Friday, July 31, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - July 29/09

Sometimes it takes a while for a disc to truly sink in. In this case, it's been about a year for "Imagination" to get to my sub-conscious.

This project between one-time Torontonian vocalist Yoon Sun Choi and pianist Jacob Sacks redefines the work of Joe Raposo who is best known as the composer for Sesame Street, The Muppet Show and Electric Company.

It is so refreshing to hear the familiar piano/voice combo apply itself to subject matter far away from tired standards. Since Raposo's music is for kids, or written from a child's perspective, these aren't love songs - at least not in the romantic sense. They are love songs about what we adults call simple pleasures - the alliterative, alphabet-based songs like "La La La" work perfectly in a jazz context, when things that start with the letter L are lovingly listed, right down to the "lump in my oatmeal". It's entirely different terrain for emotional expression.

This week's track explores "Imagination", and is more unsettling. When sung by an adult, the sentiment ("I close my eyes and my home isn't home/And my bed isn't really my bed") is borderline terrifying. It's ripe for a horror movie, especially with the hints of dissonance in Sacks' playing.

Sacks and Choi play this one relatively straight, compared to other Cecil Taylor meets Julie Tippetts-type tracks like the furious "What Makes Music". Choi is far more than some come-hither torch singer, she channels a wide range of singing techniques to serve this material, making light (or darkness) of so many implicit sentiments in Raposo's lyrics. Sacks resists the temptation to grandstand, yet he's always challenging Choi to come up with something new. Neither musician makes fun of the material, which is key. Kids hate it when you talk down to them.


beware the swordbat - the eternals (aesthetics usa)
dayha oulabes - boutaiba sghir (sublime frequencies)
gulli ya hilw - salaam (no label)
discord - the seasons (city centre offices)
murder ballad - st. dirt elementary school (barnyard)
ochun loops - sonic liberation front (slf)
blacab - kanada 70 (no label)
earthly matters - ras g (brainfeeder)
locomotive - more or les with fresh kils (backburner)
she really likes it - agape (sustainable)
put your hands up for detroit - tm juke & the jack baker trio (tru thoughts)
polylectic - poolplayers (songlines)
imagination - yoon son choi/jacob sacks (yeah yeah)
ver a ver - helado negro (asmathic kitty)
c'est super - daedalus rmx by michna (fof music)
feria de los jueves en lules - the peronists (zzk)
free but confined - gisto (historicalrecords)
exodus - dj quik & kurupt (mad science)
i'm not crazy - don carlos/captain sinbad (greensleeves)
king of israel - hugh mundell (king jammy's gold)
dub seasoning - bullwackies allstars (senrab)

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Samini At CIUT

A couple of posts ago, I included a picture of Ghanaian hiplife/reggae/soca singer (Batman) Samini and myself at Afrofest. We met and did a spontaneous interview. At the time, his manager Jake told me about a show that took place this past Saturday. I invited everyone down to CIUT last Wednesday to talk about the event.

A film crew from Soul360 TV came along and combined the footage with a rehearsal Samini had done earlier in the day. Here's the result - with cameos from DJ Chocolate and Patrick Roots:

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - July 22/09

I wouldn't say guilt is motivating this post but...

A couple of weeks ago I wrote enthusiastically in Exclaim's Click Hear section about a free MP3 available from French dub band Brain Damage's forthcoming CD. As you can see in the graphic, it's listed as "Toxine (Live)".

That's how I listed it in the blurb, and I also credited the vocalist incorrectly. They wrote the magazine to point out my errors. Oops.

Allow me to once again show my love for a very creative band. If you think that dub is a) cliche and echo ridden, seemingly set on autopilot for minutes at a time b) for head-nodding only, Brain Damage will set you straight.

Their tempos are often breakneck, and their choice of sonics tends toward the aggressive, with few atmospheric synth pads to be found. Guitars are also much more prominent than with most dub artists, and thankfully they're not the kind of hair metal solos that seem to get a free pass on so many reggae/rock fusions. You won't find this blogger praising a band's punk attitude as unquestioned proof of authenticity, but they do manage gale-force protest energy within dub's often glossy, high tech sounds. One of the most notable aspects of this live recording is its clarity. Nothing sounds muffled, this band their sound together after years of practice.

Even Emiko Ota's canned vocalisations on this live version of "Under The Ground" provoke rather than lull an audience. Judging from the crowd's reaction, I envision a fair bit of moshing about.

BTW you can grab that free track on this page. The album comes out in September.


point reyes - david cromwell ensemble (innova)
expanse - john kameel farah (drosstik)
when every day's a number - tim exile (warp)
keman rhythm - two fingers (ninja tune)
liberta - nova lima (cumbancha)
tudo do bom - arthur verocai rmx by domu (far out)
maria enciende de la luz - los golpes fuertes (miami)
safari salvaje - los rapidos (waxing deep)
showtime - najite olokun prophecy (sofa disk)
under the ground (live) - brain damage feat emiko ota (jarring effects)
poppy - st. dirt elementary school (barnyard)
willisau - irene schweizer/fred anderson/hamid drake (intakt)
waterdance - nicole mitchell black earth strings (delmark)
almost extinct song 2 - simeon abbot/zebra wood (no label)
africa unite - samini feat etang (k chero)
samini - samini (k chero)
where my baby deh - samini (k chero)
rastaman - samini feat steel pulse (k chero)
his majesty's authority - earl wya lindo (natty congo)
selassie - kc white (city line)
come make we rally - willi williams (black roots)

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Midsummer A Gwaan

Batman Samini & yours truly at Afrofest, photo courtesy of Donna Gee

It's been a minute since I posted about my activities in print and in non-Abstract Index related stuff on the radio.

