Thursday, January 29, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - January 28/09

I just found out about this today... wish I'd known last night in order to pay proper respects.

Charlie Cooper, one half of electronic "synthgaze" duo Telefon Tel Aviv, was found dead in Chicago on January 27. He was just 31, and the band had released their latest record, Immolate Yourself, one week ago. No cause of death has been given yet.

Coincidentally, my interview/review with his musical partner, Josh Eustis, was published on the day of his death. I'm like the album very much, but it feels odd to have a brand new review acting as a sort of an unintentional career summary - especially since it represents a change from the band's dense, glitchy textures to a more direct, even soaring sound. My condolences go to Josh and to Cooper's family.


through the looking glass - gamelan son of lion (locust)
space elements vol 1 movement 5 - rafael toral (staubgold)
bosphore/botzomorph - eric st. laurent (katzenmusik)
blossom - chakavak ensemble (global heritage)
zen - rokia traore (nonesuch)
consumption - laura barrett (paper bag)
over the forest - warsaw village band (barbes)
your mouth - telefon tel aviv (bpitch control)
let's get over it - deetron (music man)
se tech we do mon - orchestre poly rhythmo de contonou (analog africa)
we got to get it together - david glover (luv n' haight)
morre o burro, fica o homem - osmar milito (mr. bongo)
wondering (sly) - telmary feat. yusa (bis)
que equivocao - telmary (bis)
modulo jazz - toldos y su grupo (vampisoul)
too poor - barrington levy (greensleeves)
black history - DATC allstars (heartbeat)
painful dub - sonic boom feat. tamara (guidance)
heart made of stone - viceroys (mango)
ischense dub - dubmatix (balanced)
just say who - delroy wilson (trojan)

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Myspace Of One's Own

Here is the cover image of the forthcoming release by Huelepega Sound System entitled "En Los Ojos De Dios Todos Somos Ilegales". His eyes follow you around the room... It's coming out on Inyrdisk, esteemed purveyors of noisy sounds from the T Dot.

We've jumped on the Murdoch train and set up a Myspace page, where we'll be loading up bits and pieces of new stuff on the regular. Look out for more live appearances in months to come!

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Interview - Telmary - Jan 28 -7PM

I'm pleased to welcome Cuban singer-'rapera' Telmary to the AI next Wednesday at 7PM.

She has spent a good deal of time in Toronto soaking up all the musical vibes this fine city has to offer. She moves easily between hip hop, jazz, freestyle poetry and many, many modern Cuban grooves. Telmary will be playing a gig on Jan. 30 at Lula Lounge with fellow vocalist Alberto Alberto, who has a sympathetic take on 'alternative' Cuban sounds.

Please tune in, I've been looking forward to speaking with this dynamic artist for some time, it should be an engrossing conversation.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - January 21/09

As you could probably tell over the past few weeks, I'm really feeling a lot of dub techno these days. Several great releases in the Basic Channel tradition (such as Intrusion and Pulshar) are continuing to find a delicate balance between robotic repetition and beautifully contoured sounds - a snippet of vocal here, some Fender Rhodes warmth there.

But it's remarkable that some 30 years of reggae reissues somehow missed what turns out to be one of the great dub albums of all time, and one which furthers the connection of techno and dub. Dub I is the product of producer Jimmy Radway and his Fe Me Time All Stars and noted engineer Errol Thompson, and Pressure Sounds has rescued it from its obscure 1975 issue. Strange that it should be so obscure, given that it was issued one Micron. In Toronto, it wasn't uncommon to find a wide range of Micron titles - at least it used to be when I was more into create digging - Micron head Pete Weston lived here and had a close association with Leroy Sibbles. Apprently this record appeared at the very end of Micron's first incarnation in Jamaica and was only pressed in the hundreds.

These dubs are chunky, archetypal roots rhythms featuring Tommy Mccook on sax and Vin Gordon on trombone. Solos by both are typically wonderful, and some tasty Hammond work adds more variety to the mix. Thompson dips it all in sonic brass, every instrument is glazed with heavily feedbacked delay which lends the mix a warm, metallic glow. It's surreal in a similar but less deranged 'faders up' way as Black Ark stuff is, everything is put through the dub blender, it's not about dancing on the mixing board. One track in particular has a horn part which combines with delay to sound like a klaxon fading up and down in the mix. In a DJ set, these kinds of mechanical qualities in the music transition quite well into the most au courant dubwise sounds.


