Friday, May 29, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - May 27/09

Taking a break from the latest and greatest releases, I'd like to go back 25 years to the late great Sweet Basil in NYC. This was the recording locale of Urban Blues by Leroy Jenkins' (no affiliation with World Of Warcraft!) funky, crowd-seeking Sting.

I figure I brought it with me because of a conversation I had with Torontonian culture maven El Machetero last week about the decline and fall of soul jazz clubs. I'm not talking about the many DJs who still play it, but situations like the one which produced this Lonnie Smith album - where an inner-city bar which catered to many generations of patrons required its bands to know jazz standards, blues dirges, new R & B joints and pop songs to entertain a crowd. The Trane Studio in Toronto comes closest to that vibe... Yonge St. used to be full of such places.

This superb appreciation of Jenkins' album on Bagatellen describes how 'of its time' it is, and that Jenkins was trying to reach into that bag to draw an African American crowd to his edgy music. He wasn't alone - in my early days of jazz appreciation, I remember seeing guys like Jean Paul Bourelly and even James Blood Ulmer to an extent doing similar things - melding avant and popular forms for broad appeal. But the mix of this album, Alonzo Gardner's popping bass style and Brandon Ross' guitar treatments situate this recording firmly in the 80s - and not the kind of arpeggiated-synth, TR-808/909/303 kinda 80s that have been so revived so thoroughly that I wish that page would turn again. I don't know if this sound is ever coming back; I don't know if the social conditions that produced it are coming back. But after that Wicked Witch reissue earlier this year, maybe anything is possible...

One thing is for sure, multi-generational music events are almost always a good time and we're heading into the right season to celebrate en famille, however you define your family.


tubarao de bacia - buguinha dub (les cristaux liquides)
rothaus - lindstrom & prins thomas (eskimo)
love in harar - invisible system & yeteleye fikir (harper diabate)
sarama - vieux farka toure (six degrees)
field trip - shuta hasunuma (western vinyl)
keet - icarus rmx by badun (rump)
the return of chickchi - loop 2.4.3. (music starts from silence)
l'ecole penetencier - torngat (alien 8)
sahara - justin adams & juldeh camara (real world)
leo - respect sextet (avant)
lapis blue - nostalgia 77 feat. keith & julie tippet (tru thoughts)
looking for the blues - leroy jenkins sting (black saint)
play fool get wise - johnnie clarke (justice)
dub is the time - namo jama (ja-maker)
strictly rockers - big youth (geggie)
jah is the maker - jah woosh (original)
dread lion - kenny knotts/hydroponics (hydroponics)
look to the east - bush chemists (conscious sounds)
jah disciple - daweh congo (sip a cup)
seal 2 - meditative sounds (meditative sounds)

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Hail K Zar!

I'll be speaking with ace dub DJ K Zar on May 27. His monthly party "Strictly Rockers" is one of the very few ongoing live events in this city to focus on the classic/steppas/etc. dub side of the reggae continuum.

The next one will take place May 30 - here's some information for the Facebook inclined:

The night also features, as you can see, my show neighbour Patrick Roots and DJ Chocolate, plus a very special contribution from King Culture, who certain new school fans will recognize from a choice reissue on the Basic Replay label.

K Zar and I will chat and he'll spin a few choice cuts

"Choon in" at 7:30 on the 27th.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Freedom Of Community - An Audio Manifesto

On Wednesday June 3, the Abstract Index, CIUT and AIMToronto present Freedom Of Community.

Toronto’s free improvisers have been internationally renowned for their skillful musical exploration for more than four decades. Coincidentally, CIUT also has a four decade history of boundary breaking musical programming.

Freedom Of Community brings these two important, community-based cultural institutions together for the first time.

AIMToronto was formed in 2005. It was conceived as an umbrella under which each of the city’s disparate pockets of improvising musicians could all organize, providing increased visibility for the community as a whole while maintaining its diversity. It is an organization of global significance, hosting the world’s finest improvisers such as William Parker, Joe McPhee and Les Poules in quarterly Interfaces. Its next such presentation features Swiss saxophonist Urs Leimgruber from June 5-7.

All three sets of Freedom Of Community feature members of AIMToronto.

