Sunday, September 25, 2011
Welcome to Thailand!
In a way that hasn’t happened since I first picked up a France Gall CD and discovered the world of French pop, I have fallen head over heels in love with a new style from another country, but one not as familiar and vastly more difficult to understand. I am officially in love with Thai pop music.
I don’t pretend to know anything about Thai music, only the rudimentary bits that I’ve picked up from online research and reading the liner notes of the CDs I’ve purchased. Unlike French pop, which should be immediately accessible to people who can get past the retarded notion of not wanting to listen to something sung in a foreign language, the Thai pop CDs I’ve purchased definitely have their own unique sound, and the singing does take some getting used to, as it includes yodeling and vocal inflections that you just don’t get in Western music.
As it is, I feel like an asshole referring to it all as “Thai pop,” which I mainly do as a convenient shorthand. Most of what I’ve been listening to is I believe called Luk Thung, and is a mixture of Thai country music styles with American soundtracks and country music. But then when I do further research, I also see some of this stuff referred to as Thai pop, so I don’t feel as bad anymore. Whatever it’s called, the hipper record labels like Sublime Frequencies and Soundway Records have released albums of this stuff, and it has an exotic beauty that’s both hard to describe and even harder for me to resist.
Because of how enthralled I am with this music, I plan on reviewing some of these albums in the future. But for reference, here’s a list of available collections of Thai pop/Luk Thung albums. You should be able to get some of them on Amazon or at your local hip record stores. Brief comments are provided for albums I’ve heard enough to have an opinion on:
Thai Pop Spectacular This is the first Thai pop album I purchased, and the opening track “Roob Lor Thom Pai” by Buppah Saichol is one of the sexiest fucking songs I’ve heard in recent memory. There’s a generous helping of comedy on this album, but songs like the opener, the Onuma Singsiri track that immediately follows, and Chailai Chaiyata’s “Kwuan Tai Duew Luk Puen” make this album an essential purchase.
Siamese Soul - Thai Pop Spectacular 2 A worthy sequel. It took me slightly more time to get into it, but it’s a fantastic album and leaves me hoping Sublime Frequencies puts out a third part sometime soon. The closing track by Ubon Pattana reminds me a lot of the Velvet Underground’s first album.
The Sounds of Siam, Leftfield Luk Thang, Jazz & Malam in Thailand Though I started off with Thai Pop Spectacular and still consider that an excellent disc to start with, this one is much more consistent, has less comedy, and is pretty much incredible the whole way through. Also, it spans more genres and gives you a broader view of Thai music, but with those Western influences we all know and love. You may want to start with this one. Like the poster for Citizen Kane says, “It’s Fantastic!”
Thai Funk Zudrangma Vol 1 & 2 Limited edition CDs that I’ve so far only heard a couple of tracks from, but goddamn are those tracks great. Looking forward to diving into this set soon.
Luk Thung! The Roots of Thai Funk From the same series as the above, this one’s pretty incredible...at least from what I’ve heard so far. I lucked out and got this for a measly $10 at Ameba. It was a used copy, so I guess the buyer wasn’t as impressed by Thai music as I am. I’m most anxious to hear this one next, as the songs I heard rocked my socks off. Too bad the bamboo packaging makes it impossible to put in any CD cabinet you may have.
Thai? Dai! The Heavier Side of the Luk Thung Underground I’ve only heard part of a track from this collection, and it was a riff from Black Sabbath’s Iron Man. Holy shit! If this is a heavy metal variant on Thai music it’s going to make for an interesting listening experience, to say the least.
Shadow Music of Thailand If I remember correctly, shadow music is a genre of Thai music that was heavily influenced by instrumental rock bands. I hope there’s some singing on this collection, but as long as the music’s good and it doesn’t sound too Western, I’ll be happy.
Thai Beat a Go-Go Vol 1-3 I heard these years ago, and while they were enjoyable, they did seem to lean heavily on cover versions of hit songs, and the sound was much more Western than either of the Thai Pop Spectacular CDs or The Sounds of Siam. I’m going to go through these again, and now that my ears are more refined, I’m hoping that they’re more Thai than I remember them being.
Molam: Thai Country Groove From Isan 1 & 2 I own vol. 2 and I had a hell of a time getting into it. Unlike the other CDs I’ve heard, I remember this one being VERY Thai and much more folk than the other volumes. Much like the Thai Pop a Go-Go series, I’m going to re-listen to it along with the first volume and see what I missed the first time around. I briefly listened to one of the tracks from it and it was a lot more rockin’ than I remembered.
Radio Thailand Transmissions from the Tropical Kingdom: I don’t know much about this series, but I believe this these “Radio” discs are put out by Sublime Frequencies and are recordings of actual radio broadcasts, complete with DJs and commercials. I’ll definitely be listening to this one, but my listening preferences for entire songs without filler put this one low on my priority list.