kele chi - oriental brothers international (afrodisia)
angel - intrusion feat. paul st. hilaire (echospace)
hanana - ali farka toure (world circuit)
mantistyle - pulshar (phonobox)
slammed - cain and dj brace (balanced)
one way - sugar rock band (bbe)
toro de butt - afrobutt (electric minds)
iberico jazz - quinteto montelirio (vampisoul)
cantoria - quarteto em cy (emi)
eyi su ngaangda - chopteeth afrofunk big band (grigri discs)
229 - gordon grdina trio (plunge)
longa sultaniyega - boom pam (essay)
remnants - silk stockings (bfish)
love is the song i sing - winston mcanuff (makafresh)
take me girl - lenn hammond (udmg/tru muzik)
the pack - winston mcanuff (makafresh)
nkulinze - benon & vamposs (entice)
wave up your hand - big bass theory (sir bassa)
cinderella - fe me time allstars (pressure sounds)
end dust - impact all stars (17 north parade)

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rich Medina Interview - January 21 - 7PM

image from

It's my pleasure to speak with Rich Medina this coming Wednesday about his upcoming Toronto "Black President" edition of Jump n' Funk at Revival on Friday Jan. 25.

Medina hails from Philly, but is generally based in NYC these days. He's a DJ, poet, and producer who has worked with Jill Scott, IG Culture and many others. The Jump n' Funk jams are a tribute to Fela Kuti and his music.

I'm looking forward to asking Medina a wide range of questions about Afrobeat, African music in the USA and the topics at hand surrounding this momentous week in American history...

Go to at 7PM tomorrow and check it out.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - January 14/09

An early contender for one of the best album covers of the year.

I can tell why this got reissued, it's got that certain freeform indie spirit that the kids buy into so much these days. These are unfettered grooves which don't always cohere - certainly Animal Collective of a few years ago would have drawn inspiration from the D.C based Mr. Witch, Ricky Simms. And that outfit is timeless.

But it wouldn't be accurate to term this proto-Williamsburg music. This music represents a point near the end of a long line of black American development. Wicked Witch mulches rock, funk, blues, jazz and electronics into a lumpy gravy. Simms plays almost all the instruments (except for a compellingly off-kilter slice of jazz/rock fusion recorded with a band in 1978) and he's not going for dancefloor satisfaction. There are no signifiers to DJs like intros or breaks, it would be difficult to mix this into a set with such wobbly timekeeping.

This music's kin is the harmolodic movement spearheaded by Ornette Coleman in the mid 70s. There is funk in this music, but it's more about the energy of funk and its electric pulse than its forward drive. There is near constant soloing in some tracks which blurs together into a tasty yet schizophrenic mass. Within the Chaos (apt title for this reissue) emerge a few linear grooves, often of very period-specific blues rock with slap bass. Blues was still a going concern in black audiences in major urban centers in the States at the time; if you played a gig for an older crowd, you'd better know how to play the blues convincingly. It was still a time when blues was passed on from generation to generation as part of the 'dues paying' process of making a living in clubs. Wicked Witch and fellow travellers like Alfonia Tims, James Blood Ulmer and Skip and The Exciting Illusions incorporated blues licks into less linear funky rhthyms (and you could make the case that the roots of blues itself have non-linear elements). This added up to music of tremendous feeling, a full understanding of the roots and branches of black American music and an idiosyncratic command of electronics.

This all changed when sampled loops became popular just a few years later. You didn't have to work hard to imitate James Brown, and absorb all the jazz, blues and African touches that made his grooves special, you could just sample and hold him without worrying about the constituent elements. I have ranted before about the good and bad aspects of DIY production, certainly one of the negative consequences of tabula rasa attitudes to electronic music is that traditional musical mentorship tends to suffer.

It's no surprise that the harmolodic/no wave movements declined rapidly in the 80s - it was too much of a musical challenge to the dancefloor. Leaner, contemporary approaches to electronics which dispensed with blues based song vocalbulary and song structures made this movement sound passe to the kids. But of course composing with electronics in dance music yielded compleletly new ways to write songs, and ultimately fulfilled the harmolodic ideal of placing equal emphasis on rhythm, harmony and melody within music.

