Radio Myanmar (Burma) - "Weather/English Objectives" (Radio Myanmar (Burma))
The broadcasts captured on Radio Myanmar (Burma) serve, in one manner or another, the interests of the Union Solidarity & Development Association, an arm of the ruling junta that has insinuated itself into every aspect of Burmese mass culture. It’s a hard organization to track––resources are scarce, and it’s a bitch to distinguish legitimate reportage from USDA PR. As with most Sublime Frequencies releases, this one doesn’t ante up for the political exchange. It takes an impressionistic view of the spew from the perspective of an over-stimulated traveler. It is a selection of fleeting subjects without predicates.
Owing to the isolation of the Burmese media, it’s a particularly fascinating one. Burmese radio permits almost no broadcast of foreign material. This blackout inspires a wide range of mimicry (listen for the wobbly cover of Avril Lavinge’s “Complicated” – I’d love to know how it endured translation) and homegrown innovation (including captivating balladry, hypnotic funk and a few haunting rambles that just barely qualify as “pop.”) When all cross-pollination is covert, a warped breed of music emerges, with inconsistencies that hint at the sadness in the cultural madness.
Aside from the contemporary stuff, Radio Myanmar (Burma) includes some regional classics (identifiable as much from their timeless suchness as from their low fidelity), mind-eroding jingles, puffy propaganda, eerie news and weather reports, a quick excerpt from a passionate radio drama, and other aural bric-a-brac. While it suggests a dial-scan more stimulating than anything most American urban centers can provide, it never eludes the authoritarian Presence, an overwhelming state consciousness that’s not intimidated by any music mix, however heterogeneous.
Recorded by Geoff Hawryluk in 2007, the music on Radio Myanmar (Burma) spans the busy era from 1994 and 2002. The recordings jump back and forth from Burmese to (fairly clean) English. It runs about an hour and includes 44 tracks, all of which cut off before they have a chance to get particularly boring, frustrating or gripping. Occasionally, it’s enveloped in static.
As with most Sublime Frequencies discs, this one makes no concessions to the music nerd’s archaeological impulse. As usual, the liner notes build a couple of springboards for broad research, but leave us pretty much powerless to find out what this stuff “is,” exactly. Rather, it’s a flood of information, an attention-deficient travel journal that draws its power from its disregard for context. Word to George W.S. Trow!