - nik bartsch quartet (ecm)
chickpea - food (rune grammofon)
dodging droplets - INSIDEaMIND (ptr)
entrance to jah world - norris reid (shanachie)
can't stop natty dread - linval thompson (blood and fire)
jamaican collie - charlie chaplin (greensleeves)
shepherds bush - o'luge (last gang)
montego sunset - menahan street band (dunham)
red ash - duke reid group (treasure isle)
can't stand it - alton ellis (treasure isle)


Huffing And Puffing For Huelepega

Fresh from our inaugural freakout on Nuit Blanche, Huelepega Sound System is taking it to the clubs with our first LIVE jam on Sunday November 9.

Sergio Elmir will be manning the decks, bringing the illest cough syrup cumbia from the past and the future, Amadeo and Ernesto Ventura from Rebel Rhythm will add keys and percussion, and yours truly will be bludgeoning everything together with EFX (can you tell it's Halloween as I'm writing this?).

We'll be playing the legendary Wavelength series, long the incubator of semi-pro outfits like ourselves. Expect some harsh vibes - dance if you want but this is all about a heavy, dissolute night of head nodding.

Here are the details of WAVELENGTH 438:
12am — The von Drats (GTA surf rock!!)
11pm — Huelepega Sound System (Latin-charged dub madness), , 10pm — CONTACT (Toronto’s all-inclusive contemporary music ensemble)
+ music supplied by Sleepytown Sound
Sneaky Dee's
431 College St. at Bathurst

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CIUT Fundraising Next Week!

This radio no doubt only receives AM signals, so this image isn't entirely appropriate. But check out that Edison wax cylinder player on top! photo taken at the Mississagi Lighthouse, Meldrum Bay, Manitoulin Island.

CIUT's Fall Fundraising Drive is coming up from November 3-7, and I'll be in the hot seat on Nov. 5 from 6-8PM.

I actually enjoy fundraising because it gives me the opportunity to speak about how important CIUT is to me and to the GTA's mediascape. One of the basic virtues of CIUT is its balance between the individual expression of a programmer within a community supported/oriented organization - it's a duality which is seldom in evidence anywhere else, and with CIUT's range encompassing 8 million people in the Golden Horseshoe and New York state, it's writ large. At a time when so much of our views of media are either as large conglomerates or as tiny, niche oriented blogs (and both have their virtues), CIUT represents a true alternative.

I have worked harder than ever over the last six months volunteering at CIUT. Since the end of June, I have volunteered than 50 hours above and beyond my regular show to help out CIUT's special broadcasts from Afrofest, Jamaica Day, Harbourfront, the Guelph Jazz Festival, and most recently Nuit Blanche. I have also interviewed a wide variety of guests since our last fundraiser, including Leroy Sibbles, Ernest Ranglin, Pee Wee Ellis, Myk Freedman, Rei Alvarez and Stephen Lyons. I've given away lots of tickets and other prizes.

Most of all, though, it's about the music, and I'm constantly sourcing new material and putting older music into fresh new contexts, challenging myself each and every week. Though I have volunteered at CIUT for 22 years, I do not take the privilege of having a radio show for granted.

Won't you please help me fulfill my goal of attracting 20 membership level donations of $25 this November 5? I'll be straight with you - fundraising is always a hard time for me, and open format programmers in general. But the kinds of musical relationships found in open format programming are so important to this otherwise narrowcasted world.

Anyways, tl, dr, perhaps... but please help out. Troubled times will only get more troubled if a FREE resource of alternative, multicultural, grassroots information goes off the air. If you would like to pledge online, do so here, and don't forget to indicate that you're supporting the Abstract Index!


Monday, October 27, 2008

I Wanna 416 You Up

Glen Hall rides again with the ninth edition of this down home improvisers' fest. This event is always packed with the best that Toronto has to offer, and this year it runs from Tuesday Nov. 4 to Friday Nov. 7 at creative musik central, the Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Av. at Bloor.

I'm honoured to curate one of the nights of this year's fest. Thursday has been named "Abstract Instinct" by Glen, and I like the sound of that.

Come out and hear:

Nilan Perera Unit (Nilan Perera – guitar, effects; Aaron Lumley – bass; Dan Gaucher – drums)
Job Cain (Jeremy Strachan – reeds; Jason Hay – reeds; Aaron Lumley – bass; Gregg Brennan – drums)
Gravitons (Mani Mazinani – drums; Jill Lucie Aston – electric guitar)

I'll be hosting, it'll be PWYC.

The rest of the fest lineup can be found here

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - October 22/08

For me, the highlight of CIUT's Nuit Blanche broadcast was INSIDEaMIND. When Steve Birek and I first started developing the theme of "A tribute to 91 St. George St." I felt strongly that CIUT's vast vinyl collection ought to be part of the action. One of the most entertaining shows on CIUT is called Vinyl From The CIUT Crypt (a reference to the basement where the vinyl is now stored), in which someone from the community spends some time in the basement and puts together an hour's worth of programming and personal insights about music. I figured INSIDEaMIND could put together an epic edition of the show, and that's exactly what happened.

