This is a slightly atypical release on Sublime Frequencies in that it presents archival material stretching all the way back to 1909, culled from Robert Mills and Alan Bishop's collections of 78 RPM records from Burma (Myanmar). The transmissions contained here are prismatic, evocative windows into antiquity, with many of the traditional styles represented stretching back to the 16th century, when what is now called Burma was still part of the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya. As with most comps sourced from 78s, there is a fair amount of sands-of-time entropy at work, giving this LP a crackly, hazy surface that well suits the kind of ancient, royal vibe the music invokes. There is a uniquely captivating alien quality to Burmese musical logic, as melodic lines seem to unspool and crawl in many directions at once at a deliberately gauzy pace, all with a bedrock built on cascading bells, gongs, and the ubiquitous saung, a boat-shaped harp (pictured on the front cover of this set being plucked by a lovely lady). Most of the songs here are folk music based on classical traditions, with the instrumentation based on sidaw ensemble music, with drums, bells, a distinctive clapper, the aforementioned harp, and xylophone. On the second side of the disc, the later recordings stretching into the '40s and '50s, other western instruments are introduced, including horns, piano and, on the last tracks, an electric guitar. These songs are just jaw-droppingly gorgeous, with a pastoral twang that cuts across international lines, right to the heart of any of the most emotionally affecting folk music. The comp includes a nice insert penned by Robert Mills, and a gorgeous tip-on sleeve, giving it a solid, archival quality befitting the rarity of the sounds within.
-Simon Greezly (January 25, 2013)