Eye Weekly has run a few features lately. I wrote a duo of West African articles about Femi Kuti and Oumou Sangare (absolutely killer at Afrofest). Last month I caught what might hold up as my fave show of the year: Goran Bregovic.

In Exclaim, I wrote about Major Lazer in July, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble in June. Also in the July issue is a feature/review with MC Zulu and David Last. The interview with Zulu was one of my favourite conversations of the year, unfortunately the sound quality wasn't good enough for broadcast.

Also in Exclaim, I've become one of the Click Hear team. Every week, I post about one or more new or new-ish tracks available for free somewhere in the interweb. Some entries are fairly out of the way, some are merely crucial. It's a fun assignment.

Coming up this Saturday, tune in to CIUT to catch our broadcast of Jamaica Day, live from its new location at Downsview Park. I'll be participating in the conversation, but mostly I'm going to be scouting out all the fried dough at the vendors' booths - that's why they call summertime the "festival" season. Oy, terrible joke....

One last thing: check in to the Abstract Index radio show tomorrow for an interview with Ghanaian hiplife/"raglife" star Batman Samini at 7:30PM. He's been hanging out in Toronto since his triumphant performance at Afrofest, and has a gig coming up at the Fusion Lounge on July 25.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - July 15/09

The first person to introduce me to Rhythm and Sound was DJ Chocolate, who interviewed them on her CKLN radio show some years ago. I happened to be passing through at that time (I think I was promoting an event) and didn't realize who I was meeting. Fortunately, that led to my investigation of their music and aesthetic.

In the years since, I've fallen hard for their minimal techno dub featuring such vocalists as Tikiman & Willi Williams. Just as important has been their patronage of the Wackies catalogue - they've made available a wealth of reggae history with their brilliant and expertly mastered reissues of the New York label.

Half of the crew, Moritz Von Oswald, has performed concerts as a more-or-less live trio, featuring Vladislav Delay on percussion and Max Lorderbauer on keyboards and additional electronics. Over the course of four long selections, the R and S minimalism is exploded by jazzy syncopations, and on this track, a seriously pitch bent riddim which seems more full blooded than usual. Another welcome change, and perhaps owing to the more human construction of the project, is a more rapid and multifaceted development to the song structures; some of the early Basic Channel stuff was so severely minimal as to drive even the most dedicated dub disciples batty from lack of variation. While the energy is still part way between danceable and lying face down on the floor, a good pair of speakers or headphones is a must to appreciate the many subtle transformations in the timbres of all the sounds in this mix.

This album won't disappoint the many Basic Channel fans throughout the world, and continues to demonstrate that there is no laurel-resting amongst the duo.


penny for your thoughts - charity chan (ambiences magnetiques)
bam - elektrik toboggan (victo)
pigeon shit - zechs marquise (rodriguez lopez productions)
revenge of the fillet o' fish - lord newborn and the magic skulls (ubiquity)
awe - helado negro (asthmatic kitty)
mali de nou - cheik hamala diabate (grigri)
clicking with the clique - st. dirt elementary school (barnyard)
undelivered letter - quantic y su combo barbaro (tru thoughts)
para que niegas - los papines (waxing deep)
yerbaguena - gnawledge (
i don't love you - 24 carat black (numero)
jump up - major lazer feat leftside & supahype (mad decent/downtown)
patterns 4 - moritz von oswald (honest jons)
texas tea - deadbeat (scape)
kuale n'go valodo - carlos lamartine rmx by mauricio pacheco & digital dubs (out here)
everyday always - grand analog (urbnet)
wailin' - 10 ft ganja plant (roir)
50 pence dub - mad professor (trojan)
don't ask my neighbours (version) - sheila hylton (mango)

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - July 8/09

Waxing Deep main man Dan Zacks turned many heads with his "Si Para Usted" compilation a couple of years ago. Most of the appeal came from the sheer funk factor of these tracks: it's vintage music, but not Buena Vista Social Club vintage. More eyebrow raising was the fact that Zacks' radio show (which led to his label) hailed from Fredericton New Brunswick.

I'm not a big fan of the "how could X music have possibly come from unlikely Y location?" trope. If anything, in this case, a dancefloor oriented collection of Cuban sounds is a perfect fit for a Canadian entrepreneur as I opined in my Exclaim review. For one thing, I can't see too many American DJs being able to get around their country's restrictive laws about USA/Cuban initiatives to put something like this together. I've always thought that a Canadian (or a Brit) would be the ideal compiler for such a project. Though the licensing didn't come easy according to Dan, that's what happened.