Set 1) a FREE CONCERT from 6:00-6:45PM on the front lawn of 91 St. George St. (weather permitting) with Alaniaris, (fractured Greek rembetika stylings) - Michael Kaler - bass, Ken Aldcroft -, guitar, Mark Zurawinski - drums

Set 2) Michael Keith - guitar, Scott Thomson - trombone

Set 3) Odradek (electro/acoustic small objects) - William Davison - electronics small instruments, Jim Bailey - electronics, small instruments, Andy Yue – synth

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - May 20/09

Do I really need to sell you on this beyond the cover art?

OK, well how about a shitkickin' accordion take on Willie Colon's "La Murga"?

How about the finger shredding guitar funk of the Duncan Brothers "Dreams"?

How about the reggae/calypso naughtiness of Sir Jablonsky (couldn't make up that name if I tried) "Juck Juck"?

How about yet another burning rendition of Bill Withers' evergreen "Ain't No Sunshine?

How about everything that Panama Uno did well, Panama Dos does better?

And how about I get the hell away from my computer and enjoy a warmer than usual spring day with this comp loaded up on the ol' iPod, cruising down the bike trails on Toronto's waterfront.

It's like that, and that's the way it is.


samarpan - debasish bhattacharya (riverboat)
petit coup - hanuman sextet (resonant)
lucky charms 2 - geoff youngers sandbox (now orchestra)
agricola & sarah - gypsophilia (no label)
gypsy queen - gabor szabo (impulse)
diaraby magni - vieux farka toure (six degrees)
another man's thing - joe king & kologbo (soundway)
na mi do gbe hue nu - honore avolon (analog africa)
descaraga superior - los supperiores (soundway)
la feria - tierra (follow me)
do something - batman samini feat amingo (out here)
spanish fly - zulu & david last (staubgold)
i will make a trap - omar souleyman (sublime frequencies)
mashallah - zeb (wonderwheel)
tumbala - nova lima rmx by chris franck (cumbancha)
smoke gets in - budos band (daptone)
cool steppin - riddim conference (fresh poulp)
stop it right now - sizzla (greensleeves)
african symbol - willi williams (drum street)
life is not easy - meditations (makasound)
one draw - love joys (wackies)
far over yonder - tommy mccook (blood and fire)

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - May 13/09

More on the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble soon in print form...

But on a more personal level, sometimes I just get music fatigue and records like this are the cure. I'm constantly chasing after new music. I've been doing it for decades. Sometimes it feels like a chore; I don't have the multitasking ability I once did. I'm grateful that the brain work of writing isn't my only game, if I couldn't DJ and actually FEEL the healing vibes of upfull music at a high volume, I don't know what my spiritual state would be.

When something comes along which is truly soul-restoring, it's worth celebrating. I don't think it's an accident that the HBE release is timed for a late May release. As the flowers bloom and everyone's winter-weary postures relax for good, a soundtrack is necessary to commemorate the changing of the seasons. The HBE's brass band sound strikes a major chord within the body and the mind - this is party music with rounded tones, not sharp ones. Yet there's more than enough hip hop breathe-and-stop edge to keep an audience alert and fully focused.

I can listen to this album several times a day. It's like medication which needs to be consumed every few hours. I can't even decide on album highlights yet - the whole thing flows so, so nicely that I don't want to over-analyze it.

However, the slowest and most uplifting track may just be the invocation with which I started the show: "Jupiter". Download the podcast and see if you are able to breathe easier after listening to it.

I'm glad new music can still do this for me.


jupiter - hypnotic brass ensemble (honest jons)
fafa - vieux farka toure (six degrees)
the antidote - mr. something something (world)
turtle eyes & fierce rabbit - torngat (alien 8)
dreams - the duncan brothers (soundway)
firebirds/birds of fire - don sebesky (cti)
tabey tarate - tartit (crammed)
tree to tree - jayme stone & mansa sissoko (no label)
icegirl - ayal senior (inyrdisk)
small king of taungdyone - sein moota (sublime frequencies)
mobutu #2: katanoa boma ye - za (acuarela discos)
kicking stones - offonoff (smjz)
glazin - black dice (paw tracks)
natural selection - martyn rmx by flying lotus (scape)
bankable dub - twelve (jarring effects)
step by step - dubosmium feat. dubzoic (fresh poulp)
dub it today - rootical sound (guidance)
can't stop natty dread - linval thompson (blood and fire)

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Return To The Valley Of Uma Nota

Short notice on this... sorry.

