Happy New Ears

For the last few years, I’ve found myself listening to Thai music around the New Year. I don’t know why and I just noticed it when was searching for something new to hear. I discovered Christopher Adler, who I intended to write about in this post.

His music is influenced by American minimalism, which I had been listening to lately, but also has a strong strand of Laos, a folk music of Laos and Northern Thailand.

This led me into Laos and then into some Thai recordings that I had listened to in the past.

The music is often celebratory and upbeat and maybe that’s why it’s become part of my New Year’s tradition. Besides, the kids like dancing to it and they don’t always want me playing the Talking Heads or James Brown and I get tired of “The Hot Dog Song” and “Shake It Off.” It’s a nice compromise.

Besides being a composer and improviser, Adler plays khaen, a bamboo mouth organ.

I was struck by the tone and clarity of this performance by Master Nouthong:

Which led me to a good cassette recording of a Master player from Laos:

Oddly, my interest in American minimalism grew out of trying to find music that allowed me to write while I listened to it. This recording has that openness and quality of a drone.

That led me to music played on a Thai lute called a phin. Very surf party ready:

And I found a live performance that someone had sent me years ago that’s still great. (Jon? Mike? Can’t remember…)

More recently someone uploaded the over-two hour concert. It’s listed as Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band: Thai-Psychedelia.

Shredding Streetside Isaan. I like the mix with the traffic sounds.:

What seems to be a recording session with a young phin player. She rocks! And really starts shredding after the five-minute mark.:

All of this led me back to some of the fantastic Sublime Frequencies records I had heard in the past. If you’re a record collector or music adventurer you should check out their releases. Fans of Dengue Fever will likely enjoy.

Since my kids are old enough for me to have time to listen and think about music again, I’m going to try to hear a lot more this year. I’ve been to two live concerts in nearly four years: a jaw-dropping Anthony Braxton solo set and free St. Paul and the Broken Bones show when they were just a band in town. Already I have tickets to see the Sun Ra Arkestra and Napalm Death. That may honestly be it in terms of live shows for the year, but it’s a good start.

Also, besides all the usual yearly health goals, I’m going to be getting more writing done, here and elsewhere.

Happy New Year!


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