Album Review: 2011: A Space Odyssey by The Cambodian Space Project
Very Good, Based on 3 Critics
AllMusic - 70 Based on rating 7/10
The Cambodian Space Project is neither entirely Cambodian (its members also hail from Australia and France) nor is its sound particularly spacy (on the contrary, it's a sort of charmingly trashy retro-rock that borders at times on straight-up garage punk). But the group's sound is dominated, very much for the better, by the vocals of Srey Thy, and since her melodies are frequently embellished in a melismatic Southeast Asian fashion and her lyrics are all sung in Cambodian, this debut album ends up sounding like a sonic explosion of cultures and time periods. Thy's voice is a revelation: simultaneously childlike and powerful, it sounds like that of a beautiful bird with tattoos and a Mohawk.
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.
Cambodian rock band, you say? Well, let’s make this easy and assuage any lazy comparisons to Dengue Fever. Yes, both bands fall under the “rock” umbrella, and yes, both bands have female Khmer singers (and, yes, both are thoroughly quality bands). But the similarities end there. Where Dengue Fever leans sublime surf rock, CSP, a little less Mekong Delta blues a lot more down-home dance, hones in on shimmy-til-your-leg-turn-to-jelly reworkings of classic Cambodian pop.Made up of Australian, French and Cambodian musicians, the Cambodian Space Project’s debut album is a pop party led by scratchy-voiced Srey Thy, a local club singer who was discovered while doing karaoke in a Phnom Penh bar by Australian guitarist Julien Poulson.