Sunday, September 25, 2011

Unknown Thai Orchestra

This recording has been issued and reissued a few times, but seems to be out of print again. It's available elsewhere on the internet, but I keep returning to it again and again and decided to put it up here so as many people as possible get a chance to hear this... First made available in 2000 as "Siamese Temple Ball," it was later repressed on vinyl with the cover you see here as "70s Thai Orchestra." There seemed (seems?) to be quite a lot of speculation as to whether this is actually a field recording of Thai musicians from the '70s or some jams whipped up by hipsters in a practice space in Brooklyn. After sifting through a solid amount of the vintage Thai music on offer over at Monrak Plengthai, I'm going to go ahead and say there's no way this is not authentic Thai music, unless you can show me a Brooklynite who slays on a bamboo mouth organ. I may be way off here, but this sounds to me like an electrified, (more) frenzied version of the klong yao tapes downloadable from Monrak. Meaning it is in fact music played at a temple fair in Thailand. It's not hard to hear where the confusion arose, though. The foundation is provided by what sounds to be a trap kit in the process of disintegration, some hypnotic electric guitar and pulsing bass. It's got an addictive kind of shambling groove going on in places,  making it a distant aural cousin, to my ears, of the recordings bequeathed to us by the great Parson Sound. But it's the traditional instruments such as the gamelan-esque xylophone and the aforementioned mouth organ that really take these tunes to the next level, giving them an unhinged psychedelic edge enhanced by the ecstatic whoops and hollers you can hear way down in the mix. Must have been one hell of a temple ball.

In case you need further convincing, this is the only sound sample I could scrounge up on the web. In keeping with the confusing history of this recording, someone has delayed the fuck out of one of the tracks and slapped it over some unrelated video of Thai dancing, apparently trying to pass it off as something they taped on their last vacation? Who knows. I think the original recording does quite nicely without the sonic tinkering, but here it is, for preview purposes only:

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