Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - July 22/10

A little late to this acieeed party, but four months after its release, Charanjit Singh's Ten Ragas To A Disco Beat may hold up as the reissue of the year.

As with any reissue of the year candidate, there's gotta be a boffo backstory (such as some of my previous selections). Singh, a hot Bollywood composer during the 70s and 80s with ten albums to his name, should already be familiar to listeners of the amazing Bombay Connection label. His progressive grooves were a standout on previous comps, but Ten Ragas is a different story all together.

In 1982, Singh cobbled together a setup of two hot Roland products, the TB 303 bass synthesizer and the TR 808 drum machine, together with the very versatile Prophet 5 keyboard and set out to create digital, danceable ragas. The results are basically the dawn of acid house. The album is so fully realized that some people thought it was an Aphex Twin hoax, but this is the real historical deal.

I wish I had the liner notes of the actual release (suitably enough I bought a digital download) to tell me about the significance of these particular ragas, and his own words about what he modified and what he left alone. Then again, there's nothing to "leave alone" - the percussive scale of a digital keyboard doesn't match up with, for instance, the flexible pitch and intonation of a sitar. It sounds like above all else, Singh was a master of the pitch wheel, able to slide between notes to get the pitches he needed. It's not the first time anyone had successfully represented Indian scales in digital music (even Bruce Haack was pretty good at it), but there's something about Singh's playing that captures the ecstasy of the variations within the scales of each rag that elevates this experiment.

Acid House was fond of endless synth arpeggiations, but here Singh adds much more melodic interest than a repetitive 4 note phrase (not that I mind those...), he always seems to invert expectations about what's going to happen next, which is a feeling seldom associated to ultra-minimal 80s digital dance music. Considering how much digital music was DIY by artists with no formal musical training, to hear a great and learned player express himself with the same tools is just remarkable.

Judge for yourself, it's on vinyl too.


mt - ethnic heritage ensemble (delmark)
the subterrain - mark dresser/susie ibarra (wobbly rail)
solar plexus - mercury falls (portofranco)
lokombe moka - kenlo craqnuques (no label)
what a life - kaly live dub (jarring effects)
let it go - reefer rmx by flying lotus (alpha pup)
phase em out - dam funk (stones throw)
a town called obsolete - andreya triana (ninja tune)
tode que voce podia ser - milton nasciimento & lo borges (emi)
in concert - ofege (soundway)
sola - orchestra bella bella (syllart)
night in ethiopia - jackie mittoo (soul jazz)
rome - sugar minott (moll selekta)
tribulations - earth roots and water (light in the attic)
fighting youth - ljx (no label)
wild suspense - wailing souls (island)
juizo final - seu jorge & almaz (now again)
upsetting furriada - arogalla rmx by dadub (les cristaux liquident)
roforofo fight - havana cultura rmx by little louie vega (brownswood)
no bailes de caballito - grupo el mexicano (musart)
raga megh malhar - charanjit singh (bombay connection)
naxaniseka - tiyiselani vomaseve (honest jons)

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Wow! Colour me surprised.

I just found out that Huelepega Sound System will be supporting the Argentine digicumbia superstars, Zizek Club. Why don't you read this fine article about them.

It's at Wrongbar tomorrow, we're on at 9:30. They take over after that... hope to see you there.

Labels: , ,

Monday, July 19, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - July 15/10

What makes one obscure album worth reissuing and another worth blogging about?

Playing the Zorro Five next to the excellent (is there any other word?) new reissue of Lee Scratch Perry dubplates by Pressure Sounds is a study in similarities and contrasts. Of course, any new material by Scratch has automatic commercial potential, and it's a bonus that this collection covers the Black Ark era of 1973-79 with its numerous classic rhythms. The sound of these well-worn dub plates only adds to the appeal: Pressure Sounds never fails to deliver splendid remasters, and Scratch's high frequencies, distorted loudness and woofy bass become even more surreal when given this digital polish. Vinyl rips of the dubplates would not likely have resulted in such ear-opening sounds, to say nothing of the biographical material and new graphics that complete the package.

