David Gunn went to Cambodia in 2010 and recorded a number of ambient pieces incorporating traditional cambodian instruments with contemporary electronic instruments. He released as a CD.
He has now remixed some of the recordings for ambient dancefloors and Bergain backrooms !
Last year David Gunn travelled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to work with four young artists as part of a cultural project led by UK-based creative organisation Incidental . Intending to help develop new music with traditional Cambodian instruments, the urgency behind this mission is down to Cambodia's cultural history. Over 90% of artists and musicians were killed by the Kymer Rouge over a period of four years in the 1970s, desimating a large proportion of the country's cultural arts. Whilst efforts exist to resurrect lost music from before that time, there is considerably less effort going into stimulating new Cambodian music. Gunn's collaboration with the Cambodian Living Arts aimed to change that, and the result is a full album release under the name 'Krom Monster' (translating roughly as 'monster band/music').
There are four traditional Cambodian instruments featured; 20 or so gongs in a circle is called a gong tum, the roneat aek is similar to a xylophone, an unusual one-stringed instrument - ksae diew and a tro san, which is a violin equilavent. These instruments together with Gunn's laptop - to resample the recordings, and add field recordings - form the basis for the music. The electronic treatment and experimental approach to the track construction gives the album a unique quality, dispelling any concerns that this is 'world' music. In fact, this album refreshingly turns any expectations you might have on their head, and establishes itself as modern experimental music from the off.
The second half of 'Chapei' for example could well be a Pantha Du Prince track, with its minimal pulsing gongs and chimes. Field recordings of rain, and the slightly discordant sounds from the tro san and ksae diew on 'Khmer Storm' create a knife edge tension, with obvious historical reference giving a weight and context to the haunting track. 'Different Buildings' is the most heavily processed of the pieces, with a thick electronic sound running throughout, the hollow sounding roneat aek providing contrast.
It's nice to hear such a refreshing approach to music with these traditional instruments. Hopefully all the artists involved feel proud that, what started as a cultural experiment, has produced such a strong work that stands up in its own right as an experimental album.