Thursday, June 25, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - June 24/09

I never really cared for Michael Jackson. Maybe given enough time, I'll move from a dispassionate appreciation of his talents to something more heartfelt, but it's 25 years and counting. Lost in the increasingly hyperbolic memorials are the equally visceral reactions against MJ's grip on popular culture for most of the 80s. Thriller hit when I was in grade 10 and I couldn't stand it. His hair, his clothes but especially the cold, calculated music represented everything the budding "alternative" movement was against. I'm quite certain that many critics writing tearfully about the passing of a legend were card-carrying members of this particular subculture at the time, which scorned anything so popular. (Prince, on the other hand, was a life changing experience)

Over the years I've learned to love big productions with heavy studio confectionary. This brings me to 24 Carat Black. By 1973, Stax records were increasingly baroque, singles had great fidelity and cool sounds but were thin on soul. Dale Warren was the arranger on many Stax products - and they were products - of the time, and like his primary employer, Isaac Hayes, Warren was trying to get his studio project off the ground. 24CB were three vocalists and a working band, at one point called the Ditalians, but their previous mix of soul standards and a few few originals was entirely overhauled by Warren into a post-Superfly meditation on race and poverty. They released their one and only album Ghetto: Misfortune Wealth that year. Its simmering breaks, organ and orchestration made it a veritable prototype for Cinematic Orchestra and a brace of dark-sounding hip hop more than twenty years later. With no out-of-the-box singles and Stax beginning to experience cash flow issues, the album sank without a trace until become a rare groove collectors item in the UK two decades later.

The Numero Group found the mouldering masters of 24 Carat Black's second album decaying in a Chicago basement. The tapes were in such poor condition, only six out of twenty tracks survived. Fortunately this was enough for a 40 minute release. Gone! The Promises Of Yesterday is an even darker and, because of the lack of budget & subsequent final mixes, sparer piece of work. It's not all gold - some operatic moments don't succeed, and other bits are impossibly pretentious. But most of it represents that rare state where pre-fab meets substance - this is an album about Dale Warren - that an arranger (ahem, Quincy Jones) could create a sound that used major strains in pop culture to invert expectations about what ground a pop act ought to cover.

Maybe my lingering indifference towards Michael Jackson came from his attempt to hold the centre at all costs. 24 Carat Black is just as calculated, maybe more so, since none of the individual members of the group had one tenth the talent as MJ. This music was strikingly original. It didn't try to be everything to everybody but still provoked that involuntary head nod. Even when my favorite reggae singers are willing to sing anything for anybody, they just try to be themselves. For decades I never got the sense from MJ that being himself was a major priority in his music; he was more likely to inflate his image to suit his grandiose productions. After a certain point, soul didn't seem to matter in his music except as a backdrop to his dance routines.

'Alternative' is a word that hardly has meaning anymore, the embrace of pop by my music critic peers is complete and supposedly genuine (it's genuine if you want to make money as a freelancer...). But I just can't reason my way out of a dislike that's so deeply seated. Like the disco this white boy was conditioned to hate in 1982, I'm sure the some of MJ's catalog will hit me just right at some point. Then again, I still hate the Supremes.


summer madness (live) - kool and the gang (de-lite/mercury)
rectangle man - john stetch trio (justin time)
pattern 1 - moritz von oswald trio (honest jons)
for si I - arraymusic comp. by christian wolff (artifact)
crossroads - nicole mitchell black earth strings (delmark)
mopti - tribecastan (evergreene)
the pillars of baalbek - sir richard bishop (drag city)
gone! the promises of yesterday - 24 carat black (numero)
very goode - die enttauschung (intakt)
consolacao - tenorio jr (far out)
make your mind pt 2 - mr something something (world)
equality and justice - leroy brown (dakarai)
qualities in life - sizzla (greensleeves)
cash flow - major lazer feat. jahdan blakkamoore (downtown)
love's contagious - tarrus riley (vp)
love me in the evening - stranger cole & gladstone anderson (moll selekta)
mama she don't like you - alborosie (vp)
that's the way nature planned it - ken boothe (trojan)
words of wisdom/silver hour - u roy/tommy mccook and the supersonics (pressure sounds)

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - June 17/09

So often I blog about discs that are yet to be released or difficult/expensive to find (yeah, I know, I'm a total hipster snob). Here's something we can all enjoy.

Buguinha Dub released his album Vitrola Adubada on the Les Cristaux Liquident netlabel earlier this year. In one sense, this is just another soundman cobbling together grooves that he's worked on over a number of years while toiling with different bands. However, when the main band is Brazil's mighty Nacao Zumbi, things get interesting in a hurry. This band is unfortunately still best known for its deceased front man, Chico Science, who left this plane some 12 years ago, leaving an Jimi Hendrix-like hole in the modern era of Brazilian experimental pop in his wake.

