Sunday, February 24, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - February 20/08

Well, as far as Toronto is concerned, Tim Perlich deserves props for writing about this comp in his weekly roundup. I've also been spinning this comp with regularity.
Last week I interviewed Miles Cleret of ace reissue label Soundway (to be published as a web exclusive interview at Exclaim for the upcoming March issue) and asked him about whether the definition of a "dancefloor" oriented tune had changed over the years. He retorted that he cared less and less about the demands of the dancefloor and was concentrating on putting out music he liked.
What's great about Strange Breaks and Mr. Thing is that almost every one of these wildly diverse tracks works for the dancefloor (in either the main or the "chill" room), and it also fulfills its purpose as a breakbeat bible, but it all comes together as a solid listen. I've always wondered when the barrel will be fully scraped on 60s and 70s grooves, but crate digging is far from over, and more importantly, you canput the pieces together in a million different ways. More calypso funk, please...
the wiggle room - jason robinson (circumvention)
the bride - chris mcgregor's brotherhood of breath (arkana)
gone, goner - john butcher/torsten muller/dylan van der schyff (drip audio)
forrowest - forro in the dark (nublu)
mariama - nuru kane (riverboat)
tallyatidagh - toumast (real world)
hogtied - chain reaction (bbe)
you can't love me if you don't respect me - lyn collins (people)
quien manda a quien - colombafrica/the mystic orchestra (riverboat)
disco rhythms - disconnection (compost)
the blues - barnyard drama (barnyard)
bridges - pawa up first (puf works)
at long last - spring heel jack (thirsty ear)
tete a tete - sten hanson/henri chopin (sub rosa)
haun vaari haun varanesi - cheb i sabbah (six degrees)
jackson park - phase selector sound (roir)
money - dubblestandart (collision cause of chapter 3)
god is a man - dub syndicate (collision cause of chapter 3)
postscript - david cunningham (planet e)

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - February 13/08

I'm glad I finally got a chance to play this disc right at the end of the first set: you'd be hard pressed to keep up the kind of energy found on this album flowing for a dancefloor, people might drop from exhaustion within minutes.

Dominican Republic's La India Canela is one of a handful of female accordion players in merengue tipico - the producer of this album, Sydney Hutchinson has a very informative site to give you all the background you need.

Most of the merengue I'm familiar with is the more simplistic (thoughnot uncharming) variety that took New York by storm in the early 80s - to my ears, a pretty basic, kind of jerky beat that didn't have the same fluidity as Cuban and Puerto Rican derived salsa. Then again, I'm no dancer, so what do I know... La India Canela's music is more polyrhythmic and features more improvising than what I'd heard previously. The alto sax/accordion front line has a folky sweetness but a hyperaggressive attack, with the sax player often squawking away like a No Wave refugee, only much more on top of the beat. The bassist is a virtuoso, but only uses his powers for good. He is capable of unleashing a barrage syncopated chords a la Jaco, but will only do so to push the song to greater heights before dialing back the intensity.

This album, like my favourite album of 2005 by Los Pleneros De La 21, is on Smithsonian Folkways, whose acoustic Latino series continues to impress. Don't let the hands-off production style lull you into thinking that this is anything but fierce music.

ngima piny - extra golden (thrill jockey)
maraou oran - toumast (real world)
joyride - the heliocentrics (now again)
assassination attempt - kush arora (no label)
ble d'inde - galitcha (galitcha)
we listen and act - ganesh anandan/john gzowski (ambiances magnetiques)
roll - zmf trio (drip audio)
moka - bernard falaise (ambiances magnetiques)
el marques - quinteplus (vampisoul)
el rancho - la india canela (smithsonian folkways)
babylon - tristan palma (greensleeves)
beat down babylon - junior byles (trojan)
babylon bridge - dillinger (studio one)
natty dread learn him - linval thompson/dillinger (clocktower)
we are walking upon - johnnie clarke (clocktower)
cherry oh baby - charlie chaplin (trojan)
i'll go through - israel vibration (ras)
bad days dub - scientist (lightning)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

This 400 Doesn't Blow

That's one horrible Truffaut reference....

Every time this local indie-stution throws a party, it's worth checking out. You've got 5 chances to do so, starting tonight.

The full lineup of bands (and "unconference" hosted by Misha Glouberman) is here, but the part which specifically affects yours truly takes place tomorrow at the Gladstone:

Friday Feb. 15 @ The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St. W. (doors 9pm)
1am - Glissandro 70 (DJ set) —
12am - Bocce —
11:15pm - Daniel Nebiat —
10:30pm - Sister Suvi —
9:45pm - Abdominal —
+ film & video by Jeff Wright
+ DJ David Dacks (CIUT, The Abstract Index)

To say that this is a mixed bag of music is an understatement. In the shout-out to my mailing list I said I'd be "trying to find the nexus of electro-psychfolk-hiphop-Eritrean-post-no-wave-club-beatz."

