In his book Powershift, published in 1990, writer and businessman Alvin Toffler predicted that the century ahead would be defined by speed and that time itself is destined to become our most valuable commodity. When Joshua Abrams recorded Natural Information, originally released by Eremite in 2010, he was reacting against such commodification of time and the diminishing attention span that accompanies it by offering music with an irresistible groove, rooted in the sinuous rhythms of the human body and the full play of our senses.
At the heart of this music is the sound of the guimbri, a North African three-stringed bass lute, which Abrams started to play following a visit to Morocco during the late 90s. Traditionally the instrument has a key role in mystical healing ceremonies. Abrams, already a well-established figure in Chicago’s vibrant musical communities, had no desire to repackage tradition. He recognized however that the involving, springy and percussive sound of the guimbri was just the right voice to communicate vital data, to relay the natural information we all need in order to get back in touch with the pulsating continuities of a world we all share.
With Natural Information Abrams entered a new phase of his musical life, extending an invitation to the trance, where time intersects with timelessness. He carried with him a wealth of playing and listening experience. As a bass player he had worked with a host of notable musicians including guitarist Jeff Parker and percussionist Hamid Drake, and had been a member of back porch minimalism outfit Town And Country and the improvising trio Sticks And Stones.
The guimbri is a shaping presence on this remarkable recording, but Abrams also plays bass, bells, kora, sampler and synthesizer. Sympathetic friends including guitarist Emmett Kelly, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and drummers Frank Rosaly and Nori Tanaka join him for the project. They set out not to contrive some neat hybrid but to enable coordinated energies and enriching influences to pulse and flow through living, breathing music. Ten years further into a century seemingly dedicated, as Toffler foresaw, to the survival of the fastest, the deep involving groove of Natural Information seems still more relevant, more illuminating, more vital.
As the rift between academic jazz, new age, and pop narrowed in the 1980s, DI.Y. practitioners of metronome driven riffs found new growth in a burgeoning managerial middle class, a commercial audience held captive in dentist offices and waiting rooms across America. Session players took to midi-banks stocked with every instrument imaginable and delivered on a road rage-induced demand to stay cool, relaxed, and focused all at once. The extra-wide cuts packaged here will be mint for years to come. Go ahead, break the seal on a fresh pack of Nuleafs. There’s only one sensation this smooth.
About the Cabinet of Curiosities:
For Numero, taking time to explore the more esoteric possibilities of our creative practice provides a deeper understanding of the resulting piece of work. This curatorial exercise, usually relegated to mix tapes and oddball DJ nights, has allowed us to see the connections between our most far reaching corners.
After years of whittling away at the art of compilation, this part of the practice came to the foreground, and an alternate view began to emerge. The outlines of a context beyond time and place, individual and scene. Threads sewn through the fabric of music history that tell a story primarily concerned with intentionality, psychic connections, and vibe.
To tell these stories an equally symbolic medium is required.
In order to create an object that can emote the value of the like minded yet distant relationships therein we looked to the world of commercial production running parallel to these musical subcultures. The treasure chest of artifacts made during the 20th century’s post-industrial free-for-all may be the only conceptually appropriate talisman for this music, the ability to bring the studio home was after all made by the same mechanism that brought on the consumer gold rush.
The consumer experience embodied by the secondary market, dog eared, footnoted, taken apart and tinkered with. The cabinet is a simulacrum of the lost and found. Our commercially nostalgic spirit-animal, redressed to be a more accurate representation of our emotional experiences with these objects. Less concerned with function than with the memories we associate with them.
The Cabinet of Curiosities is Numero’s tribute to the origin of the DIY museum, with our curatorial focus as always on the heroically home-made, the expanding fan universe, the suburban studio sublime.