[17 November 2011]
Cambodia’s take on rock is surfy, psychedelic, and heavy into R&B. Bands from that country probably don’t practice in garages, but that’s how most western listeners would describe their sound. Many know it from the intriguing and largely-unattributed Cambodia Rocks collection and subsequent compilations, which feature Cambodia’s mostly-murdered singers from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
The Cambodian Space Project delivers recharged versions of tunes from pre-war legends like Sin Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea, with added fuzz and fun, along with an original that translates to “Have Visa, No Have Rice” and a bizarre twist on Shocking Blue’s “Venus”. 2011: A Space Odyssey contains all the elements that are compelling about Cambodian rock music: the boutique western sounds, the unusual eastern musical instincts and, most noticeably, the exotic female vocals. The untouchable Srey Thy is the focal point of Cambodian Space Project. Her voice is ethereal, her delivery is in your face and her presence is humble and appealing. She is a diamond in the rough of third world karaoke bars. She is a sex-trade escapee. She is a UN Goodwill Ambassador. She is a perfect lead singer. What it boils down to is that if you found yourself in a strange bar in Phnom Penh, dropping a coin into a jukebox that lists only bands you’ve never heard of, this is what you want to hear coming out.