One thing lost since high-speed internet became common, at least to me, is emerging from a record shop having slapped down cash for something never seen or heard of before entering. The ability to download stuff before it’s released has had an effect (although there’s still plenty that I can’t find that way), as has the related shrinking of shop inventories, but mainly it’s because I get mailouts for most shops I go to that mean I’ve scanned everything new before even leaving the house.
So it was a surprise when I last visited Soho’s excellent Sounds of the Universe and the Thai Funk ZudRangMa compilation CD jumped out at me as a weird unknown. The sleeve is brightly coloured handsewn Thai fabric stapled inside a plastic bag with a card tab giving minimal info. It turns out that it’s a compilation of Thai funk and disco tracks from the late-60s to the early-80s which is surely one of the few under-fished waters left (if Sublime Frequencies or someone have put out ten comps like this, then forgive me).
Even when the packaging is cracked open there’s nothing beyond band names and track titles to provide any orientation; it would be nice to know who these bands were and why this music was produced. Instead there’s some spiel about how “music has no nationality, no discrimination, no boarder” signed off by the ‘Deephouse Brotherhood’, but if it’s anything sophisticated or nuanced you’re after, then don’t listen here; this is raw and stupid music with absurdly hissing hi-hats and rip-offs aplenty. Pretty much all the disco tracks are covers. There are two versions of Boney M’s “Rasputin” with new lyrics which, brilliantly, follow each other on the CD, moving from lo-fi but relatively faithful to a droning one-chord variation. ‘King of the talking music’ Plearn Promdan tells jokes over a sublimely muzzy “Ma Baker”. The Hot Pepper’s beautifully titled “Get on Train, Go with Bus, Elephant Ride, Put Up Tent” incorporates “Baby Elephant Walk” and “Boogie Nights” for two of it’s four sections.
Whilst the Thai bands are able to replicate the four-to-the-floor of the disco tracks, on anything funky they flatten out the swung beats, much as British beat groups did to the blues songs they glommed. A cover of B.T. Express song “Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)” emerges fairly faithfully but elsewhere there’s a track that sounds like a pop version of “Orgone Accumulator” by Hawkwind, whilst “Nam Man Pang (Expensive Gasoline)” (Fela Kuti-esque title!) is straight clonking fuzztone psych-rock complete with dunderheadedly monomaniacal guitar solo.
Plearn Promdan - Sam Bai (Jolly) [ysi]
Sroeng Santi - Nam Man Pang (Expensive Gasoline) [ysi]
I bought this CD from Sounds of the Universe though they are currently out of stock. There are still copies available from the label that released it, ZRM Records, whose shop also has a second-hand copy of a Thai single by someone/thing called Man City Lion!