If you're looking to kick off the weekend sometimes known as May 2-4 (when it actually lands on May 24 - what is up with this coo coo bananas calendar year??), samba on down to the Gladstone.

I'm opening up the set with some tasty party starting vibes. Stick around for the dynamic duo of DJ Nana and maestre General Eclectic.

Liveness is provided by the super deluxe version of Samba Elegua getting horny with my old buddy Rich Underhill.

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May Missives

Storsveit Nix Noltes

It's time for the monthly roundup of my ramblings in print and online.

First up, hot off the press, is my writeup of OffOnOff who are playing 6 Nassau St. on Friday. I won't be able to make the gig (see the following post) but did meet drumming demon Paal Nilsson-Love in person when he and The Thing played here a couple of weeks ago. He was great to speak with, and a shining example about all that's great about the very creative forms of music going on in Norway these days. He's repped by the relatively mainstream, government supported jazz community as well as a consummate road warrior in the grande indie tradition.

In Exclaim this month, I spoke to NOMO at long last, having played their music quite frequently on the Abstract Index over the years. Leader Elliot Bergman had some post tour fatigue in his voice, methinks, but he was as perceptive and interesting as I hoped he would be.

Speaking of Afro-futurism, I also lavished praise on my favourite album of the year thus far, On Ka'a Davis' Seeds Of Djuke. I would have blogged about it when I first got it way back in January, but I knew I was going to push for feature coverage, and that's finally come to pass. This album isn't for everyone, especially those who think that funk must include the descriptor "retro" these days, but anyone who really cares about Afro-American culture - and that should be millions of people, y'know - should open their ears and try to get right with Davis' art.

On the Exclaim website, I interviewed Coat Cooke, the majordomo of Vancouver's ever-vital NOW Orchestra & its nascent record label. It felt good to bring a little piece of Vancouver's avant-garde music history to Exclaim for the first time.

Also, I spoke with Olaf Olafsson from Storsveit Nix Noltes, whose album Royal Family/Divorce is still very much rocking (Balkaning? Balking?) my world.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - May 6/09

The El Michels Affair have made one of the most interesting funk-like records of the year so far. Funk-like? This is zombie funk, risen from 12 bit digital carbonite reanimated a decade and a half later....

Though the Roots are the undisputed champs of live hip hop grooves, this bizness throttles back the liveness a notch. It's a simple concept - a live, instrumental version of Wu Tang Clan's Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers). This is the work of a full band, but the collective effort is admirable in its restraint. All the tonal elements are quite correctly secondary to the sheer consistency and relentlessness of the drums, which is exactly the way a hip hop cover record ought to sound. There is no hot blood in the band at all, this is entrancingly clinical, perfectly capturing the forlorn Stax abstractions that were the RZAs signature at the time.

It's such a relief not to have some crazy baritone sax solo break out (but you know I love them - the very next song was a little taste of the new Budos Band EP), and just look forward to simply, perfectly executed changes in the music. But El Michels doesn't get carried away with the mechanical nature of hip hop, these are big band arrangements rather than intimate imitations the original samples (a la Alarm Will Sound).

Their combination of severe discipline pulled back from the precipice of historical obsession makes for a successful aesthetic. Bring your own tunes to the next Hip Hop Karaoke...


