Cambodian Space Project - Whisky Cambodia - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Cambodian Space Project - Whisky Cambodia

by Rob Taylor Rating:8 Release Date:2014-06-30

Close your eyes for moments of Whiskey Cambodia, and it could be the alternate soundtrack for a surf movie conceived and filmed on Bamboo Island [south of Phnom Penh in Cambodia] instead of, say, the Hawaiian North Shore. A perfectly formed pipeline witnessed under the sublimating influence of Cambodian Space Project.


Lets imagine for a moment that you are not the sort of person who watches surf movies. Lets say, though, that you are susceptible to be moved by any motion picture brought to life by a brilliantly realised audio track. Whiskey Cambodia will enter your subconscious and have you dreaming in no time.


Remember the scene at beginning of Apocalypse Now when the Chinook helicopter crosses the sky against a reddening sunset, forming a perfect shadow against the weakening sun, while Jim Morrison sings of the futility of his elaborate plans on 'The End'. Then consider that the song 'Whiskey Cambodia' has the same mind-bending mystique of that Doors song, and the capacity to engender the same dreamlike [or nightmare-like] state, but that less than 100 of you will probably hear it.


Fuck, that's a shame. So I'll make it easier - listen to this, until the end:

. The foreboding resident in the song's underbelly unravels at the four-minute mark, with the track opening out, flippantly into a jaunty guitar solo, but never quite losing the dark aura present in the initial strain. It sounds like a torch-song reimagined by The Bad Seeds.


Then again, a lot of Whiskey Cambodia could be classified as Khmer soul (especially, 'If You Go I Go Too'), with threads of surf-rock and rockabilly ('Dance Twist', 'Rom Rom Rom)', and Cambodian pop ('If You Wish to Love Me', 'Mountain Dance', also 'Rom Rom Rom'). The vocal style of the more traditional material as always requires some adjustments for western ears not attuned to the high register. Get over it and open your mind. Srey Channthy is a voice for reckoning; a stunning tour de force.


Srey was discovered in a karaoke bar in Phnom Penh in 2009 by Tasmanian musician Julien Poulson, as much a surreal experience as a revelatory one I'd imagine. She was brave, because generally musicians in Cambodia sing in troupes for safety reasons. It wasn't that long ago that musicians there were treated by the regime with the same malevolence that intellectuals and academics were, that is, often tortured and murdered as subversives. Not surprisingly, Srey has become an advocate for human rights, particularly for women who are trafficked into prostitution, a fate which almost befell her.


The obviously rich tradition of Cambodian music is Srey's legacy, and her salvation. It should also be mentioned that the soul and funk underpinnings of much of Whiskey Cambodia (see 'Black to Gold' in particular) come courtesy of funk legend Dennis Coffey, who produced the album.


Ride the imaginary wave. 

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