Wicked Witch uses all the hair metal, blooz rock, brutalist electronics and slappity poppity bass cliches of the era and mashes them together. These days, we can identify with the mash-up, but not so much with the forms being mashed.


sun watcher - albert ayler (impulse)
say what - melvin jackson (limelight)
dis moi la verite - orchestre poly rhytmo de contonou (analog africa)
pulo pulo (live) - jorge ben (bbe)
ho na nae - wild magnolias (barclay)
fancy dancer (remix) - wicked witch (em)
hair suite - ookpikk (no label)
s.o.c.a. - asian dub foundation (naive)
es'kabani - gumshev (wagram)
zebra - seed organization meets richie foe (balanced)
tell me - femi kuti (downtown)
darkest light - lafayette afro rock band (strut)
lay down in the tall grass - timber timbre (out of this spark)
wet rainbow - tipsy (ipecac)
vapor burn - johnny valentino (9 winds)
prepared - david shea (sub rosa)
old st. peter - assif tsahar, cooper-moore, chad taylor (hopscotch)
plastic smile - black uhuru (virgin)
ashmatic - puslhar (phonobox)
tickle me dub - stromba (fat cat)
three winds of dubwood - dubin hood (balanced)
soldier - barrington levy (vp)
nature planned it - delroy wilson (vp)

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Uma Nota Presents Uma Festinha

Just picked up a DJing gig this week - it'll be a fun one! Well, they're all (mostly) fun, but I love spinning at the Gladstone.

This is an offshoot of the Uma Nota night which occurs bi-monthly. It's a smaller scale event, hence "festinha", but your attendance can embiggen the night!

Here's the details:

Uma Nota presents Uma Festinha
(a little party!)


Samba Elégua -- all percussion set

Repercussions (Roots Soundsystem)
Led by Alkiks Bordokas
(of Maracatu Nunca Antes: )

DJ General Eclectic (Footprints, Freedom Time)

DJ David Dacks (Exclaim! magazine, CIUT's Abstract Index)

Gladstone Hotel (ballroom) 1214 Queen St.W
$5 at the door all night long!

More Info TBA - facebook event is here:

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - January 7/09

This is hard for me to admit, but I finally bought my first digital music device this past Tuesday. Now I join the rest of North America's music consumption habits. My wife is laughing at me, and rightly so.

I'm looking forward to how this MP3 player will change the Abstract Index. Although I get lots of physical promo, there's always more digital stuff to be had. For someone who loves to go off on tangents, it's amazing that I've been such a luddite for so long.

Back in the world of CD promo, though, I recently got Femi Kuti's long awaited disc. I was looking forward to seeing him in Toronto next week, but then word came that the entire North American tour had been cancelled.

The album is interesting, especially in light of younger brother Seun's recorded debut this past summer. As with most of Femi's oeuvre, he strains against Afrobeat, often with imaginative results - though it must be said that the retro vibe which Femi had always eschewed is more prevalent here than ever before.
At worst, as on the title track's waltz time, his ideas seem forced. But at its frequent best - like this week's "You Better Ask Yourself" - the pacing is masterful, with an unfolding energy that his younger half brother has yet to discover. Femi sounds troubled throughout the disc, not in the sense that he is confidently denouncing the evils in the world today, but that he's just hanging in there making his points though he's suffering and hurting too. That's a different point of view from many Afrobeat practioners who often posture themselves as proud, righteous and invulnerable. I really enjoy where this album is coming from, though I'm sure some will take issue with exactly those qualities I find praiseworthy.

the birds - telefon tel aviv (bpitch control)
intense love - sultan peppa rmx. by naw (pawn shop)
xberg ghosts - deadbeat (wagon repair)
union hall (rexxa remix) - juba dance (audio 8)
you better ask yourself - femi kuti (mercer st)
djanfa magni - tidjani kore & orchestra poly-rhytmo (analog africa)
coba guarango - novalima (cumbancha)
dakar pockey - incubator (ptr)
got to get your own - reuben wilson (cadet)
stop and make up your mind - arnie love and the lovettes (numero)
happy fingers - barnyard drama (barnyard)
oriente - galerie stratique (statik)
dancando no escouro - curumin (quannum)
the blue bus - pigeon funk (risquee)
cumbia limatronica - dj negro (no label)
black sabbath - venetian snares (planet mu)
jah goddess - auresia (moonsplash)
dread reckoning dub - dubmatix (7 arts)
dub mission - big bass theory feat. jornick jahnick (sirbassa sounds)
i'm just a dread - jacob miller/trinity (joe gibbs)
ordinary version 3 - impact all stars (17 north parade)

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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Who Wants Yesterday's Papers?

I've been terribly delinquent in updating my "It Was Written" links.

It's more current now, and lists most of the features I wrote last year for Exclaim, Eye Weekly and AOL Canada,

Please go for a browse 'pon the right hand side.

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