The interest that the English-speaking world takes in Southeast Asian music has trickled along over the decades, starting, I think, with exports to Europe—dancers, and instruments to go with the dancers—then field recordings, crackly early ones, sharp later ones—and recently pop cassettes and tribute bands. Neung Phak is a tribute band, based in California. The name is Thai but they don’t restrict themselves: “Bang Toyib” is Indonesian, and they like a blast of Laos. They like to jerk and roll, they like a stiff edge and a bounce and they like festivals.
The crooning-ballad side of the region’s pop music is not their joy. If I say that one member of the band is a Sublime Frequencies co-founder then you’ll get the gist of the aesthetic we are facing here, though the music is less rattlebang than it sounds on Sublime’s remastered albums. There’s an unexpected creaminess, it pads and smooths—it’s horns.