Of course, Brazil, especially its northern reaches, has been under reggae's spell for decades, and there you'll find just as many half assed Marley knockoffs as anywhere in the world. Fortunately, so many imitations have given way to some truly distinctive sounds which fuse traditional north-easterly Brazilian grooves with nationally-approved samba, African elements from just across the pond, a variety of Caribbean elements and the latest music technology. While Nacao Zumbi were part of the Mangue Bit/Beat movement - not unlike tropicalia or Native Tongue era hip hop in its breadth of influence - Buguinha Dub is based in Sao Paolo, not Recife, the home of some of the more interesting musical mashups in the world at present.

This album covers everything from Afrobeat to illbience to disjointed samba melodies and is of course slathered in a thick layer of dub. But this doesn't sound Jamaican, it's more reminiscent of European style dub -fast and fierce, with sharp, not billowy, delay settings. Last week's track featured a very traditional sounding trombone line and abstract crowd noise giving way to a "Shine Eye Gal" groove which somehow didn't smooth out the essential bumpiness of its folkloric foundation. This is utterly urban music but has ample space for pastoral influences. And it's free - FREE I tell you! Just go here.

undefined behavior - zebra wood (no label)
a short time to sing - john butcher (emanem)
nina tusuna - lulacruza & mj greenmountain (uji)
sherbrooke - biosphere (touch)
every april - naw (noise factory)
let me see you tonight - our theory (nublu)
donsu - oumou sangare (nonesuch)
liyanzi ekoti ngai na motema - syran mbenza & rumba congo (riverboat)
hypnotic brass - hypnotic brass ensemble (honest jons)
cowboy - the nite liters (rca/dusty groove)
nootropics - jesse zubot (drip audio)
air dub I - kanada 70 (no label)
toxine (live) - brain damage (jarring effects)
troca abudaba - buguinha dub (les cristaux liquides)
kingston dancehall dub - dubblestandart feat. ari up (collision cause of chapter 3)
almasti - omfo (essay)
the cyclops - 10 ft ganja plant (roir)
one and only one - adrian miller & earth roots and water (light in the attic)
bond street rock - tommy mccook and the supersonics (pressure sounds)

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Foxy Huelepega And A New Download!

Huelepega @ the Toronto Tabla Ensemble Studio

Foxy Digitalis gave Huelepega Sound System a rave review!

Seems like the time is right to drop our next mini-mix.


Also, here's a last minute reminder that I'm welcoming Jesse Zubot to the Abstract Index tonight. Tune in if you can, if not, the podcast will be available by next week.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - June 10/09

A few years ago, when I wrote about Balkan Beats for Exclaim, I interviewed German Popov aka OMFO "Our Man From Odessa". It turned out to be one of the best interviews I'd ever experienced. We talked for more than an hour about his musical ideas and methods, as well as the growing phenomenon of Balkan sounds for the dancefloor.

Being from Odessa, he was keenly interested in the cultural and musical history of this once and future multicultural port. He talked a lot about European dance rhythms, and how local and regional dance styles had been in many ways pushed aside by the spread of African-American based rhythms in the 20th century. Part of his mission was to reclaim and revitalize local folk dance rhythms with electronics, though he freely acknowledged utilizing the vocabulary of Afro-American dance grooves and Jamaican dub.

This latest disc extends his mission into Central Asia. His skill at retuning electronics to correspond to local instruments and scales gets pretty twisted at times - what at first sounds like particularly "eastern" dub becomes far more difficult to pinpoint on closer inspection. The listener realizes that the scales and harmonies are much different that Western European 'usual'. "Baghdub" from this week's show, is one of the less exotic tunings from the album. Its swooping strings remind me more of Egypt and Om Khalsoum than Baghdad.

I'll quote Atom TM, who worked with him on his last disc: "It is music that somehow denies the dominance of certain cultural stereotypes by bending and twisting them into something that appears to be familiar, yet isn't. It is music that questions both familiar locations in time and space and expands them towards new horizons. Musical themes and topics that seemed to be lost in time and were already closed away in dark, abandoned closets of history are brought back as a valid option, as a new path we may start to take NOW."

I hope the use of his music in Borat has given him some financial flexibility to continue on his musical journey to the center of the Earth.


hotch as ginseng - braam de joode vatcher (bbb)
the force - globe unity orchestra (intakt)
tribecistan traffic jam - tribecistan (no label)
blood stained sands - sir richard bishop (drag city)
baghdub - omfo (essay)
iyo djeli - oumou sangare (nonesuch)
tamborito swing - los silvertones (soundway)
atawalpa - zemog el gallo bueno (aagoo)
okpo videa bassouo - gnonnas pedro & ses panchos (analog africa)
bunda - greymatter (tru thoughts)

guest djs: simmer down

shake senora - richie delamore (tropical recording co.)
la negra tomasa - vocal sampling (sire)
la bamba - bobby darin (emi)
mugambi- soul jazz orchestra - (r2)
bloodshot eyes - wynonie harris (rhino/wea)
boogie ain't nothing (but getting down) - rufus thomas (stax)
i.r.i.- super biton de segou (Bolibana)

strings in dub - tommy mccook and the supersonics (pressure sounds)
can't stop now - major lazer feat mr. vegas & jovi rockwell (mad decent/downtown)
barbwire - sono rhizmo (resense)
get on up - babylon system (argon)
hit parade - david last vs zulu (staubgold)
el meija - willi williams (drum street)
cry no more - kwesi selassie feat bomba (no label)
bush rock - 10 ft ganja plant (roir)
tracking dub - tommy mccook and the supersonics (pressure sounds)

