Sunday, August 29, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - August 26/10

Reggae's Golden Vibrato is getting back to where he once belonged.

At this point, Horace Andy has got to be considered one of the most important vocalists ever to emerge from Jamaica. It starts with his voice: Justin Bieber should be so lucky to retain the ever-enthusiastic man-child persona that Andy has maintained for 40 years. That unique way of expressing himself has made him a muse for many producers over the years. But Andy has also been a fine songwriter, with many classics to his name: "Skylarking", "Mr. Bassie", and "Spying Glass" to name but three. He's also had the good sense to balance his work among different producers without over-recording himself, like Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs.

But it's his work outside Jamaica which has led to steady work over the years, especially in England, where his 1985 hit "Elementary" was a smash, and foreshadowed his work with Massive Attack 5 years later.

Since he became the heart and soul of Massive Attack, he has toured the world several times and had the opportunity to work in many different musical contexts, the most recent of which was with Ashley Beedle for a volume of the Inspiration Information series.

Yet, he's barely recorded any reggae for the past decade, which makes Serious Times a major release. German producer Andreas "Brotherman" Christopherson has come up with his best production ever on his increasingly solid Minor 7 Flat 5 label. If you're already a fan of the label, you've heard some of these riddims before, but Brotherman has saved some special dubwise tricks for Mr. Andy whose vocals have only gotten better over the years. Where he used to sound like he was huffing helium, he now retains his range, but has improved his phrasing and control over his vibrato. Look no further than this week's song "Rastafari" for an example - the riddim doesn't kick in until about two minutes in; it's his voice that keeps the song moving forward. This is a very strong album to add to his reggae classics recorded with Studio One, Channel One, Wackies, Ariwa and so many others.


put the stereo on - gappy ranks (vp)
every day is like a holiday - sensations (treasure isle)
celebrate my love - dubmatix feat jay douglas (7 arts)
rise and fall - toussaint feat jahdan blakkamoore (i grade)
la cumbia subbass de giorgio - black mandingo (no label)
continue to call - nino moschella (ubiquity)
move on - bilal (plug research)
baby doll - the fatback band (spring)
insomnia - marilyn crispell/barry guy/paul lytton (intakt)
found elsewhere 2 - evan parker/derek bailey/han bennink (psi)
reeds of osiron - nymphs (the social registry)
ana dellali - cheb zergui (sublime frequencies)
omnipresence - omfo (essay)
rasta rational - ljx (no label)
christie street - o'luge (last gang)
confide in you - boogiewall soundsystem rmx by mad professor (ohm grown)
rastafari - horace andy (minor 7 flat 5)
4 bush ganja dubplate - aando feat gregory isaacs (no label)
malpalpitando - systema solar (no label)
the windfall - hidden orchestra (tru thoughts)
special - maddslinky feat omar (tru thoughts)
anthracite - cymande (collectibles)
azucar - eddie palmieri (caliente)
candela - zulu (vampisoul)

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - August 19/10

What a long, strange trip it's been for Marcos Valle.

Sometimes called the Brazilian Brian Wilson, who'd have thunk he'd produce one of the great albums of his career some forty-plus years down the road.

He set the standard for breezy Brazilian pop with Samba 68. That effort (apparently his last album to be released domestically in America!) was the epitome of deft melody combined with just enough funkin' backbone to stick with you - as if Burt Bacharach decided to make a play for the dancefloor, or at least the beach. And yet, just 3 years (like Brian Wilson's troubled post Pet Sounds years) later he was in a weird prog-samba-funk-rock zone with albums like Vento Sul and Previsao Do Tempo . Throughout his stylistic changes, he's always maintained an ear for good hooks.

Even his most recent albums for Far Out are greater than the sum of parts. To describe them as a grizzled bossa vet (this old beach bum has hit a few bumps along the road) combining his stock-in-trade with drum machines and electronics would make most people run screaming. But damned if he didn't succeed with that template as well, though it helped to have pals like 4 Hero doing remixes.

