Talkless “dot dot dot” (SO::ON Dry Flower, 2007): If you are looking for an appropriate soundtrack for those more and more physically intrusive skytrain journeys, this 7 track debut CD mini-album by Thai duo Talkless is an enticing prospect. Released in 2007 on the experimental label SO::ON Dry Flower, “dot dot dot” is twenty plus minutes of sparse electronic terrain washed over by dreamy ethereal vocals and the occasional slab of droning guitar noise. The latter should come as no surprise given that half of Talkless is Bancha Thearakit, guitarist and ‘sounds’ technician with one of Thailand’s best ever post-rock bands Goose. The beautiful voice and soothing keyboards belong to his partner in crime – the talented Wtanya Chanvitan. Of all the tracks, my personal favorite is “My Scarlet Arms”, an acoustic number that echoes the cult British band Cranes. Another is Took Wan (“Every Day”), a shoegazing epic, which glances knowingly in the direction of the legendary My Bloody Valentine. The other four tracks (especially the synthetic string washes of Tas-sa-na-jorn (“Excursion”) and the rising intricacies of “Drift”) are shimmering, precious electro mood-pieces that would fit in well with anything on the eclectic Warp Records catalogue. Given the banality of most pop music (in Thailand and elsewhere!) this is a treasured find. The original CD came with a sticker-sheet of ducks taken from the cover-art, but I’m not sure where you can get a copy (perhaps email SO::ON Dry Flower). However, you can visit the duo on the web to hear some of the tracks here: http://www.myspace.com/talklesslesstalk/
This series of reviews exists because of two reasons. Firstly, around ten years ago anyone interested in underground music in Bangkok would get a special email in their inbox every Wednesday. Called “ROLLCALL” the email would list all the amazing indie, alternative and underground get-togethers happening across Bangkok and elsewhere for those in the know. Unfortunately after several years the emails dwindled to a close, life moved on, people accumulated marriages, mortgages, and children, and the memories of those gigs faded into a dream-like montage of weird bars, friendly people and a sonic drone of pulsing noise. Hence my surprise when I rocked up to Bangkok this year for my holiday and discovered a vibrant underground scene still thrashing away like a live fish in a Klong Toey wet market, documented by none other than the Rock Philosopher himself, Dave Crimaldi. We got talking about the scene, both now and in the past, and Dave said: “Writing something!”
The second reason was a conversation I had with a guitarist in an old band I played in way back in late 90s Bangkok. The guitarist was bitter because he wanted to listen to older alternative Thai music (think Modern Dog, Crub and the Bakery label), but Tower Records would only stock the most recent albums. If you wanted to hear what Modern Dog’s debut sounded like (on cassette, of course), you were fresh out of luck. This also applied to the later ROLLCALL scene. In a very short space of time I accumulated an enormous pile of Thai underground CDs, containing, frankly, some of the best music I have ever heard. It was the soundtrack to living in a giant sprawling Thai megalopolis that looks like a cross between Bladerunner LA and something painted by Hieronymus Bosch. Unfortunately, like the bitter guitarist said, it was also ephemeral; there was no documentation of the scene and its music (at least for farang like me), no archival process.
Hence this series of reviews. Here you will find me digging up old Bangkok underground CDs, beer-stained and tattered, trying to articulate something intelligible about the amazing sounds they contain, while hopefully offering pointers about where you may still be able to listen to them, or, however remote the possibility seems, get your paws on an actual hard-copy CD (the incredible packaging that still accompanies Thai underground CDs makes hard copies far more desirable than digital versions, IMHO). I hope you enjoy the ride…
Andrew Wright is a geek scholar formerly adrift in Bangkok for 17 years, and now a financial exile in the Middle East. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org