On the other hand is the Zorro Five. Apparently they once had a skinhead-era chune called Reggae Shhhh which indicated to the British public that this was an anonymous band hopping on the early reggae bandwagon (not unlike the Mohawks, who had their dalliances with reggae). If you recall the first couple of years after rock steady, the initial reggae sound was quite sprightly and achieved a fair bit of chart success in England - this was the commercial peak for Scratch's Upsetters who had a UK top 5 hit in 1969. However, it turns out that the Zorro Five were actually from South Africa. There are no liner notes to this vinyl rip - just a JPEG, some music and a brief but tantalizing writeup on the rarity of the album. A little searching reveals another site with comments including someone who confirms the label (licensed by EMI) was from SA, and that the band was most likely bi-racial (in the late 60s!) which is why there are no photos and scant information. Even though the album reputedly fetches a decent price, I'd reckon this would be just about impossible to license due to this fact, although perhaps the "Brigadiers" label owner still holds the rights, but not the artist. Nevertheless, the vinyl rip does a perfectly satisfactory job of representing the music for the perusal of sonic archaeologists.

Still though, like the Mohawks, there are some superior R&B funky grooves even if the grasp of reggae is a little rudimentary. They probably were imitating Scratch's sound of the time, and were pitched to the same skinhead market. What intrigues me is the track played on this show "Bacarolle" sounds like it's got a whiff of mbaqanga.

As is so often the case, two related sounds separated by great geographical distance come together back to back on the Abstract Index.


midnight sun - air (candid)
ikoko - eppio fanio (soundway)
kalima shop titi - poirier feat boogat rmx by uproot andy (ninja tune)
bailemos esta cumbia - mr iozo feat caballo (no label)
mshni wam - spoek mathambo (bbe)
wine up - baobinga vs killa benz (steak house)
naramidou poita - dadub feat quilo rmx by arogalla (les cristaux liquident)
adidas to addis - cut chemist (mochilla)
bacarolle - zorro five (emi/brigadiers)
my luv 2 u - cinister cee (neferiu)
chim cherie - lee scratch perry (pressure sounds)
limits - freddie joachim (organology)
falling far - nite jewel (big love)
isle de joie - mandre (rush hour)
raga malkauns - charanjit singh (bombay connection)
in the ghetto - ljx (no label)
jah children dub style - heptones (lagoon)
is it because i'm black - ken boothe (trojan)
mamy blue - juan torres y su organo melodico (musart/balboa)
estilo ricky ramirez - satanique samba trio (amplitude)
unnameable dance - justin haynes/jean martin (barnyard)
ganjil - gamelan madu sari (songlines)
64 fire damage - isan (morr music)
brown recluse - annie whitehead/barbara morgenstern/bill wells/stefan schneider (karaoke kalk)
in a salient way - moondata (moondata)
electricone - lloyd miller & the heliocentrics (now again)
la la la (hard version) - segun bucknor (vampisoul)

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 16, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - July 8/10

I've blogged about the Claudia Quintet, the best chamber jazz band in the world, before. With Royal Toast, they've done it again with another challenging and successful set of dense ensemble work that succeeds on every level.

Whether fiercely polyrhythmic or totally strung out and momentumless, the Claudias swing with an identifiably jazz feel, but are at ease with a dizzying array of genres and techniques.

What’s always so scary about this band is the songwriting: even if the listener may not know where the melodies are going, there is a distinct sound to each song to give it identity. And it’s so tough! Sample ready moments abound, whether in the dense, non-specific African textures of “Sphinx” or chillwave ready atmospheres of “Crane Merit” where minimalist breaks hang on for trancelike minutes at a time, like some post-rock fantasy gone mad. "American Standard", heard this week has a similar impact except with a syncopated cascade of notes from all members which turns the song inside out. Guest pianist Gary Versace fits right in on piano, adding to the percussive richness overall and another fiendish solo voice in full throttle rhythm fantasies like “Keramag”.


