Krom – Neon Dark (CD The Mekong Sessions)
Krom are in essence Christopher Minko and Sophea Chamroeun and create, supported by an extended family an Asean folk disguised as mystic folk lullabies, a Cambodian blues that as well might appeal to fans of gothic exotica, some early nineties Current 93 (All The Pretty Little Horses came to mind more than once) or early Tom Waits, although Minko’s dark and noirish murmuring voice on this album is not very prominently present, as the angelic vocals from Khmer sisters Chamroeun take the stage here primarily.
Their previous album (Songs from the Noir), which sounded like a folky roadtrip through an imaginary Vietnam war scenery, was full of plain anger and frustration, and contained stories on abuse and exploitation (just listen to “Human trafficking, where money and sex are king”) whilst on Neon Dark is musically much more balanced, and guitar and vocal build folk illusions, still there’s naïve lyrical poetry, sheer beauty and unfolding dramas with every new song, convincingly telling a story, or tragedies rather, that here gets much more neutralised by the voice of Sophea. The tracks where Minko utters blackened thoughts and experiences (7 years old, fractured frangrance) are once more mournfull and lingering projections of universal sorrow and despair.
Where their previous album really did not do much for me, Neon Dark draws the listener in by sixties folk guitar and mesmerizing Khmer voices, wailing, whispering and wining, floating around. Spare use of slide guitar sometimes gives the folk a pacific feel, authentic and almost lovely folk, with an agenda to discuss sensitive matter, the music itself without pretentions, and that is just fine as it is. Don’t expect Cambodean or Thai underground as Neon Dark brings straightforward fragile exercisis mixing shallowness, agit, melancholy and soul. Krom’s story unfolds small tragedies, simple, straightforward authentic like the sadness life itself can sometimes be. PvdG