Stay tuned in two years for Wavelength 500, for which I will get to make puns based on this or this. Betcha can't wait.

UPDATE: Jonny Dovercourt, the self styled "Jonathan Pun-ce", strongly suggested that this is a natural theme for edition #500.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - February 6/08

I'll just quote myself: my intro to MFSB's "Love Is The Message" on the air was "it's one of the great unity songs of all time".

I was sure looking for some sort of unity this past Wednesday. As you already know, it's Black History Month, and once again I didn't know how to approach it. I've done different things over the years including special interviews and thematic programming, as well as participating in other hosts' broadcasts and station-wide initiatives.

I decided to play mostly Black artists on Wednesday - I couldn't devote the whole show due to Jean Martin's interview and his jazz music! ;) - and inevitably I found myself going through discs asking myself "Is this artist Black?" My disc of the week would have been a new release of old school merengue, but I couldn't tell whether La India Canela was of African ancestry. The music sure is, but beyond that I didn't know so I didn't play it. For sure Mr. Something Something wouldn't have counted, despite their profound knowledge of African music. But could I have played their most recent album with Black Afrobeat poet Ikwunga?

(When I interviewed them in December I asked that very question; whether having a Black vocalist gave them greater credibility in some eyes. What actually transpired was that he had sought them out rather than the other way around . He was blown away by their originality with all the components of Afrobeat - he wanted to collaborate with a forward-thinking band that suited his style.)

These questions have the effect of limiting what I feel I can do with the show, and with the considerable African diasporic content that's within it from week to week (to those who say "why can't Black History Month be 12 months a year?", I agree). What I try to do each time out is to present a mixture of musical styles, eras and points of origin that speak to these different mixtures. It's about comparing and contrasting; reaching for commonalities while examining differences. Music of African derivation (especially Afro-American music) has become part of almost every popular music form around the world, and some of the most amazing hybrids come from previous hybrids recombining in different locales. Afro-diasporic music underlies the great majority of the music I play, and what I write about. That said, the Abstract Index isn't strictly about the African diaspora - it's about every diaspora. It's about how culture, economics and population collide in often surprising and counter-intuitive ways to make interesting sounds. Naturally, it's also a personal exploration and education.

"Love Is The Message" is one of those important points of junction - it's a song that looks backwards and forwards. Originally recorded in 1972 by the Sigma Sounds (multiracial) studio orchestra under the guidance of Gamble and Huff, this was one of the key symphonic soul records. Studio orchestras had been around for 50 years plus, and Gamble and Huff's arrangers, players and even songwriting devices ("Me And Mrs. Jones", anybody?) looked back to far earlier days. In some ways the production process for big budget recording had not changed in decades, it just got bigger - the spirit of Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building (where Huff had worked) were still alive and well.

But this song was also a turning point, at least as a remix by Tom Moulton in 1977. The first 6 minutes are pleasant enough with the Three Degrees cooing along in the background to a saxophone right out of "Theme From Family Ties", but then the vamp drops in for the last six and a half minutes. Broken down to Earl Young's hypnotic drumming, Bobby Eli's bass, a flanged electric piano, horn shots and a minimalist string hook, this was the beginning of house music. The EQing is just perfect - the rhythm wouldn't be so addictive were it not for its sharp focus in the mix. As was Moulton's method, this version involved stripping records down rather than keeping them at peak levels while somehow trying to add more. The vamp itself became classic - vibraphonist Vince Montana reused the basic template for a whole bunch of Salsoul Orchestra records, which were influential in their own right, and the Jungle Brothers classic "What U Waiting 4?" updates early MCs like DJ Hollywood rapping over disco rather than funk breaks.

The appeal of the spare, extended rhythm pointed the way towards sequencer-driven music. The ability of one person to do the work of an orchestra was revolutionary, but one consequence was the collective ability in jazz, blues and pop contained in a studio orchestra was no longer an ingredient in the music making process. I'd argue that the Philly International folks were among the last practitioners of this kind of grand studiocraft, subsequent dance grooves were just that - about the groove first and not beholden to any songwriting tradition. But therein lies a whole new set of possibilities - as the following track, Cybotron's "Clear" makes, uh, clear.

