Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No BS About BSS

BSS at Coachella, courtesy of AOL Canada

Buraka Som Sistema roll into Toronto tonight with their intense kuduro fusion, riding an ever growing wave of delirious testimonials about their live show. Apparently Coachella will never be the same.

Today, AOL Canada published my article about them. As you might expect from me, my take on their story is less of a "next big thing" POV, and more about relating it to, as Guillaume Decouflet aka Khiasma says in the article, "music as the result of immigration".

But tonight at the El Mocambo, it's all about music of mass gyration.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Free For All, All For Free

Please accept our springtime gift:

En Los Ojos De Dios, Todos Somos Ilegales - Huelepega Sound System

If you'd rather have a disc with better sound quality, get in touch with our friends at Inyrdisk.

If you'd like to give some love to the amazing facility which gave birth to this project, head on over to CIUT and make a donation (make sure you support your favourite shows, Dos Mundos or Abstract Index!)

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - April 22/09

Bell Orchestre's "As Seen Through Windows" is a disc that would never get serviced to me as promo. Being largely identified as an offshoot of Arcade Fire, any advance copies would go to a magazine or newspaper's more senior indie rock writers (if they hadn't already received promo directly from friends in the band). Even though I play my fair share of classical crossover experiments (including Loop 2.4.3. in this show), and would feel comfortable reviewing/being assigned this disc if it were recorded by a bunch of unknowns, it's never going to land on my desk.

However, the best thing about being a Polaris Music Prize juror is access to a site where I can download whatever albums are mentioned by 175 of my music journalist peers over the course of the year. Right now, there are several dozen albums supplied by artists for the jury's consideration. These range from the most popular to complete obscurities. So, such streams of promo like I just described, no longer matter.

These downloads have had a significant effect on my programming over the last few months. The AI is all about a widescreen sweep of music, and this resource IMAXes my range. Sure, I could download everything I'm curious about illegally, but the larger point is that my peers will make me curious about something in the first place through the online discussion forum for jurors. I can then go check out the music immediately with no fuss and excellent fidelity.

This download site helps level the promo playing field. Much of the music I champion is hampered by labels or individuals with tiny promo budgets, and it's unlikely that most of the jury would ever hear or receive this music. It's great to be able to suggest a title, have it available for download, and turn on music critics throughout Canada in a way the artist could never foresee.

As much as I tend to make snide remarks about how indie rock dominates the critical consensus of this country, there's a lot of music to love in 2008-9 (or any year). It's important for me to STFU and open my ears regardless of my what I think belongs on my turf. I may stand apart from many critics in my musical tastes, but I won't reject more popular music on principle. It goes without saying that I hope the reverse is true.

About the music? Bell Orchestre rocks! Secret game-raising ingredient? Producer John McEntire. Not so secret ingredient? A much greater command of the instrumental voicings in the band expressed through better songs than their first album, made super-heavy by McEntire.

For superior coverage of what the album/band is all about, please visit Michael Barclay, who is in the rare position of knowing the band members personally and not resort to a half-assed list of RIYL band names as a substitute for genuine & profound musical analysis.


bedeekina iskigetimen - tilahun gessesse (ethiosound)
crazy about you baby - l.t. and the soulful dynamics (numero)
don't burn down the bridge - albert king (stax)
hymn for a perfect heart of a pearl pt. 1 - dennis gonzalez (konnex)
njabala - birigwa (porter)
thorsburger the skinny - now orchestra (now orchestra)
dark matter - loop 2.4.3. (music starts from silence)
blimey - ramadanman (scape)
cat and mouse - mr. scruff (ninja tune)
karnival - ghislain poirier (ninja tune)
icicles/bicycles - bell orchestre (arts and crafts)
la llama - savath and savalas (stones throw)
masenqo - mulatu & the heliocentrics (stones throw)
rosmani - roswell rudd & toumani diabate (emarcy)
eh congo - ahmad janka nabay (no label)
tribulations - earth roots and water (light in the attic)
land of love - sons of light (heartbeat)
binshaker dub - twilight circus (m)
sproing a dub - burning babylon (sound shack)
pure and clean - alpha and omega (a & o)
sha la la - maytones (heartbeat)

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - April 15/09

How can I not blog about this album now that the nice weather seems to have settled in for good?

