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Album Review: 2011 A Space Odyssey the Cambodian Space Project

24 March 2012 | 3:57 pm | Stuart Evans

The remarkable and touching story behind The Cambodian Space Project (CSP) is worthy of a novel; however, can they play? Well, yes – they can.

Out of the darkness came light. Or so some say. The remarkable and touching story behind The Cambodian Space Project (CSP) is worthy of a novel; however, can they play? Well, yes – they can. Their album makes for a dazzlingly psychedelic style of Khmer-rock that is somehow overlain with touches of reggae and dub. If that sounds like musical ratatouille, it gets much more interesting. The band, based in Phnom Penh, is fronted by the vocally impressive Srey Thy and features Australian, French and Cambodian musicians, which is one hell of a musical culture-clash. Think Western, imperial influences arranged with customary Khmer songs and instrumentation. Not that the album is going to race up the charts and make all band members immediately go out and buy a Bentley. No. The album is significant as most tracks were originally written by legends of the Cambodian music scene and re-made by CSP with a Western edge, making 2011: A Space Odyssey akin to a remix/rework blend.

2011: A Space Odyssey – even though we are well into 2012, is still hugely relevant. Kolos Srey Chaom (Love Gold) – probably the best of the bunch, is rock fused with blues. But 2011: A Space Odyssey comes with a caveat: it's not an easy listen and, at times, is harrowing as it's delivered in Thy's native tongue. It is Thy's lyrical narrative that makes the album what it is as she talks about her personal experience of child labour and escaping the clutches of sex traffickers. Although the album does not draw as much on the rich, eccentric and blatant Cambodian history as it could, it's still an impressive achievement.