Various Sprigs of Time

This compilation, the third in the series from Honest Jon’s Records, is wilfully and playfully disjunct. Of course this makes the task of a reviewer very difficult, but in the most sonically delightful manner possible. Announcing itself with a peculiar monotone voice speaking the English alphabet, the disc follows suit, covering everything, from the early calypso of Mighty Sparrow to Balinese gamelan to Lebanese diva Fairouz to Cantonese opera to rumba. The only unifying element is the age of these recordings: 50 to 105 years old, and that they’re all culled from the EMI Hayes Archives. Each one of the 30 tracks is rich and fascinating, occupying a rarefied sonic universe. Strangely though, this globetrotter’s kitchen sink approach works remarkably well, aesthetically. The compilers have framed this ridiculously wide-spanning collection with perplexing vignettes: the Conet Project-like alphabet piece, and a mysterious bell tolling at the end. These quasi-surrealist bookends (as well as some oddball interjections, like the Madrasi man imitating cars) and the short track durations cause the tangle of styles and geography to read almost as a collage. The listener is always prepared for a surprise, and is never disappointed. (Honest Jon's)