on 15 September 2011
Yes, I know I am from far away as well. I feel this release needs promotion. The title of this album and even the name of the artist are a bit misleading. This album has little to do with science-fiction other than the band members seems to like the topic and it does feature a picture with a flying saucer inside the CD. This album has more to do with history and rebirth. Do you know about the history of the Cambodian pop music scene? After the US bombing of Cambodia the unintended effect was the government was destabilized and the insane communist dictator Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge Communists took over Cambodia. He immediately had the capitol city Phnom Penh emptied and the population dispersed to the farms - "the killing fields." The educated, intellectuals, artist, medical trained, scientists, singers, and musicians were worked to death, starved, or shot. A complete cultural purge, forget the past and start society over again mad concept - "year zero." Probably 20 to 25% of Cambodia's people were lost or outright killed. And this included most of the nation's best known signers and musicians. Few escaped. Not only were "pop" performers eliminated but so were traditional and folk musicians. All the recording masters recorded in Cambodia from the 1950's-1975 were lost or destroyed. Those not liked by the government were either shot or worked to death. The Khmer Rugue made a complete cultural and intellectual purge of the nation. But luckily some brave people kept cassettes of the music and other cassettes made it out of the country. Unfortunately nearly all the music you can hear from Cambodia from before 1975 is now "mastered" or "sourced" from rather used or beat cassettes and vinyl. Nearly everything was affected, rock, pop, local folk and traditional music. Only a very few musicians survived or escaped to Thailand, Laos, etc.
Much of the pop music recorded prior to 1975 in Cambodia was based on a combination of American and British styles of rock `n roll and pop. Therefore many of vintage Khmer or Cambodian pop/rock songs mimic sound surf music, the 52's, Beatles, Doors, Jimi Hendrix, motown, garage, with smaller bits of jazz and blues. Some of the musicians were very good for their day.
Today there is a new thriving music scene in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The few old musician masters left are teaching students how to play the traditional instruments (several unique to the Khmer). And there are new local rock bands springing up. One is even being noticed in the USA. This one is called the Cambodian Space Project. I've been waiting for this release. They oddly enough are paralleling Degue Fever from Long Beach, California, recording even many of the same oldie songs. Oddly they did not know of one another until just recently. Fans were asking them about the other band. The two bands are similar yet very different.
The Cambodian Space Project is based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Like Chhom Nimol of Dengue Fever, their female vocalist is Cambodian and sings in Khmer. Yes, most of us will have to just enjoy the sound of her voice. Some other members are Khmer, French, Tasmanian, and from elsewhere. Note Khmer names are like Chinese names with the family name written first. Also many Cambodian pop songs are chanted or nearly rapped and less often fully sung in the Western tradition.
Srey Thy - lead vocals
Julien Poulson - lead guitar, keyboards, bass, backing vocals
Gildas Marroneaud - bass
Scott Bywater - guitar, percussion
Bong Sak - drums
Ken White - harmonica
Adam Miller - percussion
Gaetan Crespel - accordion
Bun Hong - clarinet, backing vocals
Yun Theara - truo ou, ching
Irene Choun - guitar (not on CD album, but played on earlier Single and EP.)
To me this album is an improvement over their earlier single, E.P. and live videos on You Tube. Some of the earlier material was dominated by too much loud and distorted guitar that drowned all but Srey's voice in the mix. Though some of those songs were quite good other wise. And if you like what you hear here, worth seeking out. Some of their songs can be quite busy. Notice the number of players. I've heard the original versions from the Sixties and early Seventies and the songs here are modern versions that are only derived from the famous Khmer pop-rock of Cambodia's past.
The CD lists both the Khmer and English names for the songs. I'll discuss them under their English names. Noting the original writer and singer.
1. Love Like Honey (Voy Ho) - Originally recorded by Pan Ron. Sounds a bit like rock-klezmer music. Klezmer is a jazz-like music originally performed by European Jews. Similar in many ways to Traditional or New Orleans Jazz. Like I said the Cambodians borrowed American music.
2. Wait 10 Months More (Vo Hoy) - Originally sung by Ros Sereysothea. The guitar intro sounds like an early Clash song! Surf-rock style guitar solos.
3. I've Met My Love (Pan Ron) - I think Pan Ron also recorded it. This sounds like a British pop tune with odd-ball meter.
4. Have Visa No Have Rice (Srey Thy and CSP) - Band original. Like a sixties vocal surf tune with harmonica instead of saxophone. But busy, no a straight lead line, riff, or hook like most surf songs.
5. I'm Sixteen (Voy Ho / Has Salan) - Originally sung by Ros Sereysothea and many others. This is one of the biggest hit songs of the golden era of Cambodian Rock. Recorded by many artists then and even today. Usually sung as a duet. I've found that the intros and solos are often improvised making the many covers out there each unique. This is no exception. The CSP version has a lot of drive and is one of their most rocking and fast songs. Very catchy song. Love it as always. What do the lyrics mean?
6. Big Water (traditional) - The squeaky unidentified droning sound in reminds me a bit of the Velvet Underground. A medium tempo song. I find this the most original on this album. Unlike nearly any other Khmer rock song I've heard.
7. Kangaroo Boy (Srey Thy based on a Ros Sereysothea song) - Sounds like a mid-sixties Pop-rock song. Even sounds vaguely familiar for some reason. The Mama's and the Papa's, Birds, the Kinks?
8. Dancing A Go Go (Pan Ron) - Almost like a roots rock or jump blues tune. Harmonica featured prominently.
9. Love God (original title Venus)(by Shocking Blue) - This is a cover of a cover. Ros Sereysothea wrote Khmer words and sang to this song better known than as "Venus" by the Dutch band Shocking Blue. Shocking Blue's Venus was a world wide hit song in 1969. This version has some traditional Khmer sounds near the end.
I wonder if "truo ou" from the liner notes is a misspelling? I can not find a musical instrument with that name. This CD is rather short at only 30:01. That is much shorter than even a 44 minute LP. Well, even Weezer released several CD's around only 35 minutes. If interested, search out more information about Khmer / Cambodian Rock and the Cambodian Space Project. You know how to do that with Google. The CSP also has a Single and E.P. (both in both Vinyl and CD) and a Down Load or two available. I collected 5 additional songs besides this album. I believe they may have also released a limited edition album on a very small label but I could not locate it or any specifics about it. Seems that one is very OOP, and lost to the Western world. Anyway, give the Cambodian Space Project a close and fair listen, and buy the CD. Tell your friends.