obama dub - hermanos borachos (no label)
phooey - we can and we must (wcawm)
untitled 7 - box (rune gramofon)
dance of the three fours - qua (mush)
seafoam green - last step (planet mu)
black and tan fantasy - sex mob feat john medeski (thirsty ear)
platin tundra - burnt friedman (nonplace)
tangente finale - fanfare pourpour (ambiances magnetiques)
moosamin, eh? - tim posgate horn band (guildwood)
ballicki bone - hypnotic brass ensemble (honest jons)
bring the ruckus - el michels affair (truth and soul)
hidden hand - budos band (daptone)
radio nufonia - kid koala (ninja tune)
continue to call - nino moschella (ubiquity)
can't get away - rodriguez (light in the attic)
psychedelic afro soul - orlando julius (vampisoul)
yunduya weyu - garifuna women's project (cumbancha)
coat of arms - nosaj thing (alpha pup)
good over evil - daily bread dub (fresh poulp)
chrome optimism/oxygen pt. 4 - dubblestandart feat. david lynch (collision cause of chapter 3)
deeper dub - big bass theory (sir bassa)
(r)evolution - pandadub (fresh poulp)

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - April 29/09

While this blog has focused almost exclusively on writeups of full length CDs, music distribution is more complicated these days (duh...). Even the way I format my playlist (song, artist, label) is becoming problematic, what with the decline of the "label" as a necessarily informative tag.

One recently launched blog that supplied two tracks for this show (Doc Shebeleza, Costuleta) is Generation Bass, which is the work of Vincent Koreman. It's a popular site, "generating" (pun intended) some 50,000 hits in 2 months since its launch.

GB specializes in "non Western (dance) music and influences thereof" - that's an interesting way to put it. I've grown increasingly dissatisfied with the term "Western" (though I use it sometimes) to describe North America & Europe. Given that the music hosted on the site blurs the line between Euro/North American and, say, African or South American producers, it's hard to make that kind of distinction anymore. I've often made the point before that "Western" countries aren't as Western as they used to be, thanks to immigration patterns and international travel and communications.

Case in point: Huelepega Sound System, who GB were gracious enough to post about a few days ago. I mean, who are we anyways? You've got a Jew, a Colombian/Ecuadorian dude who was born and raised in arid Mississauga, and a pair of brothers from El Salvador living in the 519/905 GTA hinterland. Of course, we're proudly Canadian but we remix and overdub stuff from South & Central America via Europe via the USA. In our case, I'd say we're more Western than non-Western, but it's pretty loose (just like our sound...). I imagine it doesn't get any easier to figure out with many of the artists repped by the site.

Moreover (to rehash some of my State Of The World article from a couple of months ago) "non-Western" artists represented on GB are likely using similar software and pursuing local and international audiences simultaneously via indie methods. And lets face it, the blessing and the curse of this kind of DIY global dance music is its sonic, if not rhythmic, similarity. On the one hand, it's relatively easy to mix this stuff together into a banging DJ set without resorting to wild EQ fluctuations and compensating for beats that might not sit where you'd like them to. On the other hand, that same sonic similarity (limited dynamic range in the music, poor MP3 compression, of-the-moment soft synth and drum sounds) is taxing on the ears after a while IMO.

But this is barely a criticism at all, I'm just stirring the pot a little bit. I love the enthusiasm of this site, they never lean on the hipness of the music too much; they are genuinely interested in finding out more about musical ideas from around the globe and sharing them. Even if they aren't stone cold experts on a given track/genre, they won't posture like they do - that's an honest way to go about it, and one I can relate to. But there's loads of knowledge to be gleaned from this site - posts and comments alike - for young and old disciples of the sensibility once known as world music. Only this time, thanks to the interactivity of the internet, more people get to enjoy and participate in this world of music.


angels and demons at play - respect sextet (avant)
banners on high - nomo (ubiquity)
la sidounak sayyada - omar souleyman (sublime frequencies)
take the bus - afrobutt (electric minds)
show you my love - goldie alexander (unidisc)
directions in rhythm - rise ashen (no label)
sun people - deadbeat (wagon repair)
akogo - mr. tunes (no label)
ufana ukheza - doc shebeleza (ccp)
den of drumz - kode9 vs badawi (roir)
one bible - asher senator (soul jazz)
wegue wegue - buraka som sistema (enchufada)
so ca to - costuleta (no label)
i don't know why - ziggi (vp)
iron curtain man - odel (ohm grown)
try hard - courtney stone (no label)
bad boy - 994 crew (out here)
black eye boy - renegade soundwave (mute)
message of hope - abassi all stars (universal egg)
bashment dub - mossman vs. mr. tsunami (dispensation)

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