Saturday, May 31, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - May 28/08

This is my 200th post, so I'm going to inflict some self-indulgence on you.

I don't know to what extent I've tipped my favourite bands/artists are over these past two and a half years. That said, the only artist to have a label is James Brown. But it's time to create another label for the Brotherhood of Breath.

I've said it before.... blah blah blah ferocious intensity... uplifting, funky Kwela melodies and rhythms... freedom and grooves. Jazz impresario Ronnie Scott says it best at the beginning of the podcast 'simply one of the most exciting bands I've ever heard'. Cuneiform Records broadens the legacy of this unique band with each successive release of unreleased live recordings. Eclipse At Dawn may be the best of the bunch.

Surprisingly, Mongezi Feza (the South African Don Cherry and then some) is not in the lineup on this date, November 4, 1971 in Berlin. Fortunately, this allows less heralded trumpeters Harry Beckett and (especially) Marc Charig and to add different colors. The twin pit bull attack of Dudu Pukwana and Gary Windo on alto and tenor respectively always ensures that there are higher heights to be reached through collective improv than anyone thought possible. Chris McGregor's piano is more assertive than usual, at least in the first half of the concert; he seems pretty enthused by the set judging from his acknowledgment to the crowd at the end of the disc.

As with any Brotherhood release, there are some dry spells and rough patches, but that's free music for you: the highs are well worth it. The crowd can't get enough and neither can I.

nick tete - brotherhood of breath (cuneiform)
druse dubke - damien nisenson (ambiances magnetiques)
i've just destroyed the world i'm living in - reveries (rat drifting)
pisandose la cola - los blops (normal)
wtfs - fred fisher (vampisoul)
i did it again - jesse henderson (counterpoint)
my dear - NOMO (ubiquity)
reggae land dub - tony allen rmx by warrieka hill (honest jons)
concrete heart - sandro perri/tony dekker (no label)
when you live in mexico - ryan driver (rat drifting)
woula bara diagna - oumou sangare (nonesuch)
kel tamascheck - etran finatawa (riverboat)
very 1 - lucky dragons (marriage)
planet mars dub - ice breakers vs. mighty diamonds (virgin)
the weed song - daddy rings (African glory)
peace and love - dubmatix feat. linval thompson (7 arts)
put down the gun - king ujah (king ujah)
african satellite dub - the interrupter (tanty)
let me dub - gg all stars (heartbeat)
the half - sugar minott (heartbeat)
what kind of world - the cables (studio one)

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Reading Rainbow

It's the end of the month - time to look back on a busy May's worth of published material.

May turned out to be soulful. The biggest word count I got all month was for a career profile of Al Green for Exclaim. I feared his story had already been told numerous times, leaving me little to work with. But the further I got into the research, I found that there were a number of well-trod stories in his career, but few overall summaries. The obvious one is contained in the liner notes to his Anthology, but that's more than ten years old and there's more to tell since then. I found fewer dull spots in his discography than I expected, which made this article a listening pleasure.

Also in Exclaim, I wrote a profile of Feuermusik. I love those guys - great musicians & great people. Of all the adjectives that could be applied to the controlled sax and bucket frenzy of their new album "No Contest", 'soulful' ranks high. I also wrote about Feuermusik for Paste Magazine a few months ago, but haven't been able to find the piece online. If anyone comes across it, please let me know....

Over at AOL Canada, my overview of the impulses shaping the soul music of Toronto was published yesterday. I didn't actually pitch this article but I'm glad it came my way. Zaki Ibrahim, LAL and Ivana Santilli happen to be releasing discs all at the same time, so there seemed to be a natural thread to this piece. I've got to confess it was pretty easy to write; it's an article that I feel personally attached to in terms of the content. When speaking with Santilli, with whom I'd gigged once or twice many years ago, it felt like old times. Her recollection of the early 90s was very much like my own experience, and, as the article shows, also very much like those of Rose Kazi and Nick Murray from LAL. I'd never talked to Ibrahim before, but she picked up on all those sentiments in describing her favourite aspects of Toronto. Needless to say, everyone's criticisms of Toronto were also pretty similiar.

Finally, because I didn't post about this weeks ago, here's a profile of modern roots star Queen Ifrica for Eye Magazine. more thing that didn't make the print edition of Exclaim this month - here's an interview with Aidan Baker about the new release from polyrhythmic noise alchemists ARC.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - May 21/08

I'm not often a fan of the monochromatic chillout music of the Eighteenth Street Lounge folks. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the scene Rob Garza and Eric Hilton have created with their club in Washington - there should be more places like it. I also appreciate that the Latino sounds they're putting out are coming from a pretty unique place. That said, I find if I'm DJing, ESL stuff merely keeps a set going rather than taking it to another level.