I thought this latest album, his first in five years, would be in that mold. It's actually a wide-screen affair with deft string, horn and rhythm arrangements. The songs are evergreen, light yet substantial, and the moods change frequently though always logically. I like how, despite the care in the arrangements, it doesn't sound perfect. There are little inconsistencies in the playing, and some of the synth sounds are used once too often, but these elements humanize the music that much more. This has every bit of the feeling of his grand, late 60s work; if a little more mellow. But the funk is still there, implicit in everything, and the strings especially bring a dramatic edge that hasn't been present in his most recent work.

I'm not done with Mr. Valle, I hope to interview him soon in anticipation of this album's release in October - stay tuned for updates.


yamba - amadou balake (sacodis)
abuelo regalame - dogliotti (vampisoul)
extraordinary woman - psychedelic aliens (academy)
which way - the presidents (vampisoul)
leave it in the hands of love - phyllis dillon (trojan)
kings and queens - patrick adams institute (p&p)
deep dark dub - dubmatix (seven arts)
call gyptian - gyptian (vp)
night shade - matt shadetek (dutty artz)
stars - system (rump)
duhaney park - john horniak (no label)
eu vou - marcos valle (far out)
agua - manzanita y su conjunto (barbes)
nwa gezani my love - zinja hlungwani (honest jons)
ghana lady - appietus feat mframa (akwaaba)
la revolucion del cuerpo - havana cultura rmx by michael cleis (brownswood)
the nervous track - nuyorican soul (talkin loud)
zut alore - zorch (no label)
dropoff - christine jensen jazz orchestra (justin time)
blinks - the rent (ambiances magnetiques)
makena - embassadeurs rmx by mark ernestus (nonplace)
jasmine - islet/dam mantle dub (no label)
loituma - erick rincon 3ball experimental version (no label)
novias - el guincho (xl)
constant raw - the dirty sample (nefariu)

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - August 12/10

I gladly drink the Dutty Artz Kool Aid. Sometimes there's an aftertaste I don't like so much, but the NYC label/DJ collective/party starters are always striving.

In this case, though, they've met a kindred spirit, a true individual who hopefully will gain much deserved exposure in the US as a result of this partnership.

First, a little background.

Mambo, Dominican Republic-style is the most exciting music I've heard in the last several years (all praises to Dos Mundos Radio). Basically, it's really fucking fast merengue. I remember the first time I heard merengue back in the day, I thought its jerky 2-beat skank was simple and unswinging compared to salsa. Nowadays, the tempo has been upped, certain traditional instruments have been retained (notably the tambora), and the international vocabulary of dance-oriented synth sounds has been imprinted on the music. And it rocks.

Omega ("Y Su Mambo Violenta") is the music's main man, and he's totally awesome (and regrettably NOT performing in Toronto this Saturday). His slack, gravelly voice evokes Shabba Ranks, but he's a more capable singer and, no doubt, a swaggering stage presence. While there are plenty of techno-y remixes of his work, I like him best with in his post-West End groove mode with jack-your-body style keys.

Rita Indiana, on the other hand could become an even greater international pop sensation. Her music pushes speed merengue further ahead artistically and maybe tempo wise as well. A former model, she cuts a striking figure, and is a powerful singer with excellent melodic sense. With her close cropped hair and out and proud attitude she has been described as "being able to play her looks, her sexuality, her music and her openness to full advantage in a country not necessarily known for being that open".

I'm not usually a fan of big, bland power chords, but damned if her single on Dutty Artz "No Ta Llevando El Diablo" doesn't totally succeed in spite/because of them. Rita is the center of attention with her heroic vocals (and a great little double time rap!), but the ravey sounds, post-punk drum machine, metallic chord changes, and double time guira add up to 185BPM of non-stop fun. One of the singles of the year, no doubt. Can't wait for a full album - or at least many more singles.


