Various Artists

Sound of Siam, Vol. 2: Molam & Luk Thung 1970-1982

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The first volume in Soundway's Sound of Siam series (Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam in Thailand 1964-1975) was a revelation for virtually everyone who heard it. The producers unearthed and painstakingly annotated a massive treasure trove of recordings from Isahn origins. Like its predecessor, The Sound of Siam Volume 2: Molan & Luk Thung from Northeast Thailand, 1970-1982, contains 19 tracks that showcase the evolution of the music and production techniques as these styles gained widespread popularity in Bangkok's culture as workers from the northeast relocated to the city between rice harvests. Entrepreneurs were quick to set up labels to get new records to this burgeoning consumer group. Interestingly, the residents of northeastern Thailand were exposed early on to American popular sounds due to military bases in the region. Therefore, rock, soul, and surf influences affected the local bands that supported luk thung and molam singers. While luk thung literally comes from the fields and is considered Thai country music; the singers often interact with layers of instruments to create something that retains its strong link to its origins, but becomes something wholly other. Molam (which means "expert singer") is usually signified by three instruments: the phin, a stringed, lute-like instrument, the khaen, a large mouthpipe instrument made of bamboo that resembles the sound of an expanded-range harmonica, and the sor, a kind of violin). Like luk thung, the folk elements are embellished by a considerable number of instruments and production effects. A gorgeous, rare instrumental molam is "Eua Aree See Sor" by Thonghuad Faited, who plays a mean sor atop bells, electric bass, percussion, wafting electric pianos, and khaen and phin. "Kid Hod Chu" by Angkana Khunchai, has a nearly bluesy improvised intro that sets the theme of the stately, mysterious, nearly chant-like tune. Panom Promma's "Mainaa Tam Pom Loiey" is a hybrid of both styles that juxtaposes luk thung horns next to reverbed electric Hawaiian guitars, deep drums, and piano. Her molam vocal is wrenching, and twists itself around the instrumentation. Thepporn Petchubon's "Pa Gun Tor" is a swirling, funky molam with the khaen atop a bumping bassline, reverbed electric guitars, and Rhodes piano. His singing is taut, yet he improvises inside those parameters. "Lam Plearn Kiew Bao," by Chanpen Sirithep, is a haunting luk thung. Backed by a shimmering organ and stormy piano chords, the longing in her near droning vocal in the intro is replaced by a near Afro-soul melody. The deep groove in Petchubon's "Fang Jai Viangjan" melds an aching improvisational vocal to '70s soul, funk, and pop. For anyone who purchased volume one, The Sound of Siam Volume 2: Molan & Luk Thung from Northeast Thailand, 1970-1982 is essential; it's stronger in sequence and far more diverse musically.

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