Not so with the new Ocote Soul Sounds disc. OSS is largely the work of Martin Perna, though The Alchemist Manifesto is aided by Adrian Quesada (from Grupo Fantasma, see playlist below, and Brownout, also well represented of late). This might be the best disc I've heard on the label. Psychedelia has been an increasingly prominent influence in ESL recordings, but even Garza's recent Dust Galaxy release didn't approach the inviting hallucinations contained here.

I first encountered this week's track "El Pescador" in a version by Afro-Colombian folk powerhouse Toto La Momposina. The detuned hippy flutes and equally nauseous vocals suit the "fisherman" theme quite well, along with obvious but still effective surf sound efx. Meanwhile, the keyboard & rhythm loop stasis doesn't feel underdeveloped; it just keeps stretching out to the horizon.

Hour 1 podcast
Hour 2 podcast

gente simple - yusa (tumi)
rumba y guaguanco - grupo fantasma (aire sol)
ay papa - pupy y que los son son (egrem)
jolly joker - alter ego rmx. by dj koze(klang)
walk 6 - doppelmoppel (intakt)
givers - lucky dragons (marriage)
holding sway - feuermusik (standard form)
mark's disco dub - tony allen rmx by mark ernestus (honest jon's)
el pescador - ocote soul sounds feat. adrian quesada (ESL)
london bridge - lal (PTR)
68th dimension - gb feat. mike holden (ubiquity)
amours vacances et baroque - paul guoit & paul piot (lo)
puppet on a chain main theme - piero piccioni (DC)
loaded to the gills - michael liggins & the super souls (numero)
big boo boo day version - gladiators (studio one)
let's love - kc white (city line)
love in my heart - leroy smart (moll selekta)
in the ghetto - dubmatix feat. sugar minott (7 arts)
like a o - frost & wagner feat. paul st. hilaire (best seven)
natural progression - aswad (mango)

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Just A Lil' Dope

Historically accurate CIUT logo of the early 90s designed by Fiona Smyth

Although the May issue of Exclaim has run its course, I wanted to belatedly link to an item I wrote about Toronto hip hop history blog The Meaning Of Dope.

I've waxed nostalgic a few times on this blog about my experiences in Toronto's hip hop scene circa '89-'94, but now I feel like I don't have to anymore because JC and his crew have created a fantastic resource for grizzled vets like myself or wet-behind the-ears-hip-hop baybeez.

I've digitized two of my own cassettes for them so far. The first went up a few months ago - DJX on CKLN, filling in for Norman Otis Richmond's Diasporic Music. The second is hot off the digital presses: CIUT's legendary Masterplan show with its classic lineup of Jonbronski, Motion and Power recorded November 30/91. I have a lot of affection for that crew, especially John, who was a real mentor to me not only for hip hop but for the great diversity of soul-oriented sounds of the time from house to breakbeats to reggae to jazz fusion.

I don't know why I decided to record this particular show, although the cassette also has 30 excellent minutes of Reaz Baksh's Soca Zone (now Dhantal Radio), which was, to my knowledge, the first radio show in Toronto to play bhangra. I guess it was just one of those habitually boundary-breaking nights that campus radio was so famous for back then (and now?). Then again, it might have been because I'd just given John some material for a couple of IDs (or carts/cartridges as they were known back then). "Nuff drum and bass" is Jah Thomas, "Ok, Ok, let's take it from here" is a famous Lee Scratch Perry soundbite.

TMOD have the tracklist up as well.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - May 14/08

Matana Roberts' Sticks and Stones was one of the highlights of the Guelph Jazz Festival two years ago. Roberts’ beautiful burnished tone on alto commands attention throughout with fluidly melodic ideas within assertive phrasing - and that's before the amazing gold-trimmed outfit and theatrical makeup came into play. Her appearance certainly suggested influence from the Art Ensemble's sartorial sense, but she often sounds like Fred Anderson, with whom she duets on three versions of "Birdhouse". Each is a phenomenal saxophone sparring match.

Although this disc looks back to the sixties first and foremost, its exceptional mix sets it apart from other contmeporary attempts to capture the freer post-bop spirit of those times. Recorded with love by John McEntire and mixed by hip hop engineer Scotty Hard and pianist Vijay Iyer, the sound of The Chicago Project should subliminally grab the attention of casual listeners. The mix is full and powerful, like a rock record, not wispy and atmospheric as is the case with so much jazz production.