Ubiquity Records are on a tear, IMO. A mere couple of weeks after writing about NOMO (more to come on them soon...) I am compelled to share my love for the surprisingly incredible new record by Nino Moshcella. I've always liked the dude's sweet falsetto and quirky phrasing, but his music has plunged into a deeply psychoactive soul stew which blows the doors off his previous work.

Seemingly no moment goes undubbed as the stereo spectrum expands and contracts with every beat. Guitar lines in particular seem to push and pull against the beat, creating a truly funky tension which is so often sacrificed for a steady breakbeat-derived pulse in so much of today's funk. Moschella is still sounding like Prince and Sly, but the settings in which he couches his appealing voice are much more audacious, with multiple changes in song structure occurring over relatively scant track times.

"Stella", heard this week, starts with a humourous synth bass and harp duet before moving in to a live, lurching approximation of the synthetic groove behind Timmy Thomas' "Why Can't We Live Together?". While Moschella's breathy vocals and the track's overall feel tend more towards Shuggie Otis here, the subtle clashes in the orchestral arrangement hint that something else is coming up just around the corner. Part 2 hits with a full on psychedelic blast of booming cymbals, multiphonic synth noodles and guitar soloing that barely holds together. It's very Beatlesque but it's double dipped in that ol' California Soul.


oasis - bruce freedman african groove band (now orchestra)
das wesen aus der mille strassen - burnt friedman (nonplace)
utility music - gyratory system (hansard/angular)
shinelight - ras g (brainfeeder)
stella - nino moschella (ubiquity)
time for us all to love - bullion (one handed)
ana dellali - cheb zergui (sublime frequencies)
evil - howlin wolf (cadet)
inflation - chocolate snow (numero)
the mercy beat - echologist feat spaceape (resopal red)
digital haircut - dd/mm/yyyy (we are busy bodies)
pajdusko - storsveit nix noltes (fat cat)
pulse - sam rivers (tomato)
voodootronics - james harpham (trunk)
lucky man - courtney john (no label)
don't go - horace andy (17 north parade)
babylon you lose - horace andy/ashley beedle (strut)
musical revolution - version xcursion feat ammoye (vx)
freedom - catrat featt yah meek (best seven)
africa - mighty diamonds (virgin)
going home to mt. zion (inst) - kwesi selassie (no label)

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Too Much Information

Rounding up a few weeks worth of writing...

"Do I have any idea what a kora looks like? Thing is huge!" said James Keast, Exclaim's editor in chief, upon seeing this photo of Mansa Sissoko.

The brilliant, pure sound of the kora is heard more and more frequently these days, but the instrument itself is quite imposing up close, and is best experienced in an intimate setting.

Sissoko was an engaging subject for Exclaim's "What I Play" column this month. The twist for me was conducting the interview in French, something I've done only a few times before (but it's helped land interviews with the likes of Tinariwen and Salif Keita). In a serendipitous coincidence, after pitching this idea for quite some time, the article came out two days after Sissoko and Jayme Stone won a well deserved Juno award.

Also in Exclaim this month, I have an article about the other Washington/Kenya connection - Extra Golden, whose third album is their deepest southern fried benga yet. On the Exclaim website is a transcription of an interview with legendary reggae producer Niney The Observer. Other 'Conversations' in the past couple of months have been with Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe, and Reid Anderson of The Bad Plus.

At Eye Weekly, I recently wrote about Iraqi-American trumpet player Amir ElSaffar (had to arrange an interview with him as he participated in a festival in Baku, Azerbaijan!). Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking with avant-klezmer pianist Marilyn Lerner, whose work I've long admired.

