'09 Over

2009 has been a fantastic year for music, and sharing it with you over the air and elsewhere is my continuing pleasure.

Here are two lists of my year's favorites: one for TerraSonic, the other for everything else. Take a second to read to the bottom and you'll find a download link for the big, long mix Spinning the World: TerraSonic Vol. 15.

Enjoy and happy holidays. And thanks for listening to TerraSonic.

TerraSonic 2009 Top 15

Bomba Estereo :: Blow Up :: Nacional
Various :: Comfusoes 1: From Angola to Brasil :: Out Here
U-Cef :: Halalwood :: Crammed Discs
Various :: Legends of Benin :: Analog Africa
Joao Coracao :: Muda Que Muda :: FlorCaveira
Mulatu Astatke :: New York - Addis - London: The Story Of Ethio Jazz 1965-1975 :: Strut
Various :: Panama!: Music on the Isthmus :: Soundway
Gilles Peterson :: Presents Havana Cultura: New Cuban Sound :: Brownswood
Najma Akhtar :: Rishte :: World Village
Systema Solar :: Systema Solar :: Systema Solar
Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara :: Tell No Lies :: Real World
Quantic & His Combo Barbaro :: Tradition In Transition :: Tru-Thoughts
Staff Benda Bilili :: Tres Tres Fort :: Crammed Discs
Various :: Tudo Ben: Jorge Ben Covered :: Mr. Bongo
Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo de Cotonou :: Vol. 2: Echos Hypnotiques :: Analog Africa

Everything Else 2009 Top 15

Mapstation :: The Africa Chamber :: ~Scape
Madlib :: Beat Konducta Vol. 5 & 6: Dil Cosby & Dil Withers Suite :: Stones Throw
Cornelius :: Cm3: Interpretations Remixed by Cornelius :: Warner Japan
Various :: Dub Echoes :: Soul Jazz
El Michels Affair :: Enter the 37th Chamber :: Fat Beats
Fool's Gold :: Fool's Gold :: IAMSOUND
Mulatu Astatke + Heliocentrics :: Inspiration Information :: Strut
Wax Tailor :: In the Mood for Life :: Le Plan
Ariana Delawari :: Lion of Panjshir :: David Lynch
Four Tet :: Much Love to the Plastic People :: Four Tet
Yo La Tengo :: Popular Songs :: Matador
Kutiman :: Thru-You :: Kutiman
Various :: Tru Thoughts Covers :: Tru Thoughts
Beck :: The Velvet Underground & Nico :: Record Club
Felix :: You Are the One I Pick :: Kranky

And, last but not least, here's a link to the latest TerraSonic mix: 26 tracks and nearly 80 minutes of the best sounds from all around. Try it, you'll like it.

Spinning the World: TerraSonic Vol. 15

Once more, thanks for making TerraSonic at least a small part of your busy and wonderful life. Best wishes to all of us for a Happy New Year.


Planet Waves

We're surfing a wave of brilliant new and recent releases, with many of them finding their way into this week's playlist. We'd like you to know about them too.

One record getting a lot of well-deserved attention is Tres Tres Fort by Congo's Staff Benda Bilili. Introduced to western ears by Crammed Discs' Vincent Kenis, the musical explorer who brought us the Congotronics sound (including Konono No. 1 and Kasai AllStars), the band consists of four homeless disabled singers/guitarists backed by a rhythm section of abandoned orphans. Their skiffling, rumba-flavored, acoustic-based music is not as apparently edgy as that of their Crammed labelmates, but they pull no punches with their lyrics as they address current social issues of health and homelessness in Congo, and have become a voice of the people. They're featured in some great videos on YouTube.

Strut Records, source of those great Nigerian comps, bring us Black Rio: Brazil Soul Power 1971-1980. Selected and mixed by DJ Cliffy, this is a very cool collection of the socially-biting music of black Brazilians during a particularly tumultuous era. With Jorge Ben, Banda Black Rio, Trio Mocoto, Toni Tornado and more. Seriously funky and full of soul.

Lost Souls, by England's Niraj Chag, uses tempting hooks, sparse South Asian percussion and delicate Indian lyrics to address the uncertainty of our times. It dances with pop beauty upon casual listening, but repeated listening reveals compositional depth and a well-developed vision.

Also new and requiring further examination:
Mexican Insitute of Sound's Soy Sauce, Ping Kong from Duoud, Oreka TX from Spain's Basque region, and remixes by Balkan Beat Box. More to come on those.


I was asked to review
Juana Molina's latest release, Un Dia, for KGNU's Spring Program Guide. It came out in October and has received a lot of attention and play, so it's not exactly new. However, the assignment gave me good cause to spend some serious time with Ms. Molina's music, and one can never have too much of that.