Guitarist Jeff Parker, McIntyre’s bandmate in Tortoise, is becoming more expressive all the time, and his instrument is flattered by the production. His sensitive textures in “For Razi” match well with Roberts’ tone and Frank Rosaly’s mallet-driven cymbals. Josh Abrams bass is the unifying element, adding muscle to the already excellent songwriting. The Chicago Project’s invention never lets up, and its production guarantees repeat listening.

Hour 1 podcast
Hour 2 podcast

the ancient voice of 'e' - ronald shannon jackson/twins seven seven (caravan of dreams)
nearness/distance - feuermusik (standard form)
annwn pt. 7 - ocrilim (hydra head)
for razi - matana roberts (central control)
how the world began - lal (PTR)
off to mars - mike ladd (def jux)
carino - ocote soul sounds & adrian quesada (ESL)
kenimania - monomono (soundway)
parabens - marcos valle (far out)
sed - psychotropical orchestra (denso)
toca alfredo toca - alfredo de la fe (LP)
babylonia - ricardo marrero (luv n haight)
just one song - elizabeth shepherd (do right)
triple double - shot x shot (high two)
ole remix - tony allen rmx. by moritz von oswald (honest jon's)
freedom - catrat feat. yah meek (best seven)
king tubby's explosion dub - king tubby (trojan)
marijuana - revolutionaries (trojan)
suru lere dub - prince far i (virgin)
sunshine - progress (no label)
these eyes - alton ellis (heartbeat)

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Putting The Jam In Jamaican Echoes

OK people, time to take the wraps off a project I've been working on for months. It's called JAMAICAN ECHOES, and it's an hour-long documentary for CBC Radio. There's no firm air date, but it should be in early summer.
In the meantime, there's a party to celebrate the season & the documentary's near-completion.
Here's the details:
Jamaican Echoes
Saturday May 24, 2008
355 College St.
Toronto, ON

With DJs:
Patrick Roots (Reggae Riddims, CIUT Wednesdays 8-10PM
Chocolate (Rebel Music, CKLN Mondays 2:30-5PM)
David Dacks (Abstract Index, CIUT Wednesdays 6-8PM)Spinning dub, roots reggae and more.

$5 after 10:30PM

Jamaican Echoes traces the spread of dub from an accident in a Jamaican recording studio to the four corners of the Earth. Dub is the foundation of contemporary dance music. It is the heart of remix culture. It has become an international music, yet its descendents continue to be inspired by its Jamaican innovations. Dub isn’t just a musical remix, it’s a social remix. Jamaican Echoes is narrated by Lauren "DJ Chocolate" Speers and written/produced by David Dacks. It will air on CBC Radio's "Inside The Music" in early summer.
The documentary features interviews with:
Adrian Sherwood (On-U Sound - Depeche Mode, Primal Scream)
Bill Laswell (Global dub innovator - Fela Kuti, Motorhead, Herbie Hancock)
Twilight Circus (M Records - Michael Rose, Big Youth, Queen Ifrica)
Clifton Joseph (Dubzzz poet at large - CBC, Dub Poets Collective)
Dubmatix (Nu dub from Toronto – new disc features Alton Ellis, Sugar Minott)
Leroy Sibbles (All-time reggae legend! Heptones, Studio One bassist)
Michael Veal (Author; Dub: Soundscapes And Shattered Songs In Jamaican Reggae)
If you're in Toronto, don't you miss it!

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - May 7/08

After eagerly anticipating this release last year, it fell off my radar. I finally got a copy a few weeks ago courtesy of the ROIR label.

Badawi is Ras Mezinai's nom de dub. Anyone who had an interest in illbience ten years ago should be very familiar with his work, which fuses dub and Middle Eastern rhythm ideas. After hitting a peak with Soldier Of Midian (that one's in the Abstract Index hall of fame), he has incorporated more live musicians to interpret his beguiling, fierce polyrhythms.

This disc started out as a live session of the Badawi Quintet, which counts among its members ace drummer Jim Black. Only one of the 12 tracks here preserves the original session. The rest are mixes by an international selection of DJs. So far, I've played remixes by hhyScumclash, Kode 9 & Kreng. The Kode 9 mix is vital, it's a no nonsense near-steppers groove that urges people on to the floor, Kreng on the other hand is much freer rhythmically. The disc references dubstep, dancehall and of course is shot through with dub, but it's hard to describe these adventures in downtempo electronica.

