Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Also hailing from the snowy north shores of Canada...

...that's how Abdominal introduces fellow Canuck rapper D-Sisive on the DJ Format track 3 Feet Deep and also when I first realized Abdominal was Canadian. Though really, the hockey reference in The Hit Song should have been a dead giveaway. Today's post is all about Abdominal and a bunch of other interconnected artists from in and around the Toronto music scene.

The seeds for this post were planted when CBC Radio 3 started posting the archived streams from the show Fuse, wherein two musical acts are fused together to make new music together. What caught my eye was the combination of Abdominal with Henri Fabergé & The Adorables. I was familiar with Abdominal since he contributed raps to six tracks on DJ Format's Mature for the Mature B-Boy and If You Can't Join 'Em... Beat 'Em. On the other hand, I'd never heard of Henri Fabergé & The Adorables, though I was soon to become an instant fan.

Abdominal - T-Ode (feat. Notes to Self)
DJ Format - Vicious Battle Raps (feat. Abdominal)
Abdominal AKA Andy Bernstein hails from Toronto, a fact he proudly touts on the track T-Ode (featuring a hilariously awkward intro from Toronto mayor David Miller) from his 2007 debut solo record Escape From the Pigeon Hole. Vinyl Frontier, an earlier collaboration with partner-in-crime DJ Fase, ended up in the hands of DJ Format who was so impressed he invited Abs to the UK to work together. Soon Abdominal would make his name known internationally with his fast, clever rapping on tracks such as The Hit Song, Ill Culinary Behaviour, and Vicious Battle Raps, the latter of which was accompanied by an impressively coordinated single-shot time-shifting music video directed by Ruben Fleischer.

DJ Format - Ill Culinary Behaviour (feat. Abdominal)
DJ Fase & Abdominal - Fast Food
Abdominal - Big Track
Big Track is a hilarious rap aimed at taking advantage of a dubious promotion that paid rappers to insert Big Mac references into their lyrics. A recurring theme in Abdominal's lyrics is his penchant for food... fast food, in particular, so he was more than up for the challenge. I thought Abs made up this bizarre corporate scheme, but as it turns out he didn't. Not sure what the ad execs were expecting, but I'm sure they would have been thrilled by lyrics like: "Beef from a hundred different cows in that? Of course, you must be talking about... the Big Mac."

Henri Fabergé & the Adorables - Crawl Back
Henri Fabergé & the Adorables - O! Ella
After listening to the entire Fuse session with Abdominal, I decided to track down the self-titled debut of Henri Fabergé & The Adorables. And by track down, I mean visit their myspace site where I learned that their CD is available at various Toronto music establishments, in Japan(?), as a digital download from Zunior, or "randomly at one HMV, in Vancouver at the Robson and Burrard location". Uh, that one random HMV was sold out when I went so ordering directly from the label Fuzzy Logic Recordings was the best bet, plus mine came wrapped in a random tour poster with some stickers too. The Adorables are a musical collective from Toronto with a rotating door of musicians from several bands including The Bicycles, Born Ruffians, Spitfires & Mayflowers, Woodhands, and more. The band has held up to 13 members at times (heck, probably more), though a constant is gangleader Henri Fabergé AKA Henry Fletcher. Their music is usually described as catchy or poppy, and I'll add infectiously sing-a-longable. Oh yeah, Laura Barrett's also an Adorable, which is just bonus incentive.

Abdominal & Henri Fabergé and the Adorables - Move Your Feet [originally by Junior Senior]
You can listen to the Abdominal and Adorables Fuse session here, though one song that's conspicuously missing from the playlist is a cover song. And what a glorious unexpected combo it is: Junior Senior's Move Your Feet, a song that I first became a fan of due to its awesomely lo-fi animated music video. Major kudos to Abdominal for likely being the only rapper to have name dropped Ian Hanomansing and Peter Mansbridge. Add a sample of Corey Hart's Sunglasses at Night and you've got a recipe for a cover that should bring smiles to any Canadian listener. Well, smiles to any listener really, but bonus smiles for Canucks! By the way, Mansbridge fans should check out an amusing clip from The Mercer Report video archives (click on the last clip from episode 11).

