Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Return Of The Downloadable Podcast

Thanks to all who have contacted me regarding the podcast of the Abstract Index radio show. I'm pleased to announce that, starting this week, I'll resume hosting each episode at Podomatic. Podcasts from that site are both downloadable and streamable.

If you prefer a streaming broadcast, please continue to visit the CIUT podcast, which has better fidelity than Podomatic.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - August 20/08

Though this album doesn't come out until next month, it's about as perfect a late summer release as you're likely to hear this year. Even the cover art has a wistful aura.

Koushik hails from Dundas Ontario, as does his good buddy, Caribou. Recording on Stones Throw, this is his first album length statement, though 2005 saw a compilation of his work over the previous three years.

I didn't listen to the rock and roll much during the nineties, but one band that I always enjoyed was Spiritualized. Their droney, dreamy, dub-friendly haze is the prime ingredient to the atmosphere of this disc (reading up on Mr. K, there are also a few comparisons to My Bloody Valentine, but much to the dismay of certain members of my fellow editors at Exclaim and peers in this music critic game, I never listened to much MBV which seems to be the contemporary equivalent to not paying attention to the Beatles in the 60s and 70s).

But then there's the beats - this is on Stones Throw after all - and the arrangements. At times, these tunes kick hard, as in the track I played this week "Be With", where the gauzy vocals are anchored strongly to the forward momentum of the beats. The album is paced well enough that just when the reverb-soaked ambience and dreamy vocals threaten to swallow up the entire mix, a divine drum break drops from the heavens to keep your body moving, if only to the dockside cooler to fetch another beer.

There's great instrumental variety here, with plenty of well deployed orchestral content. But the 'verb turns the synthesized and natural elements of the this instrumentation into a richly hued blur. With so many airless, aggressive beats dominating the blogosphere, the electric relaxation on display here is very refreshing.

muckefuk - pan/tone (cereal killers)
magenta verver - patron & patron (nonine)
evacuation days - pit er pat (thrill jockey)
t(h)rust - ratchet orchestra (no label)
macho woman - ornette coleman (artists house)
oya - ijinle ilu (atumbi)
dunu kan - issa bagayogo (six degrees)
the little you say - the revolution of st. vincent (strut)
deep in your heart - the young diviners (numero)
i got what you need - mary jane hopper (vampisoul)
floating island - tony wilson/peggy lee/jon bentley (drip audio)
light ships - bulbs (freedom to spend)
perilous straits - raglani (kranky)
be with - koushik (stones throw)
fluglin' at daves - the lions (ubiquity)
sow more love - sizzla (vp)
man next door - george nooks (tad's)
whateva you want - ivana santilli & jamaica to toronto (do right)
unmetered taxi - sly dunbar (taxi)
taxi - amblique feat. brian and tony gold (pressure sounds)
sufferation - tyrone taylor (heartbeat)
i stand accused - joe gibbs & the professionals (pressure sounds)

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - August 13/08

Billy Bryans and I have discussed the sound of contemporary Latin music more than once. By "sound" I mean "mixing sensibilities", which IMO, is one of the biggest impediments to timba and modern day salsa registering on the radar of rock fans. I wouldn't say "crossing over" exactly, since salsa - a crossover music to start with - has reached to innumerable non-Latin audiences around the world.

For all the rhythmic vitality in the many strains of salsa, the production sensibility is so often rooted in a middle of the road, unimaginative presentation of sounds. The midrange is often clogged with drumkit, congas and the uppermost range of the now standard baby bass. Also, salsa fares poorly in the volume wars. Instrumental elements which need space get squashed. This phenomenon is made worse when this music comes to you as an MP3 at 128Kps. 8 bit dullness is a dominant trend in pop, but these sounds tend to be created and mixed in very deliberate ways, often with million dollar sounds punching through the digital beigeness to get to that ol' boom bap. Contemporary salsa sonics are dull, by and large.