Whereas the extreme production and contrasting approaches on remix albums tend to burn a listener out, the diverse approaches on this disc are complimentary. There's a very strong flow from start to end, and it's fairer not to consider these tracks to be remixes at all.

relicary - ARC (epidemie)
black capricorn - svartbag (rump)
out of breath - badawi vs. kreng (ROIR)
ku mi da hankan - the elcados (soundway)
subuhanalaii - justin adams/ juldeh camara (world village)
cobarde - eddie palmieri (MP)
rings - nomo (ubiquity)
belles - feuermusik (standard form)
tidal speed - fransizka baumann & matthias ziegler (leo)
bug in the bass bin - innerzone orchestra (sessions mix) (!k7)
can't be beat - quiet village (!k7)
ahomka wo mu - v.i.p. (outhere)
pietons dub - shantel (essay)
no bed of roses - dub syndicate feat. cornell campbell rmx. by rob smith (collision cause of chapter 3)
freedom and money - prince blanco (mojobrand)
one in a billion - dub syndicate feat. luciano rmx. by rob smith (collision cause of chapter 3)
black tracks version - native (pressure sounds)

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - April 30/08

It’s a shame that Songlines went with blue as the colour scheme for the artwork, pink would be more appropriate. As in pink noise.

Poolplayers is an update on the spacious and chilly ECM albums of the late 70s and 80s. The difference is, rather than players channeling minimalist statements in a reverb soaked atmosphere, these guys have interactive electronics at their fingertips to manipulate spatial perception in a way that simply wasn’t possible 20-30 years ago. Exhibit A: the Sherman filter, played by Steve Arguelles. I had the pleasure of working with one of these in live situations some time ago. My partner in Combustion Lente, Nick Holmes, used one as his chief instrument in our live set up. The box is kind of like a fancy EQ, but with the ability to seize and magnify/minimize thin strips of frequencies, seemingly creating tones and rhythms out of thin air.

The presence of Arve Henriksen of Supersilent is a dead giveaway of the sound of this band. His keening tones on trumpet and vocals range from Jon Hassell to Bill Dixon, but coupled with his own electronics and those of his bandmates, his purity is stretched like silly putty. Benoit Delbecq’s piano is quiet and lyrical, probably the most directly reminiscent aspect of the music to ECM’s output, but made tasty by the filtering of the analog Bass Station. The rhythms are less rock oriented that Supersilent, and more a combination of drums, bleeps and blurps. Several tracks sound like continuously crumpling cardboard with awesome stereo separation. Indeed, this mix exists in 5.0 as well thanks to Songlines’ SACD format – this is highly recommended for your home theatre.

litany of fervent - feuermusik (standard form)
tumble duos - tyft (skirl)
all the stars - nomo (ubiquity)
no more blood - ghislain poirier feat. face t rmx. by deadbeat (ninja tune)
sp 4 lovers - misteur valaire (misteur valaire)
wetin de watch goat, goat dey watcham - eric showboy akaeze & his royal ericos (strut)
in the pocket - boots (westbound)
the sexican - brownout (freestyle)
eswi yo wapi - tabu ley feat. mbilia bel (rough guides)
sanctus: an entracte - harry partch (innova)
surrealm - susie ibarra/mark dresser (wobbly rail)
luz - poolplayers (songlines)
poison dripping cinco - badawi vs. hhyscumclash (ROIR)
good times in the dancehall - prince blanco (no label)
play rebel music - prince blanco (no label)
rebel discotheque - prince blanco (no label)
love of my life - jezzreel (wackies)
alien nation dub - dub trinity (no label)
glowing fire - high tone (jarring effects)

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Gruvin' High

Toronto peeps: come see me spin at Supermarket this Thursday, May 8. I've never played out there. I'm sure once I see (owners) Greg and Rob it'll be just like old times at their former haunts, the Rivoli and Lava, which were two of my most frequented venues in the 90s.

The format? Funk, and nothing but. That's what it takes to set the table for Gruvoria's high energy jazz funk.

Speaking of funk, I've posted 90 minutes of last week's guest slot on Funky Fridays over at my podcast page.

Also this week, on Saturday I'll be DJing the monthly Funkabelly party at Dovercourt House- where Toronto's bellydancers get their freestyle on.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Jim Shady

I kid you not, Jamie Lidell referred to himself as "Jim Shady" druing my interview with him. I promised to put that nickname it in the writeup I did for AOL Canada, but alas, I couldn't do it.

His new disc, Jim, isn't as wild and wacky as his previous one, but I still like it a lot. It's short (<40 minutes), sweet and soulful without sounding too retro.

Mr. Lidell would be someone I'd love to have a pint with. We'd probably have lots more to talk about since he works with so many Canadians (co-producer Mocky, pianist Gonzales and Peaches are all represented on the new disc).

He's touring with a band that includes a sax player (and sometime Anthony Braxton sideman) named Andre Vida who plays two horns at the same time, a la Roland Kirk. Jamie turns out to be a huge fan of Rahsaan as well; I think this bodes well for another round of exciting shows for which Lidell is renowned.

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