Un Dia, Juana Molina’s fifth recording, is a sonic opiate. At turns and all at once, it thrills, massages, sedates and delights, extending a winning streak of enthralling releases dating back to her first (Rara). In her Buenos Aires backyard studio, she pipes childlike voice and acoustic guitar through electronic toys -- a marriage of wood, steel and circuits yielding hypnotic nursery rhymes and dark lullabies.

Molina’s acoustictronic trip begins with the title track. Repetitive incantations in front of assertive guitar and insistent electronic treatments build exquisite suspense to a liberating climax before giving way to the more melodic “Vive Solo”. On “Los Hongos de Marosa”, the centerpiece of Un Dia’s coffeehouse trance journey, Molina’s voice turns dreamily percussive, hovering just above her intricate treatments like fog over a morning meadow. “No llama” displays Juana’s evident guitar skill, and the closing “Dar (Que Dificil)” punctuates this entrancing suite with gothic folksiness, trippy subdued electronica and rhythmic finality.

Born into a family of musicians, Juana Molina walked away from her starring role in a hit Argentinean TV comedy to return to her musical roots, leaving behind certain success in the pursuit of her art. Good choice? The answer lies in the indelibly lush and personal imprint she leaves on every sculpted song.

Here are some tracks from the above-referenced new releases, and the link to the 4 April edition of TerraSonic. Subscribe to the podcast from Underheard.org or the iTunes Store.

Staff Benda Bilili -
"Avramandole" (from Tres Tres Fort)
União Black -
"Black Rio" (from Black Rio: Brazil Soul Power 1971-1980)
Niraj Chag - "Vaani" (from Lost Souls)

TerraSonic -
04 April 2009


In concert

I keep returning to those Kutiman videos that you surely have -- or should have -- seen by now, and meditating on why I'm so drawn to them. The images are unique and pleasing to the eye, sure, and the songs themselves are solid, as repeated listening to the mp3s reveals. But that's not why I keep going back.

I've decided it's because the videos reveal to me in an essential way how connected we all really are. We talk about how our wired, Facebooked, broadband technology makes the world a smaller place. But now an Israeli producer, working on a MacBook in his bedroom, shows us how small it really is.

These many musicians each sing their own song; but through the guiding hand of Kutiman, they make beautiful music together. It sounds so natural I have to remind myself as I listen that their synchronicity is not intentional. Yet though it was manipulated, mixed and edited by a clever, creative artist, even Kutiman was "[amazed] to see how many movies matched together, without me even touching it."

A lot of the web commentary points out that this project presages the death of copyright (in a good way), though I think we’ve seen that coming for a while now. But Thru-You for me is Sufi thinker Hazrat Inayat Khan’s philosophy made (virtual) flesh: "Life is a symphony, and the action of every person in this life is the playing of his particular part in the music."

The idea that we really are one big band, grooving and harmonizing and clashing and clanking together is nothing new, but I’m moved to see it rendered so lovingly. Given the current collective mood, it's refreshing to behold and celebrate this connectedness which is so readily at hand if we're open to it -- and to one another.

One of my parts in this grand symphony is to share some music with you. The radio’s the primary conduit for that; this space is another. I opened my most recent KGNU Afternoon Sound Alternative with this set. It’s not directly related to TerraSonic in that it’s not world music, per se. But our magic carpet is woven from many musical threads.

Artist // Track // Album

Johnny Cash // Rock Island Line (Wolf Remix) // Remixed
Steinski // Them That’s Not // What Does It All Mean?: 1983-2006 Retrospective
Kutiman // I M New // Thru-You

Professor Shehab & Iloop // Drunken Money (Ambient Remix) // Uproot: The Ingredients (DJ/Rupture)

Money // Science Fiction // Broken Jazz 101 EP

Pop Levi // Dollar Bill Rock // The Return to Form Black Magick Party

Steve Spacek // Dollar (Produced by J Dilla) // Space Shift

ASA Today Mix – 090313


Thanks to all of you who turned out last week to support TerraSonic’s first KGNU Spring Pledge Drive Show. The response is greatly appreciated. If you missed it, fret not. We’ve got one more drive show this Saturday.

If you’re able to join us this week, your money will go twice as far, as a generous, anonymous donor will match all pledges dollar-for-dollar up to $1000. That’s serious bucks by community radio standards. We’re hoping to double our money up to the full $1000. If you listen via podcast and want to pledge at some time other than when the show's actually on the air, you can still apply your donation to TerraSonic by writing in the open field of the premium line "I specifically want this pledge to count for TerraSonic this coming Saturday."

Thanks in advance for your contribution. And, as always, thanks for listening.

Here's the link to last week's show:

TerraSonic - 090314