Tuesday, 13 September 2011

New adventures in Cambodian psychedelia

The Cambodian Space Project are a combination of Cambodian and Australian musicians playing psychedelic rock, sung in Khmer with a distinct Asian twist.
Similar to, and possibly inspired by, their Californian counterparts Dengue Fever there is a whimsical infectiousness to their music.
The Cambodian Space Project tend to a slightly more rhythm and blues sound, although there is a charming smaltzy pop feel to some tracks.
Their first album, 2011: A Space Odyssey, includes a mix of Cambodian ‘pop classics’ from the 1960s and self-penned songs in Khmer by singer Srey Thy. There is also a Khmer version of Venus.
Stand-out track is Ban Juarp Pros Snae (I’ve Met My Love) – click here for a live version – and for the annoyingly infectious try out Pros Kangaroo (Kangaroo Boy).
Cannibal Courtship is the newest release by Dengue Fever and again combines 1960s Cambodian psychedelic rock with a Californian surf-music sensibility.
As with their earlier release Venus on Earth, some of the best songs involve a vocal interplay between Cambodian-born singer Chhom Nimo and guitarist Zac Holtzman.
However, the defining sound is Farfisa organ played by the other Holtzman brother in the band, Ethan – a swirling aural collage that conjours up trippy lights and out-of-body experiences.
Listen to a live version of Uku here.
There are more songs sung in English this time round – a mixture of geek humour “My boyfriend loves everything about bars, except the crowds, the smoke and the booze” from the song Cement Slippers and political commentary as in Family Business which critiques the arms trade.
Sister in the Radio is sung in Khmer and is a direct reference to the years of the Khmer Rouge when music was banned and thousands of musicians were murdered.
That is the dark current behind both albums, that a country that produced and inspired such endearing and layered music in the 1960s would be plunged just a few years later into the politics of Year Zero.
Read my experiences of travelling in Cambodia here.

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