Music Box: January 2015
The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band
21st Century Molam
Maft Sai and Chris Menist wrap up a big year with the first release from their touring band, a collection of veteran Isaan musicians and young Bangkok talent. The group’s sound is focused around the swirling, hypnotic playing of Kammao Perdtanon on the phin (sort of a Thai lute) and Sawai Kaewsombat on the khaen (similar to a harmonica). All in all, it resembles traditional molam but with a beefed up rhythm section. Where the recent release by Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band appealed to those with a taste for psychedelia, this one is angled more towards the dance floor and largely stays upbeat and bouncy throughout. The band has enjoyed worldwide acclaim after two successful European tours, including a stint supporting Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame, and here’s hoping they inspire a new wave of Thai artists to discover the treasures of this country’s musical yesteryear.
Bombay Disco, Vol. 2
Part of a series of reissue compilations by Culture of Soul Records, this latest volume is another goldmine for DJs and dustbin collectors. As disco was dying in America at the dawn of the 1980s, it was just getting started in India and lasted well over a decade. Its popularity was in part due to “item number” sequences in Bollywood films, which are essentially music videos inserted into films that often have little to do with the characters or plot but bring added marketability for the films’ release. The tracks featured here cover the span of the genre’s popularity up until 1992 and contain a wide variety of instruments and production values, ranging from cinematic strings and jazzy horns to punchy synths and drum machine loops. Much of it is deeply funky and brings to mind DJ Shadow and Dan the Automator’s “Bombay The Hard Way” collections from the early 2000s, but here no remixing was required.
She & Him
It’s clear now with this fourth release by indie rock darlings She & Him that their high-profile collaboration is not intended to wow anyone, but rather to return some balance – if ever so slightly – to an increasingly flashy music world. M. Ward’s retro production, Zooey Deschanel’s ever lovely voice, and the lush but not overbearing backing of a 20-piece orchestra work wonders on this collection of vintage pop and jazz standards. They bring a great deal of admiration and elegance to songs like “Stars Fell on Alabama,” “Oh No, Not My Baby,” and “This Girl’s in Love with You” that might have come off as a half-hearted cash grab in lesser hands. In that sophistication lies the difference between this and your run-of-the-mill easy listening. Consider this my plea to cafes and restaurants across this fair city: drop the endlessly-played, tone-deaf, soulless lite-jazz versions of western pop tunes, and reach for this album.