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The Cambodian Space Project Whisky Cambodia Metal Postcard Records
Article written by
Ged M - Sep 8, 2014
The Cambodian Space Project story is becoming well known now: Tasmanian musician Julien Poulson heard Srey Thy belting our Peggy Lee’s ‘Johnny Guitar’ in a karaoke bar and formed a band, playing many of the songs made famous by artists later murdered by the Khmer Rouge after their 1975 conquest of Cambodia. For the CSP’s third album, they’ve hitched up with some old Motown heroes (including Funk Brother Dennis Coffey and the Motor City Horns), creating a Phnom Penh-meets-Detroit mash-up of 60s rock’n’roll with a twist of soul.
There are some Cambodian originals here too; the record kicks off with the classic 60s rock’n’roll ‘Dance Twist’, originally by Pan Ron, and then a cover of Ros Sereysothea’s wonderful ‘If You Wish To Love Me’, which owed something to Motown even then. The excellent yodel-some ‘Longing for the Light Rain’ is evocative of pre-Pol Pot Cambodian rock, with the horns kicking in on the second verse and then shadowing Srey’s soaring voice, while ‘Rom Rom Rom’ is all horn blasts and handclaps. Then there are the hybrids; ‘If You Go I Go Too’ mixes Detroit soul with sad Cambodian pop and ‘Whisky Cambodia’ is dark psychedelic pop where guitars fuzz and flicker. But there’s frankly no excuse for the reggaefied ‘Mountain Dance’.
There’s a great story behind the CSP and anything that draws attention to the music of Ros Sereysothea, Sinn Sisamouth and the like is only to be praised. Listen and enjoy the wallow in retro, then go and explore the Cambodia Rocks and Groove Club comps for more of the element of this album that makes it so good.