A series of recordings made between late 2003 and 2005, Ethnic Minority Music of Northeast Cambodia collects music from Northeastern Cambodia representing four major ethnic groups. From Mondolkiri, the Phnongs dominate, and are represented by a pair of songs which also show off some gong playing and an instrument related to the jien rieng. From the Ratanakiri region, the Brao group is represented by a few songs with the Kavets and a few with the Kreung, the Tampoans contribute a series of works on the gongs and bamboo flutes, and the Jarais contribute probably the most vocally complex works of the bunch. The groups have a generally primitive sound, using simple single-stringed bowed instruments as backing, sometimes using a series of gongs, à la gamelan. However, they show little to none of the massive complexity or scaling systems inherent in Indonesian gamelan forms (or Filipino relatives). The recording quality is pretty good, but the music itself is probably more valuable ethnographically than aesthetically (with the possible exception of some of the better Jarai songs, which use a nice call and response pattern). While not entirely cacophonous, this album is most certainly going to be an acquired taste for those not already acquainted with some of the regional musical forms.
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AllMusic Review by Adam Greenberg