There are two main things working against Guitars of the Golden Triangle: the actual musical interest of the material and the horrendous sound quality. The 21 songs compiled here were recorded in the '70s and early '80s and feature singers and musicians from the Shan province of Myanmar. The music consists of psychedelic pop and rock & roll, with little input from local culture. Compiler Alan Bishop claims that these recordings have hardly ever been heard outside of Shan, which is most probably true since the region does not appear on the tourist maps. He also presents this compilation as a way to resurrect a "phenomenal lost scene," to which several listeners will disagree. The album focuses on two main figures: Saing Saing Maw and Lashio Thein Aung, who account for half of the songs selected. The remaining tracks are split between three Pa'o singers (the Pa'o live in southern Shan). Their approach to Occidental pop is much "truer" than what is typically Sublime Frequencies' bread and butter. Except for the language in which they are sung, these songs are pretty straightforward guitar anthems, with quirky psychedelic, country, and even rockabilly touches. If you are looking for weird cross-cultural recipes featuring traditional instruments and vocals over a funky rhythm section, this is not the place. That would still make Guitars of the Golden Triangle a marginally interesting album, but the poor sound quality strips out most of the fun. These recordings circulated in cassette form, each shop dubbing tapes on a customer-by-customer basis. Bishop chose authenticity over sound enhancement and, as a result, the album is plagued with dropouts, faulty stereo channels, wobbling, and tape hiss. This release is only for the most dedicated followers of Sublime Frequencies' excursions. For other listeners, the label's catalog is filled with better-sounding, more striking releases.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture