Various Artists – The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and Molam in Thailand 1965-1975

January 01, 1970

(Soundway
Records)

 

www.soundwayrecords.com

 

The
redoubtable archivist label Soundway Records’ first foray into Asian music
reaps astounding rewards on The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz and
Molam
. Featuring nineteen tracks (twenty on the vinyl edition) by sixteen
acts recorded between 1965 and 1975, this beautifully researched collection is
a window into a musical world largely unknown in the West, and another welcome
addition to Soundway’s body of essential global music. 

 

There’s
remarkable variety here, between the sophisticated, urban Luk Krung, the
more rural mixed bag Luk Thung, the north-eastern strain known as Molam (huge in neighboring Laos) and weird hybrids of Latin, jazz, psych
and traditional Thai music that defy easy classification. One of the most 
striking aspects of these tracks is how exceptional the recording quality (and
Soundway’s re-mastering) is, and how sophisticated the arrangements,
compositions and over-all musicianship is. This is especially true on the Molam
tracks, where the arrangements merge deliciously expressive vocals, heavily
effected electric guitars and the traditional instruments the phin, the kahen and especially the sor, a bowed violin that gives Molam is distinctive
droning quality. The three tracks by Molam star Chaweewan Dumnern seem to step
right out of the speakers with an intimate immediacy, and sound, in a sonic
sense, about as good as anything you’ll ever hear – all with old-school analog
recording technology, of course. 

 

The
same can be said for other Molam tracks by The Petch Phin Tong Band (“Soul Lam
Plearn”) and Sodsri Rungsang (“Uay Porn Tahan Chaydan”), SE Asian pop drones
that the John Cale-era Velvet Underground would be simpatico with. Conversely,
an acoustic track like “Diew Sor Diew Caan” by Thong Huad & Kunp’an has a
distinctly rural, small-town, old-world feel to it. Panon Nopporn’s “Sao Ban
Pok  Pab” has an unmistakably Middle Eastern/Persian melody line, while
Saknatee Srichiangmai’s “Nom Samai  Mai” is pure 60s psych, Thai style,
with wah-wahed guitars to equal anything in the West. “Mae Kha Som Tam” by
Onuma Singsiri has a soundtrack feeling, while “Fai Yen” by Ream Daranoi has a
mysterious, dreamy, liquid cadence unlike anything at all in the West. Plearn
Promdan’s “Wan Maha  Sanook” features a baritone sax line that is
freakishly close to the signature sax sound of Morphine. “Ding Ding Dong” by
Waipod Phetsuphan has a Thai marching band cadence, while the pleasingly weird,
off-kilter “Pleng Yuk Owakard” by the Viking Combo Band is a space jazz number
that Sun Ra would be proud to own. 

 

The
Sound of Siam
comes with a substantial, full color booklet full of
photos and well researched text that puts all of the acts and numbers in
context and perspective. Archival re-issues don’t get much more well turned-out
than this, and Soundway can add another feather to its already well-plumed hat.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Soul Lam  Plearn,”
“Lam Toey Chaweewan,” “Pleng Yuk Owakard,” “Sao Ban Pok Pab,” “Sao Lam Plearn”
and fourteen others.  CARL HANNI

 

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