Finally I have a guest post at Carl Wilson's Zoilus. It's my highly subjective list of notable Canadian reggae singles. It was an interesting exercise, since I don't think that this country's best reggae music is represented on singles.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Basking In The Shade Of Ghetto Palms

Ernesto Ventura, our conguero - taken from my vantage point at the Huelepega Sound System CD release

The Fader magazine's Ghetto Palms thinks we're freaky. Nice to have that validation.

This Huelepega Sound System thrill ride gets curiouser and curiouser....

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That Must Be The Good Shit, Man...

Thanks to Sergio Elmir for hosting the show this week.

Since it's been two weeks without a podcast, I thought I'd dig into the archives and podcast a good'un from 1992.

This broadcast was recorded on May 24 of that year, at about 12:15-1:30 AM. A whole crew of us was filling in an overnight show, and as was the style at the time, we brought some effects to get freaky with the mixing. CIUT still had a reel to reel deck in the on-air booth which generated tape echo, and we borrowed a digital delay pedal (from a beloved veteran of Toronto's experimental music community, William A. Davison) to make more noise.

This first hour or so featured us just getting the sound together and setting the tone. The mix itself is about 90% the work of Paul E. Lopes . If you're used to Paul E.'s smoothly mixed boogie sets, this will be quite a surprise. He's a very diverse guy, but we were all seriously tripping (not literally) on how to mix with two turntables which lacked pitch control, so the selection and transitions are quite imaginative and hilarious. He brought the spoken passages, and we each had a copy of Ray Barretto's "Acid" which he cut up in surreal fashion despite the technical limitations.

Certainly, this is one of those mixes which epitomizes the golden age of CIUT - funky and fearless. This was recorded on my trusty JVC PC 5 - the radio tuner gradually drifts throughout the hour, so the sound gets scratchier, not that that's a bad thing.


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Friday, April 03, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - April 1/09

Ususally fundraising shows aren't the best time to focus on music, hence the lack of podcast this week. A major thank you to everyone who pledged - you can still do so at CIUT's website .

One welcome addition to the stack o' discs has been the unexpected new disc by NOMO, Michigan's Afro-avant groovologists. Coming at us less than a year after Ghost Rock, my first few spins have me preferring this to the previous album, which was quite strong in its own right. Both albums were recorded during the same sessions, so there shouldn't be a huge degree of difference, but I find that everybody seems to be more comfortable with the change in direction undertaken on their last album. Their Krautrock structures are even more driving and the percussion is nearly impenetrable but exquisitely tuned, which makes for some lovely raw material to be dubbed out by producer Warren DeFever.

I'm hoping to write further about the disc; I'm sure there will be much more to add as I listen more closely to another complex and funky record by one of the most played artists in the history of the Abstract Index.

invisible cities - nomo (ubiquity)
pulo pulo - jorge ben (bbe)
break out - arnie love and the lovettes (numero)
i like the way - roy ayers (bbe)
food stamps - leaf (bbe)
x rated - wicked witch (em)
mess call - pigeon funk (risque disques)
nanfulen - abdoulaye diabate & super manden (smithsonian folkways)
bizarre love triangle - occidental brothers dance band international (no label)
mujer hillandera - juaneco y su combo (barbes)
yerro mama - justin adams & juldeh camara (world village)
tour to africa - tariq abubakar & the afro nubians (rough guides)
elenska rachenista - storsveit nix noites (fat cat)
driving me backwards - parkdale revolutionary orchestra (no label)
on the road to algeria - radio i ching (resonant)
one - david mott quintet (music as energy)
church mouse - chris mcgregor trio (fledg'ling)
planetary groove - free pop electronic experience (vampisoul)
dub is my desire - fe me time allstars (pressure sounds)
let's try - heptones (heartbeat)
one more draw - friendliness & human rights (no label)
peace and love - dubmatix feat. linval thompson (7 arts)
tornado - dubmatix feat. ranking joe (7 arts)

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