Everyone in the studio was astonished that the majority of their midnight shift was sourced from records they'd found only a day before. That's what impressed me most - it's one thing to be able to manipulate the crap out of generic breaks, or records that have been in your collection for years, but it's quite another to be able to absorb so much new musical information and transform it into something utterly unrecognizable yet funky and often hilarious.

Their first album "Scatterpopia" is due to be released on November 6, and features contributions from some well selected guests. Laura Barrett contributes some pristine vocals, deftly subdued rhymes from Sarah Sayeed, and a particularly fractious tenor sax part by Colin Fisher which is an album highlight. Hip hop is just a beginning for these guys - the grooves they generate use a hip hop vocabulary, but their dub techniques are always pushing and pulling at the basic beat to create variations on a theme. They're also unafraid of extended beatless segments in which they display a keen sense of conventional musical harmony (as opposed to the harmony of the megamix, where two records sound kind of cool played together, but tend to exclude any other conventionally tuned instruments - not that that's a bad thing...).

To paraphrase their tagline, these guys truly are master "musicians on turntables".


sore knights - women in tragedy (gf noise)
sculptures - geordie haley (no label)
homia/mantra - shahrokh yadegari (lilasound)
fantasma/parastasie - tim hecker/aidan baker (alien 8)
a kind of fool - rare moods (comet)
mdina experience - hans tammen (innova)
dust - gang gang dance (social registry)
sunset sorcery - insideamind (ptr)
afro - peru negro (times square)
dame juaneco - juaneco y su combo (barbes)
lisandra - bio ritmo (locutor)
la rumba se pone buena - jesus pagan y su orchestra (rough guides)
ilu baje - lightning head (lion head)
people people - souljazz orchestra (do right)
bringin' it - nightmares on wax (warp)
muchacho - bio ritmo (locutor)
kingsmen - o'luge (last gang)
yeah (ina dravidian bombstep) - sub swara/juakali (low)

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - October 15/08

I inherited this record from my dad. He has a very decent jazz collection, the result of having worked at Sam The Record Man during the 50s and 60s.

Back when I first started becoming interested in jazz - this was around the time I started volunteering at CIUT in 1986 - his record collection pointed me towards many directions I'm still exploring. Dad had a particular affinity for Lennie Tristano, Roland Kirk, and any jazz trombonists, his instrument through high school and (slightly) beyond.

This Yusef Lateef album was always a favourite of mine. Lateef should've called it "New York" instead of "Detroit". It features the Joel Dorn psychedelic soul jazz machine with funky usual suspects Bernard Purdie, Ray Barretto and Cecil McBee. Lateef takes it out, though, with some mysterious and wonderful chord progressions. Belle Isle is a stormer.

Nowadays, dad mostly listens to reggae, so we still have much in common.


raindrops - gurpreet chana (no label)
passages - royal hartigan (innova)
zombies love dancin' to this number - jean martin/justin haynes (barnyard)
uamanas - bulbs (freedom to spend)
aixa - alejandro franov (native bliss)
opa jones - lubo alexandrov/kaba horo (ccm)
higher state of consciousness - christian prommer (sonar kollektiv)
interested benevolence - soul jazz orchestra (do right)
un shipibo en espana - juaneco y su combo (barbes)
crumbs from the table - young disciples co. (numero)
second stop is jupiter - sun ra & his arkestra (leo)
the bronx with palm trees - deep rumba (american clave)
el casabe - alfredo de la fe (lp)
mali - wigald boning (compost)
belle isle - yusef lateef (atlantic)
istanbul - o'luge (last gang)
everytime - mikey dangerous (mboll)
hotter fire - big youth (trojan)
life of contradiction - joe higgs (pressure sounds)
turntable dub - the observers/king tubby (trojan)
johnny man - dub specialist (heartbeat)
earth wind and fire - paul blackman (shanachie)

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Friday, October 10, 2008

To Market, To Market

It's not Kensington, but it is a market... actually Jean Talon in Montreal

I've been doing a lot of extracurricular work for CIUT lately, but this is a little different.

This will be a treat - I'm subbing for Sergio Elmir's Dos Mundos this Tuesday October 14. That's fun in itself, but as a bonus I'll be jamming down live from Kensington Market in a little spot called Cafe Bocafo at 253 Augusta Av.

The timeslot is 12-2PM, which is a lovely lunchtime slot. Swing by and say hi, have a coffee or a bite to eat and chill...

I mean, what else could Torontonians possibly have going on next Tuesday?

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - October 1/08

Shooting fish in a barrel, this one was.

I've rarely had such an easy time with a record review. It could have been much harder had my word count been in the Pitchfork range; I'd gladly have dissected each and every favourite riddim. But with 120 precious words to play with, it's as easy as a brief explanation of the idiosyncratic Jamaican genius and a hearty thumbs up.

What I hadn't realized was that Pablo may have had the most stable international career of any Jamaican artist. He entrusted his foreign releases to Greensleeves in the UK and Shanachie in the US, and stayed with both for nearly two decades until his death. He controlled his own publishing and actually made money from royalties, from what I understand. Not that he was a wealthy guy, but he was at least able to recoup dividends from his work from the places that appreciated his talents most - Japan, the US and Europe. He succeeded on his own terms in all those places, and this excellent set, complete with bonus DVD, reminds us all of his unique talent.