Jon Fausty, the Tom Dowd of salsa, engineered the new Bio Ritmo release 'Bionico'. Fausty, possibly the only legendary engineer in salsa, gives the mix room to breathe without losing any impact. Moreover, keyboardist Marlysse Simmons comes up with unusual sounds for this context. These are given different spaces within the stereo spectrum, unlike so many keyboard sounds in salsa which are nothing more than heaping portions of vanilla goo on top of an otherwise propulsive arrangement. Their approach to electronics extends to fusing drum machine accents to the rhythms, subtly boosting the groove's intelligibility without sounding synthetic. You can always hear the sweat and finesse in Bio Ritmo's funky, jazzy, spacey salsa.

There are a lot of different looks to this disc, from their humourous and successful boogaloo-ization of the them from the Six Million Dollar Man, to an Afro-funk coda to Bobby Valentin's "Seguiras Criticando". Best of all, there always a sense of experimentation within the grooves, which for me is one of the highest states of musical perfection.

Bio Ritmo play Toronto in late October, and they SMOKE live. I don't expect they'll draw much of an indie rock crowd, but they ought to get some respect for shaking up the sonic conventions of contemporary Latin sounds while still staying very much in the tradition.

never can say goodbye - isaac hayes (enterprise)
hoje e dia de el rey - milton nascimento (emi)
papo furado - antonio adolfo & brazuca (far out)
1000 rads - david axelrod (polydor)
blue jazz rock - mickey baker (shanachie)
ruins of america pt 1 - andy haas (resonant)
morto che parla - actis furioso (leo)
muchacho - bio ritmo (locutor)
friends and countrymen - earl rodney (em)
calypsoul - clarence curvin & his mod sounds (strut)
indian mood - mel m'rabet & victor nesrallah (no label)
fahasbokoum hatha - hdhairy abou aziz (honest jons)
lower flower - fred frith/anne bourne/john oswald (spoon)
emv.4 - adnan marquez-borbon (circumvention)
baby - reggae disco rockers feat. horace andy (guidance)
children - henry & louis meet willie williams (bsi)
i miss you - george nooks (tad's)
dreamland - u roy feat. psalms (tabou 1)
behind iron bars - joe gibbs & the professionals (lightning)
the lady in my life/billie jean - shinehead (african love)
the style - dubital (tanty)

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - August 6/08

There's a picture in my Facebook profile of me and Drew Gonsalves of Kobo Town at Lula Lounge. I remember what we were talking about; I wanted to know if he knew about much funky calypso or early soca from the seventies. It strikes me that with a recording industry as established as Trinidad's, there should be a fair sampling of funky goodness, despite less direct influence of American music on T and T than in Jamaica. Drew wasn't really sure how to advise me.

Well, Strut has definitely scratched my itch with this compilation. "Calypsoul" actually represents the minority of this compilation which takes a pan-Caribbean approach to a funky good time. This comp covers the Greater and Lesser Antilles. The windward, leeward and all kinds of Virgin Islands. Alright, poetic license... no Virgin islands. But if it's the hotness you're looking for, it's all over this compilation.

The listener really gets a sense of the musical cross-currents swirling around the region. The dominant sound is highly syncopated, there are few out and out straight up soul belters, unlike Numero's Grand Bahama Goombay from a few years ago. The title is a natural association with Strut's still-fresh Nigeria 70; it's the sound of a new generation finding its voice. Best of all, the pan-Caribbean approach seems fresh in light of all the West African reissues which have come out lately (not that I'm complaining). The African-Caribbean musical exchange became even more pronounced the following decade with zouk lighting up dancefloors in the tropics. There's a lot to explore and a real lack of DJ oriented collections that take stock of this music, which means there's likely lots of worthy material yet to surface.

If anyone has further suggestions on where to continue exploring, please share them in the comments.