it's about that time/willie nelson - miles davis (columbia)
american standard - the claudia quintet (cuneiform)
you talk too much - rudresh mahanthappa's indo-pak coalition (innova)
lal lal hothon pe - brass menazeri (porto franco)
pombaral - sao paolo underground (aesthetics usa)
caranito - peregoyo y su combo vacaná rmx by natural self (jus like)
batumata - nogdog & the bumps (no label)
hurt so bad - philly devotions rmx by dmitri from paris (bbe)
half moon - the swyannes (gallo)
tungalala - son palenque (soundway)
kid conga - leo justi & mc miltinho (no label)
clap trap - joe (hessle audio)
the origin - natural self rmx by eliphino (tru thoughts)
basta ya - el remolon feat. lido pimienta (zzk)
superpeople - earl sixteen (ariwa)
culture tree - i and i djangdan (bibim productions)
culture dub - echo (in tha chamber)
watcha - dub project 2 (m)
cave grill - arch m (no label)
palmflower black - mantrakid (urbnet)
free - bilal (plug research)
on a cloud - platinum pied pipers rmx by 14K (no label)
the U.N. plan - shafiq husayn (plug research)
yaya - mr. ok feat larose (masalacism)
war in the streets - webcam hi fi (no label)

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - July 1/10

Yesterday the Polaris Prize Short List was announced. I've got to admit I felt a little detached from the goings on - maybe it was the heat. I'm most active in the jury discussions leading up to the Long List, which displays a greater range of the records the jurors were mulling over. By the time it gets reduced to ten, meh on most counts - I've only played two of these artists on the Abstract Index or Funky Fridays.

I hope Shad wins. It's an easy record to like - lots of hooks, personality, and positive yet introspective (Thanks Del Cowie for that observation) insight which resonates with a lot of Canadians. It's a disc that will convert non-hip hop fans, but also impress diehards with its inarguable skill, originality and production. And you know what? Hip hop is more popular than indie rock and it would be nice if Polaris were to recognize one of the outstanding records of the genre as a standard-bearer for Canadian music, especially in this era of Drake-mania.

That said, I would like to distinguish between Polaris' mission to find the best album in Canada from the Abstract Index approach to Canadian content, and how the two relate. I have to consider both albums and individual tracks, old stuff and new, local and national, and of course music which suits the groove-oriented nature of this show as opposed to the hegemonic view of Canadian music being primarily about indie rock.

(To those who profess that 'indie rock' is a meaningless term, I refer you to 'world music' - a term that makes no sense to those involved in it, but is used to signify "the other" by critics because of its cultural i.e. not from here connotations. Indie rock is an impenetrable "other" for those musical forms that will never benefit from its network)

Increasingly, this kind of music is not being represented on album, it's coming out as EPs or single tracks. As has often been the case in dance music, album statements tend not to be the best way to experience the vitality of the music.

The music that achieves Polaris notoriety is that which focuses on the album as the overwhelmingly complete expression of an artist. Their careers progress from album to album, with money invested accordingly in tour support, videos etc.

A record that I championed this year, South Rakkas Crew's 'The Stimulus Package' was a notable exception. It was the first Listed disc to include multiple versions of riddims, to say nothing of the Caribbean cultural spirit infused in the whole Package. It was a party-starting, satisfying full length release that was not intended to be an image-defining, capital 'A' artistic statement the way most rock albums are. SRK have continued to do remixes and new tracks, some of which are for sale, some of which are free; The Stimulus Package was just a link in the chain. They're coming up on a cross-Canada tour, some 7 months after the 'release' of the album, which brings them to a more relevant Caribana-timed jam in Toronto on July 31 which is probably as important a stretch in the calendar as their long-ago full length release.

As if to prove it was an unlikely selection for the Long List, it's probably the only record to receive the Polaris hat-tip that doesn't have a publicist shopping it around.

It's the kind of record and musical aesthetic that year after year, Toronto's campus community radio stations keep promoting because mainstream media by and large ignores the massive popularity of Caribbean rhythms. That's what I've grown up with, that's what I'm attuned to. That's my city's music, and I'd like to believe, is becoming a significant part of the music of other cities in Canada. But it's not reflected in the country's music infrastructure. I fear that with the disintegration of the primacy of the LP format, musics that aren't already successful in conventionally Canadian terms (Soundscan sales, official downloads, CBC Radio 3 blessing, established management) will simply give up in trying to appeal to a national audience and never create a ripple in Polaris, focusing instead on local viability and international possibilities.

