Sublime Frequencies


Sublime Frequencies by Ian Nagoski (
Sublime Frequencies has issued 44 CDs, DVDs and LPs of music and sounds from cultures in Southeast and Central Asia, North and Saharan Africa and Central and South America that have been largely ignored by American record companies. Princess Nicotine: Folk & Pop Music of Myanmar, still one of the label’s highlights and one of the most exciting recordings I’ve ever heard, was originally issued as an LP on the Majora label in 1994.

I do remember the overwhelming bafflement as we sat listening to it that first time. Was the record running at the right speed? Was it supposed to sound like this? Was it possible that human beings could make this music—at once so outrageously fast and seeming to float on top of Time, so cheap and shitty and distorted and blown-out and so clearly refined and gorgeous? Once we decided that the record was not simply fucking with us, I remember we looked at each other and laughed out loud with joy.

Hisham Mayet  has been responsible for some of Sublime Frequencies’ most wonderful releases, including two documents of outrageously fiery guitar music from the Saharan bands Group Inerane and Group Doueh, as well as several films of narrationless North and West African musical performances.

Over the past 20 releases, SF has included studies of aspects of the recent musical cultures of supposed “enemies” of the American state, including Syria, North Korea and (of course) Iraq. It’s a humanistic response, one that points out the unifying essentials among people everywhere, regardless of their governments, even as it underlines the conspicuous absence of music (and thus: culture, understanding, etc.) from places America’s media yammers on about every day.

It’s subtle stuff, conducted with a sense of respect and purpose, a slathering love of the excitement of great performances and a near-hermetic view of the Divine and the Profane which permeates music and its creators. They are records that are made to reveal and unveil, without pretending to tell the whole story any more than your radio already does.

from their site: “SUBLIME FREQUENCIES is a collective of explorers dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies, and other forms of human and natural expression not documented sufficiently through all channels of academic research, the modern recording industry, media, or corporate foundations. SUBLIME FREQUENCIES is focused on an aesthetic of extra-geography and soulful experience inspired by music and culture, world travel, research, and the pioneering recording labels of the past including OCORA, SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS, ETHNIC FOLKWAYS, LYRICHORD, NONESUCH EXPLORER, MUSICAPHONE, BARONREITER, UNESCO, PLAYASOUND, MUSICAL ATLAS, CHANT DU MONDE, B.A.M., TANGENT, and TOPIC.”

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