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Kuhn Narin Album Cover
Kuhn Narin Album Cover

Thai Psych Rock Band Khun Narin Finds A New Audience Though L.A.'s Innovative Leisure

Khun Narin Press Photo

Psych rock has proven to be one of the West's most versatile exports and perhaps not surprisingly the many outposts of the this psychedelic diaspora--from Boston to Brazil to Bengal--have long fascinated producers and DJs in search of crates yet undug. Whether it's Captain Murphy flipping the siren lines of Os Mutantes or Mos Def dropping bars atop Selda Bagcan's Turkish delights, hip-hop has a knack for rebottling the hazy genre into beats fierce and fluid. Much of psych rock's past has already been reanimated by DJs and beatmakers from around the world. But psych rock, of course, has a present--and it turns out the genre is alive and well and living in Thailand.

Last spring, L.A. producer and engineer Josh Marcy tumbled down one of youtube's many rabbit holes and came back out with a name: Khun Narin. That name belonged to a Thai band playing electrified psych rock like nothing Marcy had ever heard. "Big beats and weird guitars is a winning combination for me," Marcy said, "But their sound is a bit more traditional than that." The videos he had found were homemade clips of a band playing wild music in a parade proceeding down unidentified dirt roads, their sound bristling with chaotic percussion, roving bass and the melody of a guitar-like Thai instrument called a phin.

"Basically the whole band is a rhythm section, except for the phin," Marcy explained. Khun Narin's contagious energy quickly spread as he shared the video with friends and in only a few short months he found himself in a car heading out of Bangkok toward the farmland of northern Thailand. With a backpack full of microphones and the support of L.A.-based indie label Innovative Leisure, Marcy met the 8-piece band and convinced them to play for a shoestring recording session.

Khun Narin's playing wasn't the only thing that captivated Marcy (and won him the backing for a transpacific flight to record them). The band plays through a homemade mobile stereo, a bricolaged system of subwoofers and horns that's vital to their aggressive and fuzz-soaked sound. That same stereo rig was mic'd up by Marcy as the band gathered behind one member's farm shed. "It was literally a field recording," he remembered. "Typically they use a generator to play parades, but to record we ran a giant extension cord from a house."

Some of Marcy's recording session was captured by Marcy on video, and all of the tracks laid down by Khun Narin have been mixed, mastered and released as a debut album, Khun Narin: Electric Phin Band. As a record, it stands apart from more conventional psych rock stylings with songs more like extended jams; grooves cut like electric current sent through ragged, uncovered wires. Still, it's music with a clear goal of getting listeners up and moving, which is what the band does best. "It's party music," Marcy said. "They all have regular day jobs in the city. One's a carpenter. One's a butcher. Another works in a bus station...the band is purely for fun and extra cash." The band's lineup has seen many changes and members' ages range from mid-20s to middle age. Music, for them, has only ever been a hobby.

Still, Marcy's convinced that Khun Narin is something rare and brilliant--and anyone who takes the time to listen will surely agree. "I've always had a dream of bringing them to the US, of running a parade down the middle of South by Southwest," Marcy said. Were an American trip to ever happen, another Khun Narin record could also be in the cards. "In a more controlled studio, I think their sound could be even more massive."

Khun Narin's psych rock takes some getting used to. It draws deeply from centuries-old roots of traditional Thai music and doesn't truck much with the classic verse/chorus/bridge structure of more recognizable rock. Still, the band's debut LP is loaded with moments so strong (and so strange) that it definitely belongs in the collection of wide-eared producers, beatmakers and DJs (stream for yourself via Spotify below and hit the link at bottom to cop via iTunes). Marcy put it best: "Their sound is one that they arrived at on their own, given what they liked and what they always wanted."

>>>Purchase Khun Narin - Electric Phin Band (via iTunes)