Part of the reason I stay with Exclaim is the chance to influence the national dialogue of what "popular" or "major" Canadian artists are - for instance Alpha Yaya Diallo in the latest issue. Even then, there usually has to be a full length release to hang a pitch on. It's a similar situation with Polaris; there is too much music happening at a community level for it to be summarily ignored at a national one. I want to start and participate in new conversations about popular Canadian culture. Or at least argue against the same old ones.

What's the upshot of all this? If you are making beat-oriented music and releasing a full length album, do what you have to do to find your fanbase, but it's still worth it to think nationally. Research the Polaris jury and do some selective social networking. There are quite a few of us who appreciate Canadian music that confounds the traditional tropes of Canadiana; maybe enough to tip the scales to a Short List nomination at some point...

And then there's a whole other debate about jazz and experimental music...


All Canadian Grade AA or above this week.

hook and sling - frank motley & the motley crew (jazzman)
last bongo in belgium - incredible bongo band (mr. bongo)
burn - willie williams (heartbeat)
lostentation dub - mossman (dispensation)
sick im kid - dub trio (roir)
strugglin - ljx (no label)
money worries - the maytones & i roy (heartbeat)
deep structure - deadbeat (wagon repair)
once and again - eddie c (pawn shop)
congo nuevo - rise ashen & blissom (balanced)
perdon pantone - pan/tone (cereal killers)
coco drunk - poirier rmx by douster (ninja tune)
on the insufficiency of words - elizabeth shepherd (do right)
summer sounds - maylee todd (do right)
mental fitness - erik hove (effendi)
our man in cleveland - arkana music (no label)
nearness/distance - feuermusik (standard form)
sonsonneh - kocassale dioubate (no label)
auto rickshaw - alex cattaneo/ganesh anandan (no label)
latcho boogie - lubo alexandrov (no label)
belly off - peter pozorek (no label)
gladstoned - huelepega sound system (no label)

Labels: ,

Monday, July 05, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - June 24/10

Annette Brissett's been around for many years, but her career finally seems to be picking up steam in the last little while.

She's worked with Sly And Robbie and Bullwackie, but this past decade the tough yet tender vocalist has found greater success in South Florida's considerable market.

Comparisons to Horace Andy are inevitable, but the junked-out twilight of Billie Holiday's career is not a bad reference point either. Brissett has the phrasing and POV on songs that only comes from experience.

That's what makes "Lift Your Head Up" such a powerful tune. The production is merely OK, but her delivery sounds both anguished and hopeful, which makes the song's message seem less generic. The album isn't a corker all the way through, but her vocals are very versatile in customizing the lovers rock tropes which dominate the proceedings.

I don't get a sense of what sets South Florida's reggae apart from the rest of global roots reggae just based on this album, but given the generations of Jamaicans who have lived there I understand the scene is quite a hotbed. And once you've had your fill of South Beach and glitzy salsa, you'll be needing some quality time with music well under 100BPM.

Podcast (starts with Mikey Dread)

Claudia quintet – keramag (cuneiform)
Seu jorge – errare humanem est (now again)
Mikey dread – jumping master (hearbeat)
Lennie hibbert – village soul (studio one)
Joergmueller – peel and dub again (zeecc)
Annette brissett – lift your head up (TAC)
Citizen sound feat treson – come what may (VX)
Mr. OK– poto mitan (masalacism)
Sound iration in dub– seventh seal dub (year zero)
Suns of arqa – gavati drut (arqasound)
David starfire/sub swara cobra (no label)
Filip fillipi feat Collie Buddz, Schlachtofbronx rmx – huricane ana (no label)
Interceiving – can’t stop dancing (no label)
Claudia quintet – crane merit (cuneiform)
Eric chenaux – am I lovely (constellation)
Vinnie golia mark trayle – cheapman and the sweater he cherished (9 winds)
Rainer wiens – blood fever (ambiances magnetiques)
Morphosis – musafir (MOS)
Soul center atom tm – switch it (curle)
Sandra st victor – cosmos (soul strategies)
Q orchestra – ritmo diabolico (freestyle)
Vieux farka toure – diaraby magni (six degrees)
Sugar minott – never give up (soul jazz/studio one)

Labels: ,