Independent Bahamas – biosis now (strut)
Almost live but definitely plugged – imps (mule)
Flags and words – two banks of four (sonar kollektief)
Ochimini – spam all stars (riverboat)
Des cobri que eu sou um anjo – Jorge ben (Philips)
Old peculiar – eric Chenaux (constellation)
Tree to tree – jayme stone/mansa sissoko (no label)
So si sa – kakande (jumbie)
Do leleni (ekassa 22) – sir victor uwaifo (soundway)
The pimp walk – Hamilton bohannon (Dakar)
Saraswati – autorickshaw (tala wallah)
Skew – chris speed trio (knitting factory)
Volute – news from the north (intakt)
Nh six – dj brace (balanced)
Full house dub – loudspeaker speaker meets clearly human (broken twilight)
Humble lion – abassi all stars (universal egg)
Mangnen m’boule – ghislain Poirier & nik myo (ninja tune)
Hip dub – Vivian weathers (virgin)
Can’t buy love/version – Johnny Osborne (studio one/heartbeat)
Academy award version – Johnnie Clarke (front line)

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Friday, August 08, 2008

A New Chapter Of Summertime

why I should stick to writing and DJing: the fuzzy Abyssinians at Harbourfront

July and August have remained busy for me in print. Here are some links to my work.

The Abyssinians proved they are still magnetic performers. I spoke with lead singer Bernard Collins in the week leading up to the show; he proved to be as generous and spirtual as his songs suggest. The show was fantastic. Harmonies were a little more wayward than last time, but the band had surprising energy onstage given the meditative pace of most of the songs. The band and the crowd loved it. I wasn't the only one there en famille. Also at Harbourfront last weekend was Michael Rose, who did not live up to expectations.

One of late June's highlights at Harbourfront was Seun Kuti, whose high octane Afrobeat generated pogoing in its most frenzied moments. He was a man of few words in conversation, but he has a certain something (rock and roll 'tude?) which seems to attract more attention than his half brother Femi did when he broke out nearly ten years ago.

The Bug played the Drake last month. Unfortunately I was unable to interview Kevin Martin over the phone; he was in China at the time this article was being written. However, being a former journalist, he gave great e-mail. The exchange is recounted here.

I never miss an opportunity to write about James Brown, and a crucial 3 DVD set called I Got The Feeling was released this past Tuesday. Tightly focused on Brown's music and persona in 1968, it contains a splendid documentary entitled "The Night James Brown Saved Boston" about his role he played preventing riots in Boston following the assasination of Martin Luther King.

Finally, I wrote a profile of hang-tough Quebecois jazz label Red Toucan. I didn't realize that this label had been around for 15 years. As with everyone involved with the business of avant-jazz, proprietor Michel Passaretti was self-deprecating but passionate about his work. I've been enjoying their release of the Szilard Mezei Ensemble's "Nad/Reed" these days.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Abstract Index Playlist - July 30/08

I was very happy to have the opportunity to write about krar star Daniel Nebiat's debut disc for Eye Weekly this past week. Here's the link.

It's available in stores in the Bloorcourt area - look for the posters. I believe Soundscapes will be getting some, if they haven't already. There will be a more formal release party later in the month.

I just don’t know what to do with myself – the dells (cadet)
Seguiras criticandos – bio ritmo (locutor)
Miles away – david axelrod (polydor)
Strife in the village – earl Rodney (em)
Natey – Daniel Nebiat (no label)
Dancehall monitor – eric hove (effendi)
Allo caveman – colin fisher/jean martin
Culture & civilacao – gal costa (philiips)
threads – disguises (wintage)
I don’t want to set the world on fire – andy haas (resnonant)
Karsilama – talip ozkan (axiom)
Come in – move d & benjamin brunn (smallville)
Too long in slavery – culture (virgin)
Work on natty – culture (virgin)
Natty never get weary – culture (virgin)
I and I dub – abyssinians (heartbeat)
No burial/version – michael rose (M)
Be my lighthouse – bim sherman (century)
Subdub – dubmatix (7 arts)

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