Podcast - 1 hour only this week

spoonbender – low pressure sound system (ubiquity)
slow down – dirty bottom (old sofa)
go – two banks of four (sonar kollektiv)
fidget – lina allemano (lumo)
fish bowl – ken aldcroft (trio)
gegenwart – burnt friedman/jaki liebezeit (nonplace)
kosmos (sx dub 2000) – paul weller (echo beach)
power of great – lightning head (lumo)
nuclear – etana (vp)
israel in harmony – augustus pablo (shanachie)
over africa – GG allstars (heartbeat)
you make me so very happy – alton ellis (heartbeat)

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Nuit Blanche - Live Blog!

It begins. Tune in to CIUT 89.5FM in Toronto and surroundings, everywhere else.

naw - 8:45PM

dubmatix - 10:10PM.

paint the white house weird - 10:20PM

amadeo ventura, huelepega soundsystem - 11:10

insideamind - 12:30

no beat 2:10

ryan driver - 3:15AM

christine duncan 4:05AM

danny nebiat 4:55AM

Gurpreet Chana 5:40AM

Tradition 6:25AM


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

For What It's Worth - My Polaris Prize First Ballot

logo courtesy of Polaris Music Prize

I'm a Polaris Music Prize juror; unfortunately I couldn't make Monday's gala to get whipped up in the excitement. Maybe next year they won't schedule it on Rosh Hashanah.

I've had fun over the last few months participating in the process and reading other folks observations' on what conspiracies may or may not be happening among jurors. If there are conspiracies I sure wasn't a part of them. Despite the existence of a message board for jurors, there simply isn't enough communication between jurors to create a credible bloc for any given disc- unless it's all happening in some mysterious bar where 30-40 people get together to determine the fate of the Canadian music universe.

Only one of my initial five discs selected made the Long List, but that's an improvement over last year. And I'm happy enough that Caribou won - I've played his music on my radio show, so that's good enough for me.

But I'd like roll back the clock to earlier this summer when jurors were asked for their initial five picks of "highest artistic integrity, without regard to musical genre". Here are mine:

5. David Buchbinder - Odessa/Havana (Tzadik)

I gave this four stars in Eye Weekly and if I'd been able to spend more time with this disc before reviewing it, I might have given it five. It's a near-perfect synthesis of Latin and Jewish/Eastern European approaches to jazz. This disc's major acheivement is the ability to balance potentially uncomplimentary rhythms without sounding in any way restrained. You've probably heard it a lot on CBC, and for good reason. This record is truly successful world music, where two traditions are deeply expressed and expertly fused with great imagination. And it's not unfunky.

4. Maracatu Nunca Antes - The Beat Migration (No Label)

I could unspool some history and explanation of maracatu, but just link this and cut to the chase. Everyone I know who has heard this album, or more likely, seen them in the street has been converted by the massive percussion power of this group. There are always more than a dozen of them, including at least two bass drums, generating righteous rhythms that musically slay everyone in their path. And that's before the incredible presence of Aline Morales enters into the picture; suffice to say she is one one of the most compelling bandleaders of any band in Canada, she's like a beacon on stage. Since this album came out, I've socialized with some of these ladies and gentlemen, and the team spirit is remarkable. Billy Bryans started playing with them recently and he told me "it's the greatest thing I've done this year". This album, in a perfect world, would cross over to techno and hip hop audiences. This is healing music.

3. Nifty - A Sparrow! A Sparrow! (Blocks)

Matt Smith is a man of many loops, and the presence of kalimba sweetens the deal for me. Not that the doo-wop influence isn't already sweet. I once played the closing track "A Sparrow!", with its blizzards of high-frequency noise and towers of dub, and somebody called me up to say he'd damn near driven off the road. Good enough for me.

2. Sandro Perri - Tiny Mirrors (Constellation)

This is the pick that made it to the top 40. Who knows why it failed to make the short list? I have a feeling it just missed. This album gives me chills every time I listen to it. It is simply gorgeous in its songwriting and elegant instrumental performances. The voices of Sandro and Ryan Driver (participating in this year's Nuit Blanche on CIUT!) are haunting together. I was happy to see this move on because many of my favourite musicians in Toronto play on this album, such as Eric Chenaux and Nick Fraser.

1. LAL - Deportation (Public Transit)

Released only 5 days before the deadline for this year's award, I was fortunate to have a few more weeks to get into this before casting my vote. This is not an easy album to love, and maybe that's why it didn't get as much publicity as I thought it would (year-end lists anyone?). But the subject matter is difficult and unique; talking about social and environmental justice, ethnicity and class. Moreover, the beats are very downtempo and abstract, somewhat removed from the clean, sleek beats that seem to characterize popular electronic sounds these days. But this is a highly personal statement that fully succeeds as a brave artistic move and another step foward for this band.

Yep, all these picks are from Toronto. Sorry, rest of Canada. Ghislain Poirier made my second ballot.

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