The Sound of Siam, Vol. 2 (Molam & Luk Thung Isan from North-East Thailand 1970-1982)
As with the first volume here is a veritable treasure trove of new (old) sounds and a whole world of sound to dive into. Volume 2 of The Sound of Siam finds another (magical) set of North-East Thai folk music formerly buried/forgotten/unknown to the wider western world.
Sharing some of the pulse of South America’s cumbia the music here circles and swirls with colours coaxed from guitar lines you might recognise from Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits records. They – most likely – heard them here first. But it’s possible, too, the Thai players on these records heard versions of American blues music and bent and twisted that to suit their purpose.
There are reggae and funk rhythms here and shimmering organ sounds that evoke a late sixties/early seventies feel – but the traditional instruments that make this sound are the distinctive vocals of the Luk Thung and Molan style with the phin (a stringed, lute-like instrument), the sor (a type of violin) and the khaen (a harmonica-styled bamboo mouthpipe instrument). Across the record you can hear how these elements were placed in a western context with driving 4/4 percussion grooves and chicken-scratch blues/funk guitar sounds.
It makes for a hypnotic set of tunes – otherworldly and yet somehow familiar-seeming.
Excellent curatorial work here from the Soundway Records label, The Sound of Siam 2 is a superb compilation, a must-hear set of works.