something wicked this way comes - the herbaliser rmx by roots manuva (ninja tune)
footsteps - hidden orchestra (tru thoughts)
someday we'll all be free - miguel atwood ferguson feat bilal (mochilla)
sincope joaobim - tom ze (luaka bop)
lero lero - luisa maita (cumbancha)
latinizer - tremor (zzk)
baara - donso (comet)
chaskalanga - mohammed aidu & the bizung family (no label)
silbando - los riberenos (barbes)
siboney - los llamos (waxing deep)
i can't sing - bernard bonnier (oral)
formulas and functions - circle research (urbnet)
birds pt 1 - monster rally (no label)
get it - actress (honest jons)
no ta llevano o el diablo - rita indiana y su misterios (dutty artz)
amampondo with zulu fists - louis moholo viva la black (ogun)
electronic dimensions - madlib (stones throw)
kobana - alnubia band (piranha)
bumps - morphono halftone society (bastard jazz)
the return of dst - de la soul (sanctuary)
cuts it up - grandmixer dst (celluloid)
lock down - dubmatix & ammoye (7 arts)
zero dub - process rebel (no label)
two house department - leon & the revolutionaries (thrillseeker
leave the badness alone - singie singie (silver camel)
ticking time bomb - ljx (no label)
stumble - bonjay (no label)
moving on - luciano (vp)

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Upcoming Interviews

image via

In honour of groovy tastemaker emeritus Gilles Peterson's upcoming Toronto appearance, I will be broadcasting part of a recent interview I did with a man who has influenced my DJing career greatly.

Not sure what part I'm going to air. It was a pretty great interview from top to bottom, but I'm not going to foist all 30 min of it on you. Not just yet, anyways - there may be a feature article coming out of this, so stay tuned for that. Tune in tomorrow (Thursday Aug 19) at 11PM.

Next week on the 26th, I'll be joined by Toronto reggae singer LJX, whose sophomore album "Brighter Days" comes out in early September. Check the release party at Lula Lounge on Sept. 10.

Finally, after a week off, on September 9, I welcome Rat Drifters Eric Chenaux and Ryan Driver to the program to talk about their respective new albums. They also collaborate on each others albums. It's confusing; we'll straighten it out.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - August 5/10

Recently, one of my Facebook friends was lamenting the state of soul music today. He asked where the Marvins, Als and Curtises were today - I'd say look no further than Bilal for a 2010 soul auteur.

In general, I believe soul music is remarkably fresh these days, maybe even at a new peak. However, 'soul music' no longer uses the same instrumentation and song structures as it did back then (though there's plenty of that to be found too, with Sharon Jones and Aloe Blacc at the forefront). Soul music today is more about African-American cultural history distilled and reimagined by talented artists. Soul music could be the cosmic swing of Flying Lotus or the high concept drama of Janelle Monae or even the spacey singalongs of Georgia Anne Muldrow (Hey! I've blogged about all three). In these cases, the Art Ensemble's maxim of "Great Black Music, ancient to future" is vividly expressed with strong knowledge of the past and mastery of global, synthetic and post-modern musical ingredients of today.

I had the pleasure of seeing Bilal with pianist Robert Glasper in Montreal recently (their collaboration "All Matter" appears on this album) and his idiosyncratic approach to vocals impressed me greatly - check my review. Applied to a full album -ten years overdue - and Bilal's way of turning around the phrasing of a song beguiles throughout. The varied production features Shafiq Husayn (naother one of my faves), Nottz and 88 Keys, but is guided by Bilal himself.

There's no mistaking the classic soul with a strong jazzy undercurrent, but it's much more than that. Bilal's reedy, Sly-meets-Prince voice runs down metaphysical and personal subjects, on top of a continuously changing musical landscape. There's some muted prog-rock, some left coast bass, slow jams, and some extremely well-constructed electronic blurps n' beeps.

