Local Wire

Various Artists

Assembled from a stockpile of 150 cassettes that turned up, inexplicably, at a public library in California, Khmer Folk & Pop is a riveting example of cultural cross-pollination. It's also a fitting first stop for anyone still frightened off by the frou-frou "World Music" genre tag: The most interesting thing about Khmer Folk & Pop is its reconfiguring of musical styles indigenous to other parts of the globe. There are flirtations with austere dub, galloping country, and grizzled psych rock, all of them filtered through a distinctly Asian sensibility. A prime example is Prum Manh's "Two Wives Are Twice the Problem," where a jaunty reggae downstroke carries along Manh's sobbing, ululating vocal. Uncredited interludes pull equally from American '60s pop and riotous surf rock, sewing them up with slinky, sexy singing. The result is a sort of sonic treasure hunt, a genre-bending sound collage that never ceases to fascinate.
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J. Edward Keyes