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Polaris Music Prize 2009 First Ballot

It was more difficult than ever to come up with an initial ballot for the two-stage voting process that makes up the Polaris Music Prize. I listened to more music than ever before from beyond the already-heaping pile of promo that usually graces my desk. I'd like to thank my fellow jurors for recommending so much great music. I'd go so far as to say that this year has been one of great personal growth in terms of my outlook on music in Canada, and in general.

But even so, I found my picks surprised me. There have certainly been some hints in blog entries past, but my first five look like this:

Bell Orchestre - As Seen Through Windows

Blogged about it here. A tremendously interesting listen, sonically rich, fully realized concepts & never a dull moment. I never thought that these close associates of Arcade Fire would be my #1 pick but I still marvel at this disc.

Galerie Stratique - Faux World

My colleague Eric Hill at Exclaim wrote a great review of Charles-Emile Beullac's electronically reanimated visions of South East Asia. It's like the Up! of world music... fanciful, stylish, exotic yet personal, and emotionally affecting.

Justin Haynes & Jean Martin - Freedman

Wrote about it here. Ukulele & suitcase duet makes for a unique experience in intimacy. Myk Freedman is a buddy, and his beautiful songs are more than given their due in this minimal setting.

Charles Spearin - The Happiness Project

Of all the art projects in this top 5 - and every single one of my picks qualifies - this one is the only disc with vocals. But what he does with the vocals is incredible. Spearin teases out musical arrangements from speech patterns, and the sunny vibe of the album guarantees the listener's engagement. It's many things at once - "free music" in that it doesn't follow time signatures but is linked to easily relatable rhythms, and "world music" because what could be more global in its scope than interviewing one's neighbours in multicultural Toronto?

Last Step - 1961

One of 8000 discs released this past year by Aaron Funk aka Venetian Snares. I listened to all of them - cause it's worth it (at least until they slip the straightjacket on me) - before deciding that this was my favourite. Typically, it's miles ahead of most electronic ingenuity. Most importantly takes the piss out of super-serious bedroom boffins.

Near misses/other interesting records, in no particular order:

Jayme Stone & Mansa Sissoko - Africa to Appalachia
Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life
Masia One - Pulau
Slakah The Beatchild - The Soul Movement Vol 1
Timbre Timbre - S/T
AIMToronto Orchestra & Anthony Braxton - Creative Orchestra (Guelph) 2007
Women - S/T
DDMMYYY - Black Square
Lubo Alexandrov & Kaba Horo - Contrabanda
Daniel Nebiat - Hakimey
K-Os - Yes
Mantrakid - Palmflower Black

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - June 3/09

Not a real playlist per se - improvising's like that. However, Alaniaris & Thomson/Brenders/Hood played songs, so here's how it went down.


Oli Rebetes Tou Dounia
Horos Tou Sakena
Aptaliko Apache
Mangas Tou Votaniko

Scott Thomson/Kyle Brenders/Susanna Hood

"Tips" by Steve Lacy & Georges Braque


Not So Much


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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Freedom Of Community - In Pictures

Blogger's giving me a hard time with layout... sorry

Alaniaris 6:20PM

Scott Thomson - 7:10PM

Kyle Brenders & Susanna Hood - 7:05

Odradek - 7:40PM

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What A Wonderful Day!

Kyle Brenders & Parmela Attariwala

For live music outside 91 St. George St, aka CIUT!

Today's the big broadcast - Freedom Of Community, the most ambitious broadcast ever undertaken by the Abstract Index!

Why is this an important broadcast?

  • It represents a huge (potential to reach 8 million people) audience for improvised music in this city, and countless more online.
  • It's free - no financial barriers to enjoyment for anyone! You don't need broadband access, just a radio...
  • It's yet another manifestation of what CIUT does best - connecting music on the margins with a mass medium, using only a handful of people to pull it off!
  • It's a great showcase for AIMToronto's upcoming Interface with Urs Leimgruber
  • Not only will the audience hear three distinctly different approaches to improvisation, AIMToronto board member Parmela Attariwala will speak to the organization's mandate and themes. That interview takes place at 6:45.

Forecast is 19 degrees and sunny for this evening - come down and enjoy the surf-rembetika-improv of Alaniaris @ 6PM underneath the leafy canopy outside the radio station.

There is one change to the programming - Kyle Brenders is subbing for Michael Keith in the second set, in duet with Scott Thomson.

Hope to see you at CIUT!

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