Hour 1 podcast
Hour 2 podcast

love is the message - MFSB (cbs)
clear - cybotron (network)
optometry - dj spooky rmx. by animal crackers (thirsty ear)
business before pleasure - george akaeze & his augmented hits (soundway)
cat song - jean martin/colin fisher (barnyard)
sandwiches and a dip in the pool - jean martin/evan shaw (barnyard)
psychiemotus - yusuf lateef (impulse)
quebec on my mind - billy robinson (do right)
jiggy jiggy - steve reid (domino)
keep on moving - bob marley & the wailers feat. wong chu (JAD)
here I come - dennis brown (JA)
islington rock - augustus pablo (shanachie)
peace treaty - jackie mittoo (blood and fire)
solid ground - michael rose (m)
i don't need nobody killing me - ljx (no label)

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yard Music

Tune in tomorrow on the Abstract Index radio show not only to hear the Steve Reid interview at 7PM but a conversation with Barnyard Records boss Jean Martin. The label will be launching three discs at an event held at Somewhere There this Saturday, Feb 9.

Barnyard is a new-ish Toronto label focusing on improv - beyond that vague summary, the sub-descriptors are endless. Jazzy, electronic, spontaneous, doo-wop, and groovy sounds all play their parts in the diverse music of these three discs: Martin and Colin Fisher's "Little Man On The Boat", Scott Thomson & Lori Freedman's "Plumb" and Martin and Evan Shaw's "Piano Music".

I can tell you that Jean is pretty pumped for this event. With good reason, too - Barnyard already has distribution through the mighty DAME in Montreal, and West Coast homey Jesse Zubot has been helping to spread the word. With this support, I'd say Barnyard has instantly become a worldwide player in improv circles. This is good news for 'the scene' in Toronto and the rest of Canada.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - January 30/08

As much as I love a good compilation, I've never come across one which so evokes my teenage years as this one.

My interest in music started after seeing Beatlemania in the summer after Grade 6. After that, it was solid Beatles for a year. Then, a year of the Stones. Chased that with Floyd, Zeppelin, and a dash of the Who. As far as then contemporary pop music went, Talking Heads opened a lot of doors, as did Grandmaster Flash's "The Message".

By the time that I really started to explore the reggae music I'd grown up with for almost 10 years, Sly and Robbie were at their absolute peak of creativity, and this new obsession not only took over my life but transformed my outlook on music.

I spent some 5 years trying to collect all the Sly and Robbie I could. The jumping off points from Sly and Robbie are too numerous to mention, especially when their collaborator Bill Laswell entered the picture.

But one name kept coming up in liner notes of my favourite records from Talking Heads, Black Uhuru, Grace Jones and Tom Tom Club (and the Stones' "Undercover", but anyways...): Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas. I pictured this incredible tropical haven of creativity fostering a unique approach to bionic boogie.

At least half of "Funky Nassau" pivots around Sly Dunbar's Africanized syndrums. He was inspired to purchase them after hearing M's "Pop Muzik" while on tour with Peter Tosh, and in his hands, the syndrum was tuned percussion played like some kind of robotic burru drumming. This was a powerful subtext to any song which contained these rhythms.

I can blame my lack of interest in other mechanized music at the time (New Order, Depeche Mode) on my infatuation with Sly and Robbie's far more interesting take on technology. And of course, anyone who digs into Sly and Robbie gets the whole history of Jamaican music, from mento to ska to (especially) Studio One. Blended with their encyclopedic knowledge of soul music (they cut a session with James Brown at Compass Point in '83 which has never been released), their many rhythmic quirks sounded funky, never spastic. Robbie's bass lines at the time were very melodic and made better use of chording than any other player in Jamaican history - I've always thought he sounded a bit like Paul McCartney.

Their amazingly open ears and fearless, funky attitudes toward working on fresh riddims in unlikely company have been a major personal inspiration right up to the present day. Strut has done a wonderful job bringing these beats back.

Podcast Hour 1

Podcast Hour 2

man alive - we can and we must (logan 5)
mao mao - jean pierre massiera (mucho gusto)
godofallofus - new hope (BBE)
love of a woman - clutchy hopkins and darondo (ubiquity)
quiet - sex mob (thirsty ear)
at my critical counterpart - john gzowski/ganesh anandan (ambiances magnetiques)
tarakakino - sambasunda (network)
lead - scott thomson/lori freedman (barnyard)
luukkaankangas - nemeth (thrill jockey)
adventures in success - will power (strut)
taxi connection - sly and robbie (mango)
the price is right - chet singh (no label)
casa forte - snowboy rmx. by pathless (ubiquity)
me bowa ya - mekongo (mango)
psychedelic pucho - pucho and the latin soul brothers (BGP)
empyrean - rod modell/echospace (modern love)
man of mystery - doctor pablo and the dub syndicate (on-u sound)
freezing - DATC allstars (heartbeat)
freedom train - joe higgs and carl masters (pressure sounds)

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