Soul music (or any music) will never achieve the same kind of sales as back in the day, but it's more widespread than ever and alive with new blood. It's up to us to seek it out.


me yee owu den - k frimpong & his cubano fiestas (analog africa)
segun adewale - segun adewale (rounder)
black wars reggae - sir coxsone sound (tribesmen)
streets of gold (version) - the heptones (park heights)
flash gordon meets luke skywalker - roots radics meet jammys meet scientist (trojan)
cia - ghost (jus like music)
cloud 8 - elaquent (thinkloud)
lady (a mac moombahton mix) - modjo (no label)
constant x - onmutu mechanicks (echocord)
steam language sector 7 - zano bathroom (no label)
dancing on the wolf road - decoy feat joe mcphee (bo weavil)
barambiye/djarama - harris eisenstadt (clean feed)
nature's wrath - budos band (daptone)
candy cigarettes - black blondie (no label)
the dollar - bilal (plug research)
sycamore - j dilla (stones throw)
bim bim bim - kenlo craqnuques (no label)
crying during circumcision is a shame to the village - zorch (no label)
vitamin meathawk - fond of tigers (drip audio)
sunnyday summertime - pigeondust (no label)

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Thursday, August 05, 2010


Well, it is the All Caps Festival...

Seriously looking forward to this gig. Within five short years, All Caps has become an epic all ages affair. This edition is the first ever festival, and it's on Toronto Island no less. For those of you who don't live in Toronto, the Island is a big park directly across from downtown - the kind of urban idyll in which a $6.50 ferry ticket (on a 70 year old ferry!) represents a cheap vacation from the hustle and bustle.

A diverse lineup, including the hotly tipped Buke and Gass will be filling out two days of music, art, film, BBQing and some of the finest beach-partyin' round these parts.

And we're bringing the cumbia. Hope to see you on Saturday, a little after 6PM - bring the kids!

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Abstract Index Playlist - July 29/10

One of my favourite things about being involved with the Polaris Prize is the continuing conversation with music critics from Quebec. Even though this artist didn't make a dent in the 2010 long list, Kenlo Craqnuques was the most welcome surprise of this year's process.

There doesn't seem to be an overwhelming amount of bio material on our man Kenlo, other than "born in Africa (nobody seems to know where), lives in Montreal". Brun is volume six of a series of colour themed free downloads of some of the most abstract bass music coming out of Canada today.

Straddling the line between beats and fully-fledged songs, Brun will initially impress with Madlib and FlyLo points of departure, but what keeps me coming back is his sense of melody. It's as if the real momentum of these compositions hockets between various blurps and bleeps, and requires a good 45 seconds in each one of these songs to really establish itself. Naturally, when songs max out at three minutes, one's attention is held. "Russletarrapbeat" from this week, features a slow, sharp synth undulating through the hyper-compressed mix (is compression abuse this decade's update on the delay abuse wrought by so many laptop recording platforms over the past ten years?). There's maybe a bit more unsteadiness in the momentum of the beats than much of what's coming out of LA these days, but that's not a negative thing on the ever-wobbly Abstract Index.

KenLo is super prolific - he had eight releases last year - but hopefully Brun will bring new ears to his music before it too whips by like a blur in the rear-view mirror.


party machine - bruce haack (omni)
you don't know me - circle research (urbnet)
russletarrapbeat - kenlo craqnuques (no label)
all static - natural self (tru thoughts)
i get lifted (dub) - barbara tucker (bbe)
bushwick baile - dj sabbo (latino resiste)
hunters - donso (comet)
bamana niya - toubab krewe (upstream)
the naming - galeet dardashti (jdub)
cocekahedron - brass menazeri (portofranco)
no more blood (cosa nostra riddim) - poirier & face t (no label)
cumbia de la cerveza - grupo sonador (lourdes 68 urban)
chinatown - bobby paunetto (fania)
when will the blues leave? - archie shepp's new york contemporary five (delmark)
wander - idris muhammad (fantasy)
gbmojo - segun bucknor (vampisoul)
valley of jehosephat - willi williams (blood and fire)
7th sea dub in twilight - ras amerlock meets professor balthazar (les cristaux liquident)
future back - patrick pulsinger feat fennesz (disko b)
grandma's words/rise out of concrete - shigeto (ghostly international)
hope to meet you - anonymous (minky)

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