This second volume is even better than the first. It remains full of obscurities and relatively well known names (like Juan Pablo Torres and, for us Canadians, Hilario Duran) but the overall pacing and quality of the individual tracks makes for an even more involved listen than the first time around. Here's hoping that Zacks lends his discerning ear to compilations in the future, or at the very least, puts together some killer blog playlists.


el sueno y andria - mirtha & raul (waxing deep)
idhagbe - fred fisher (vampisoul)
wanto doke - cheik hamala diabate (grigri)
jinju dervish - john kameel farah (drosstik)
cottonmouth lothario - deru (mush)
zom zom - elias da kimuezo rmx by mauricio pacheco & dj cris (out here)
misterio stereo - curumin (quannum)
linda moreno - quantic y su combo barbaro (tru thoughts)
miarches - forest swords (leftist nautical)
rough out there - noiseshaper (tokyo tower mix) (select cuts)
check dis - daddy rings (african glory)
dem mad - busy signal (life time)
marijuana marijuana - jah thomas (roots)
traveling dub - debra keese & the black five (trojan)

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Abstract Index Playlist - July 1/09

Right after I decided to schedule my interview with Diplo on July 1, I realized that Canada Day wasn't going to be 100% domestic. Maybe the ghost of Sir John A made all three CD players freeze up on my disc, then kill the on-air computer's disc drive a mere 90 seconds into the interview (disc worked like a charm at home, natch). In any case, you'll be hearing more from me and Diplo on July 17.

Since Canada Day is historical by nature, I'll take a trip back to some of our founding fathers (& mothers)... of rap. Cold Front was a milestone in Canadian hip hop history, only the second full length hip hop album in this country's history (neck and neck with Kish's first album). The first? Maestro Fresh Wes' Symphony In Effect, also released by Attic Records, who for a while looked like they could become a major player 'in this rap game'.

The disc's compiler, Johnbronski host of the Master Plan on CIUT, wrote excellent liner notes which provide an overview of the beginnings of hip hop culture in Toronto. The entire compilation is framed as a community effort, complete with promos for hip hop shows on campus radio at the time - The Master Plan, CKLN's Powermove and CHRY's Jam Factor.

The compilation is a brilliant snapshot of the times, featuring players who would be extremely influential in Toronto (and the world!) over the next decade and beyond: The Dream Warriors, Main Source, Nu Black Nation (feat. Motion), KGB (feat. Thrust & produced by Scam and DJX). The music ranges from the D.A.I.S.Y. age sound of Base Poet's Pucho-sampling "When I Went To Buy Milk" to more minimal joints like "With This" by Sweet Ebony (who was in jail at the time of the album's release, as I recall).

It brings back fond memories for me. Probably the reason I'm writing about it now is due to album designiner DeMuth Flake (aka D-Fluke, who also lent his skills to the Live At The BBQ parties of the early 90s) having just re/befriended me on Facebook. I was tight with the extended family of campus radio hip hop at the time - John namechecks my one-time radio show "(I Got) A Bag Of My Own" in the liners, along with fellow CIUTers DB Hawkes' First Take and Thursday Morning With Ras Rico I (which was Reggae Riddims' Patrick Roots' first gig)- and the aesthetics of this period of hip hop, community spirit and all around fearless creativity have been fundamental to everything I do now, even though hip hop is only a minor part of my musical pursuits these days.

Special mention goes out to CKLN's Oblivion Express (can't find a link of any significance!!), whose radio spot is the last thing heard on the disc. That overnight show on CKLN was an all night party where DJs would spin groove music that crossed all genres, eras and sometimes technical specs (ain't nuthin but a party...) - you might hear the Ragga Twins next to Lonnie Liston Smith next to Meat Beat Manifesto. At a time when I was developing my music programming sensibility, the spirit of hip hop being the sum of many different parts, then transcending them, was a powerful one. Big ups to everyone from that era.

BTW - how did John Adams become known as Johnbronski? Originally, it was "Johnbrowski" after the Jungle Brothers "Jimbrowski", but a typo in an early CIUT program guide made him 50% more Polish by naming him "Johnbronski" and it stuck.


introducing carl cocks - tim hecker (alien 8)
once held a lighter high in the sky - mike hansen (etude)
expanse - john kameel farah (dross:tik)
sunset sorcery - insideamind (ptr)
if our love - galt mcdermott (kilmarnock)
in a green space - koushik (stones throw)
neg chante - nomadic massive (ptr)
12 sided dice - dream warriors (attic)
apache - incredible bongo band rmx. by grandmaster flash (mr. bongo)
close our eyes - robert strauss feat saidah baba talibah (bbe)
lazer theme - major lazer feat future trouble (downtown)
steppa shock dub - dubmatix (7 arts)
fifty two incorporated - tinkertoy (noise factory)
my home recordings - last step (planet mu)
valley of jehosephat - willi williams (blood and fire)
bord plate - twilight circus (m)
drive by dub - dub trio (roir)
darker shade of black - jackie mittoo (sonic sounds)
repatriation - leroy brown (dakarai)
jahovah - jah beng (kornerstone)
free the herb - courtney stone (no label)

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