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V/A - Radio India: The Eternal Dream of Sound

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Artist: V/A

Album: Radio India: The Eternal Dream of Sound

Label: Sublime Frequencies

Review date: Aug. 22, 2004

I’m surprised that no one else has pointed it out; the Sun City Girls are the 3 Mustaphas 3 for people who buy their records on-line from Forced Exposure. Like the fez-domed English ensemble who claimed to hail from the fictitious Balkan town of Szegerely, the Seattle-based trio of Charlie Golcher, Richard and Alan Bishop have cloaked themselves in mystery (it’s only in the past year or so that they’ve let themselves be photographed without masks). And like 3M3, the SCGs mix and match their favorite musics from around the globe with a fine disregard for purist priorities. But while the Mustaphas’ joke wore pretty thin after the bullets started flying in Yugoslavia, necessitating disbandment, the Girls have shown impressive longevity. In the past year they’ve diversified beyond their own label (Abduction) and founded Sublime Frequencies, an outlet for the audio and video documents that the Bishops and their friends have acquired from years of world travel.

This is more than a little ironic; in the late-’90s Richard Bishop contributed a controversial article to Halana Magazine about his adventures abroad that scoffed at the mediated tourist experience (he characterized himself as a traveler, not a tourist), yet here they are displaying the exotic sounds they’ve collected and showing their home movies. The Bishops might not follow the Lonely Planet Guide, but they appear to have no compunctions about adopting the role of mediators themselves. Yet, the personal touch is what distinguishes the Sublime Frequencies CDs from more conventional world music productions; instead of carefully buffed pop productions targeted at the NPR listening demographic or scrupulously annotated ethnographies packaged with an air of academic distance, you get the odd-ball stuff that commanded the Bishop brothers’ attention with minimal explanation.

Radio India: The Eternal Dream Of Sound comprises two discs of music taped off the radio in 1989 and 1996, then excerpted to make 19 collages assembled according to brother Alan’s sharp instincts for dream-like flow and inspired juxtaposition. The rampant eclecticism that saturates the Indian airwaves gives him plenty of raw material; where else could you spin the radio dial and hit a surging Dick Dale-like steel guitar tune, skip to a head-nodding interlude for double reed, hammered dulcimer, and harmonium drone like those heard in most Indian restaurants, then jump to an alluring female vocal bobbing atop a bed of snaky organ, rattling percussion, and crackling vinyl noise, then alight upon another woman purring over a synthetic disco groove and some frisky accordion licks? You’ll get all of that and more here. Radio India is a thoroughly entertaining listen, full of what-the-fuck moments and some flat-out lovely songs which you can savor at length because the dial-spinning is less restless than on earlier radio collage efforts like Radio Morocco, an earlier Sublime Frequencies release, or “Lo-Pacific,” which appeared as the second disc of a Sun City Girls album a few years ago. If you’re ready to submerge yourself in subcontinental exotica or want to check out some Sublime Frequencies and don’t know where to start, this set is your ticket.

For more info on Sublime Frequencies, read Alexander Provan’s label feature here.

By Bill Meyer

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