VARIOUS ARTISTS - Radio Sumatra The Indonesian FM Experience
VARIOUS ARTISTS - Radio Phnom Penh
BROKEN HEARTED DRAGONFLIES - Insect Electronica From Southeast Asia
[Sublime Frequencies,]

If you're tired of fake world music music that pretends to be of this world but is actually bastardized world music softened for western tastes then these three releases will have you hopping up and down for joy.

"Radio Sumatra The Indonesian FM Experience" is like a walk from left to right on the FM dial of Sumatra radio. There is no processing of sound or overdubs [which is proudly mentioned in the liner notes]. Though much of traditional Indonesian music is presented within this 70 minute trek, you'd be surprised to find just how much of Indonesia's radio sounds like [or tries to imitate?] western FM radio. Station IDs and DJ's babbling on about life, death, weather [I don't know, as I can't understand the language.] are all thrown into this crazy mix. Besides this, we also hear ads, prayers, snippets of call-in shows, news reports. Just about anything goes. The editor had to listen to hundreds of hours of pure radio in order to make the cuts for this CD. This is used for maximum effect as the cuts are often made in very peculiar places. In all retrospect, this all makes for quite an enjoyable listen. Considering not many of us will have the luck to listen to live radio from Indonesia, "Radio Sumatra" is the closest thing to being there, live on the spot.

Similar conceptually to "Radio Sumatra", on his travels through southeast Asia, Alan Bishop's next stop was Vietnam, where he compiled "Radio Phnom Penh". The recording was edited from hours and hours of live broadcasts from both AM and FM bands of Phnom Penh. "Don't want to let you go" features a gorgeous, though unidentified Vietnamese female vocalist. In all honesty, she sounds somewhat like a throw-back to 60's pop [an Asian Nancy Sinatra, if you will]. Some of this music sounds awfully close to karaoke, but then again, much of it resembles some sort of left-over love of 50's rockabilly. One of the most hilarious moments [something that shows just how "influenced" Vietnamese pop music is] is a take on Beatles' "Hard Day's Night" at the tail end of "Bubble Gum Independence". It comes complete with cheap organ, and a mix of both male and female vocalists interchanging roles, and is a complete blast. This is one crazy mix and it certainly makes for an educational listen. [I figure, anytime I'm listening to new music I've not heard before, I take part in educating myself on a musical level.] Which makes me only want to ask one question, why can't western radio program some of this music on its airwaves?

Finally, we move on to Burma, where "Broken Hearted Dragonflies - Insect Electronica From Southeast Asia" was recorded [Actually, the recording was put to tape in Thailand and Laos as well, but Burma seems to be the central location.] Once again, Alan Bishop traveled to Burma, where he heard beautiful sounds of insects. When he asked his Burmese wife what insects were making these sounds, she said: "In Burma, we call these the Broken-Hearted Dragonflies (pronounced "Pazinne" in Burmese). When the male is finished mating, they make this crazy sound and their chests explode and they drop dead to the ground. The Burmese say that the dragonflies are so heart-broken for their mate, that they explode their chests and die from the crying sound they make." The sounds these dragonflies and cicadas emit are high-pitched drones that ramble in your ears long after the record has ended. Are they beautiful? Can insects make music? I'll answer a resounding yes to both. If the legend is true [Alan Bishop found some dead dragonflies with exploded chests!], then the music these insects create is all the more poignant and more resounding. It breaks my heart to know just how cruel and sad the insect world can really be. In all fairness, "Broken Hearted Dragonflies" is one of the more fascinating and original field recordings I'd ever heard. I'm counting on Sublime Frequencies to produce more natural ambience of this sort in the future.

Tom Sekowski

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