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Album Review

Travelling Archive, The [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Naysayer   5/6/2015   12-inch, International

Sublime Frequencies: you know the formula, and it’s a good one. This time field recordings of music from Bangladesh, India and the Bengali diaspora set the stage for the team of Moushumi Bhowmik (writer and researcher) and Sukanta Majumdar (sound recordist) to give us ten samples of folk music from Bengal. This is huge undertaking and trying to clarify the multitude of sections, areas, groups etc of Bengal is, of course, impossible to do on 2 sides of vinyl. What we are given is a sampling of some unique sounds of places most of us will never visit. This album was supposedly a response to critics calling foul on Sublime for cultural tourism and what “Wire” magazine stated “for decontextualizing and exoticizing its global musics.” This release comes with a link to The Travelling Archive website that offers a more academic approach, crediting artists, areas of performance, describing instruments, explaining purpose, etc.
Starting off with the sounds of the market place, the record lets us listen on on a variety of singers, musicians, and instruments. Older women sing “The Boatman’s Song” and “Song to Goddess Kali”. The recordings are somewhat scratchy and remind the listener of past days of field recording landmarks Alan Lomax and Smithsonian Records. The rest of the sounds come out clearer. There is drone played on the ektara, choral singing with hypnotic riffs, solo work and some music that almost sounds like a bluegrass jam session. The two pieces by Baul singers are fascinating if only for the uniqueness of the Bauls themselves.
Their mystic religious beliefs are expressed through an oral tradition of singing that goes back centuries.
Enjoy these pieces, each possibly an introduction to you of something new and surprising.

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