Laura Barrett - Deception Island Optimists Club [from Ursula EP]
Abdominal - Pedal Pusher
Laura Barrett was a nominee for the first annual SOCAN ECHO Songwriting Prize in 2006 for Deception Island Optimists Club, which appeared on her Earth Sciences EP and was later re-recorded on her follow-up EP Ursula released a couple months ago. Coincidentally, the SOCAN ECHO Songwriting Prize for 2007 was awarded to none other than Abdominal for Pedal Pusher, a song about his days as a bike courier for which he attributes his ability to rap for long sequences without taking a breath (further elaborated on his track Breathe Later). Unintentionally good timing on this post... Laura Barrett is featured on this Saturday's Fuse with The Hylozoists.

Abdominal - Open Relationship (feat. Elizabeth Shepherd)
On this candid track, Abs raps about an unorthodox relationship "experiment" with now ex-girlfriend and Do Right Music labelmate, jazz phenom Elizabeth Shepherd. Apparently that didn't work out, but they still remained on friendly terms, recording the track together nearly a year after the fact.

Elizabeth Shepherd Trio - The Price is Right [originally composed by Edd Kalehoff]
Elizabeth Shepherd Trio - Beauty & The Beast [originally written by Alan Menken/Howard Ashman]
Elizabeth Shepherd's 2006 debut Start to Move, nominated for a Juno for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year, closes with a cool scat cover of The Price is Right theme, in which she also does her album thank-yous. I first heard a sample of The Beauty & The Beast cover on the Do Right Music myspace site and I knew I had to find it. Unfortunately, it's only on a Japanese compilation called Modal Jazz Loves Disney curated by Sunaga Tatsuo, which is generally pricey and/or unavailable. This version is ripped from a radio stream that was playing a vinyl record, so it's not great quality but it'll have to do for now. Luckily I know a couple people heading to Japan in the next few months that I intend to send on an errand (hint, hint).

Jaymz Bee & The Royal Jelly Orchestra - Fly Like an Eagle (feat. Elizabeth Shepherd) [originally by Steve Miller Band]
If you thought Seal finished off Fly Like an Eagle with his cover from the NBA/Looney Tunes movie mash-up Space Jam, definitely take a listen to this smooth groove cover. On the Price is Right track, Elizabeth Shepherd gives a shout-out to Jaymz Bee and the RJO who she collaborated with on Toronto Launch Pad, a collection of covers performed by the RJO with various featured vocalists. An early version of Elizabeth Shepherd's Start to Move is the only non-cover on there. Presumably the album served its purpose, helping to launch Shepherd into the limelight. More good timing on this post... her sophomore album Parkdale comes out next Tuesday!

Jaymz Bee & The Royal Jelly Orchestra - Sunglasses at Night (feat. John Southworth) [originally by Corey Hart]
Before Richard Cheese started lounging up contemporary songs, Jaymz Bee and the Royal Jelly Orchestra were giving the lounge treatment to Canadian hits like You Oughta Know, Superman's Song, Safety Dance, and more on 1997's Cocktail: Shakin' and Stirred. A 2002 follow-up Sub Urban featured lounge hip-hop hits. Currently Jaymz Bee is a host on JAZZ.FM91, a jazz station based in Toronto. In fact, my teenage cousin in T.O. was a guest host with Jaymz Bee twice last year... so there's my Kevin Bacon connection to Abdominal and DJ Format!


Anonymous said...

I love Henri Faberge and the Adorables!

Anonymous said...

Big article on Elizabeth Sheppard in the Saturday May 10th's Toronto Star

Fongolia said...

Thanks for the read. I'm actually going to see if I can track down her album today since it only seems to be available online as a digital download. That show where she's opening for Jamie Cullum would be killer! Fortunately she'll be here in Vancouver at the end of June putting on a free show as part of the Jazz Fest.