A Benefit Compilation for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan

Fire Museum

These days it seems like I’m inundated with compilation albums so rich and detailed I can’t do them justice in a digestible review. Azadi is a benefit album for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), a progressive rights group hoping to increase awareness of the continued oppression of Afghani women, even after the removal of the Taliban. It’s definitely a worthwhile and timely cause and, as such, drew enough interested contributors to fill out two discs with thirty-six tracks.

There is a smattering of Middle Eastern music on here, both traditional and otherwise, but the bulk of the album is made up of western bands. The discs run the gamut from rural southern folk (Faun Fables) to exceptional female a cappella (Jou Jou and Samsara) to ambient experimentalism (My Country of Illusions and Mono Pause) to socially conscious rap (Deep Dickollective) to cello/piano chamber music (Danielle DeGruttola). There is something for everyone, though some listeners may find too many songs outside their area of interest. In all honesty, there is too much music on here. Yet, I empathize with the producers of this compilation; it would be hard to turn away any sympathetic parties. As it is, the scope and diversity make for some very awkward and jarring transitions — like punk to folk to techno — but the skip button makes it a problem to easily overcome.

My main interest in the disc stems from a previously unreleased song by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, “George Bush Cut Up While Talking.” It’s a radical departure from their previous work, as they take one of Bush’s speeches and garble it, cut off words in midstream and turn it into a more incoherent mess than it was originally. The band splices this into a distorted snippet of deafening, rapid-fire applause and lay the mutant hybrid down on a bed of ominous electronic hums. With this track, the band makes their first overtly political statement in quite a while. It’s a shame the song is only three minutes long and isn’t given time to grow like a traditional Godspeed epic. It’s justifiable though: a shorter track by them means a greater number of quality bands for the listener to be exposed to.

Azadi is a “benefit” album in the truest sense of the word. Everyone associated with this project wins: RAWA gets the proceeds from sales and more exposure, virtually unknown bands also get exposed to a wider audience and the listeners get deluged with good music. More compilations should be like this.

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