Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - Jun 14/06

Radio Thailand is one of four new releases from Seattle's Sublime Frequencies. 2 of these releases are radio collages. I didn't think anything could top last year's Radio Sumatra, but RT comes close. It too is a double disc. The first disc is assembled by Mark Gergis, and he takes a more aggressive approach to radio collage than Alan Bishop's second disc.

The usual arguments against much of the Sublime Frequencies oeuvre are that artists are never credited, much less paid, when compiled and edited in this way, and that the collages purport to present "authentic" cultural experiences when in fact they are simply different world music constructs than say, big-budget international recordings by the likes of Cheb Khaled, Salif Keita and many others. Furthermore, the mixes themselves are liable to further exoticize the elements it draws from.

I don't really buy into the authenticity argument - I keep going back to Manu Dibango's point of view in his autobiography "Three Kilos Of Coffee" where he discusses audience expectations of African music "what do (audiences) want from us? Palm trees on stage?".

I think a survey of radio sources captures a certain zeigeist of wherever you are, even (or especially) in the US with its radiobotic Clear Channelled landscape. One of the many great things about SF mixes is the huge range of cultural influences, old and new, urban and rural, homegrown and foreign all thrown into a great big blender set to "chop", but not "puree", so that all the chunky goodness comes through. (It's daquiri season folks). Each chunk is delicious in it's own way, and it's hard to describe the overall taste without referring to individual chunks. Radio Thailand mixes a heavy dose of banality (generic bumpers, know-nothing news anchors) with whatever "traditions" happen might happen to be scanned in the process. None of the SF principals claim any of their radio mixes are statements of "authentic" culture, merely that, together with the decontextualized images in the beautiful packaging, these mixes are disorienting snapshots of wherever they happen to be visiting. Their non-narrative presentations of the radio culture of a country are meant to stimulate, perhaps over-stimulate, curiosity in the listener by immersion. In this way they avoid the observer/subject dichotomy that folkloric world labels were so famous for prior to the 80s, although their homepage namechecks almost all of these labels as inspirational.

This review makes the point that a backpacker in a hostel could make a SF-style mix of Pittsburgh radio, and it wouldn't not sound nearly as exotic, nor would anyone be very happy about having their music reproduced and sold without consent or credit. First off, that which is being mixed is not a collection of songs, it's a collection of snippets lasting less than 90 seconds (at most) of RADIO, which means songs augmented or reduced by the fuzz of radio static, competing signals or strangely degraded masters. Even if you could find the original records represented here, they wouldn't sound the same without the distortion. It takes a refined editing sensibility to assemble a jumble of ingredients into a compelling mix, and I can certainly appreciate Radio Thailand on sonic and technical levels.

The payment/credit issue is the thorniest of all. Look.... I've been trying to come up with some definitive statement on this for several weeks (that why all's quiet on the blog front), and I simply can't. I want SF to keep doing these mixes. I find the mix is greater than the sum of its parts, even though the individual parts are mighty compelling. I would imagine that SF is making zero bucks on these mixes - probably enough to break even, and perhaps pay for the plane ticket for the next adventure. It ain't 100% kosher - but few music fans are 100% kosher in their legal/illegal consumption habit; let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Credits would be nice, but they would've been nice in the golden age of hip hop as well, and no one thinks less of De La Soul or Public Enemy for not revealing - or paying - every last sample source.

The sharing/stealing/imitation of culture is a messy business. But as I was searching for answers to these questions, I came across this link for the Ije Love tune on the Original Music label. John Storm Roberts has been in the world music game for 50 years, and he turns most of the interviewers' "cultural appropriation" questions on their head. I don't agree with absolutely everything he says in the interview (many song fragments on Radio Thailand are exactly the kind of contrived culture mash-ups that he claims only Americans, Brits and Germans are guilty of), but he makes the point that cross-pollination happens constantly, whether it's fair or not. Bootleg compilations and illegal DJ mixes will never go away; for some, they're the cutting edge of certain musical movements. Let's apply some of that moral relativism to Radio Thailand.

forever - kidd jordan/william parker/hamid drake (aum fidelity)
ahisma - sundar viswanathan (insound)
atlantic rising - sunship ensemble (do right)
pure jam - senor coconut (essay)
cade teresa - jorge ben (manteca)
there's a break in every road - betty harris (sss/vampisoul)
kaslarin karasina - edip akbayram (shadoks)
together - lloyd delpratt (light in the attic)
cumbia de los bombas - maneja beto (www.manejabeto.com)
numerao - grupo cimaron (smithsonian folkways)
paun - boban markovic orkestar (piranha)
rechauffer riddim - ghislain poirier (rebondir)
21st century perspiration - from Radio Thailand (sublime frequencies)
ekekereke ewa - njacko backo (independent)
god's guidance - ije love (original music) - the link of the week - wonder what he'd say about SF overall?
vana vamo vorema - stella chiweshe (piranha)
untitled - pon dao, from Ethnic Minority Music of Northeast Cambodia (sublime frequencies)flight of the hermaphrodite - techno animal (virgin)
africa (jahsay) - sandoz (soul jazz)
together version - dr. israel (roir)
concrete sunrise - roots tonic (roir)
who a di boss - dubmatix feat. anthony b (dubmatix.com)
persistence dub - roger b (slamm.ca)


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