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V/A - Radio Algeria

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Artist: V/A

Album: Radio Algeria

Label: Sublime Frequencies

Review date: Jul. 10, 2006

Depending which way you traverse Algeria, you end up in Europeanized urban centers or Saharan outposts. The nationís radio waves reflect its stew of Berber, Arabic, and French cultural influences, which makes them ripe for a Sublime Frequencies harvest.

By now the labelís methodology is familiar; one of the Bishop brothers or their associates, spends some time in town with a radio and a cassette deck, then culls the strongest and strangest music. This raises some uncomfortable questions about piracy and whether its OK to perpetrate the practice, even in places where thatís the standard method of musical exchange. But itís hard to argue with the results.

Radio Algeria celebrates the nationís crossroads status by throwing the cultural juxtapositions of the tuning dial into sharp relief. Vintage and modern French and Arabic pop, desert folk and rock (I think I hear Tinariwen a couple times, sounding as righteous as ever), cheap shiny Rai, and a multitude of styles that this undereducated correspondent canít identify flicker across your speakers. Itís all punctuated by station IDs (my favorite features a woman speaking Arabic with a thick French accent over the Shaft theme).

As long as youíre comfortable sitting back and admiring the parade of sounds, this recordíll do you fine; itís only when you want to get past that passive stance and find out what all that cool stuff actually is that Algeria's limits reveal themselves.

By Bill Meyer

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