Thursday, December 7, 2023

Saowakhon Muangkruan and Manop Nakornchai - The night of an animal ย​​​า​​​ม​​​ว​​​ิ​​​ก​​​า​​​ล (​​​ข​​​อ​​​ง​​​เ​​​จ​​​้​​​า​​​ส​​​ี​​​่​​​ข​​​า​​​) (Ramble Records, 2023)

By Nick Ostrum

The night of an animalis a collaboration between two Thai musicians, Saowakhon Muangkruan on cello and Manop Nakornchai on guitar. All six tracks are improvised and together they form something apart from other improvised string duo recordings. You might be able to chalk this up to my own unfamiliarity with Thai and southeast Asian music. The night of an animal does use motifs and melodies that sound like they are from the region, even if on western instruments. That said, the spaces, the slow and unpredictable development and the clearly unscripted nature of these interactions make me think there is something different going on between these two musicians.

First, the folk melodies. Muangkruan and Nakornachai are not out to shred, but to envelop in, at least in the first track, what is a plangent but beautiful world. The tunes are different, but the guitar adds elements of Noël Akchoté’s Loving Highsmithproject, complete with that nostalgic, blurry polaroid sustain. Subsequent tracks bring us closer to the beast, as it were, as they layer presumably guitar body percussion with nervous beeps and uneven blocks of arco. The tension and menace rise, as does the tremolo, as Nakornchai’s wandering ostinato that slowly falls in and out of various winsome motifs. Things get noisier at times (track 5 is a case in point), and Muangkruan and Nakornchai answer each other tit for tat.

There is something glittery and wistful about this, though stylistically I cannot place it in the past or present. In that, and in its deceptively simple melodies, which similarly transcend space as they meld western and eastern traditions, The night of an animal is absolutely engrossing.

The night of an animal is available as a CD and download here.

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