The world needs backwoods psychedelica - Khun Narin's Electric Phin Band - IN SEARCH OF SPACE #213

The whole world’s’a psychedelic, man. Anywhere you go, from the backwoods towns of Mississippi to the dark druidic forests of Devon, the Soviet nuclear testing range at Semipalatinsk and the end-of-the-world Falklands, you’ll find a long and storied history of people getting jacked, loaded, ripped, torn, sold down the river or otherwise munted. Even the most puritanical societies, (including the Puritans themselves) got high on God. It’s a base human desire that ought to appear on the pyramid of needs, surprisingly near to the top. It’s a thirst or hunger needing quenched with surprising regularity. Either our lives are too tedious, or our bliss so persuasive that once every week everyone has to build a big ol’ campfire and drink or snort or inject and chill out. It’s out of this urge that rock and roll comes. We had to dance around that campfire to something, those beats rumbling through the forest thousands of years ago might not have had a name we can pronounce but every creature knew what they meant. The upright apes are getting their freak on.

It seems strange then that we live in such chemically bereft times, we’ve even given up God after he stopped getting us high and just started making cowards and idiots think anything in the universe [as it exists through the narrow chinks of our cave] could be more important than a human life. America has always had an uneasy relationship with all narcotics but in most recent years has completely collapsed in on carcinogens and depressants, which have their place but even relatively benign marijuana is a schedule one substance which can’t even be tested. Which seems strange because if I were some sort of leader I’d immediately legalise all recreational drugs and make them governmentally available. A high population is sedate. If you rock out to a few tunes round the campfire you are in no mood to ferment revolution on Saturday morning. You’re more likely to put on a chilled ZZ Top album (Rio Grande Mud, incidentally) and order out for pizza. It could explain why we’re all so twitchy and on edge, constantly buying bigger guns and more locks for our doors. We’ve even stopped drinking.

With psyche (in the loosest definition) being both on the way out and the Cure for What Ails Us, anyone manufacturing new music that cuts through the cerebral part of the brain and stimulates the same part awakened by swearing, fucking and thumping low-end is always in a sorry deficit. It’s with some pride and quite a lot of trepidation I bring to you the sultry Thai sounds of Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band. Buncha backwoods (no doubt mountain-) men from northern Thailand. Like any self-respecting band, they’re a party band and play an infectious and drum-driven soul-secrificing rock and roll at once like Santana mating with Dead Man-era Neil Young, all played by a pan-generational orchestral arrangement from plastic lawn chairs. They don’t play your party, they come along and maybe music happens.

It’s refreshing to see a band team religion so vigorously with beauty. Too frequently religion is soiled by abstaining luddites, firebrand love-hating dead souls and cowardly psychotics. Most of the Electric Phin Band’s gigs begin, end or take place in local temples because that’s what religion is: a loving response to revelation. Recent perceptual advances ought to bring us closer to God, not further away, basking in the spiritual Sunday morning glow of knowing that universally our existence isn’t even noteworthy, and embracing the freedom of joy that affords.

Musically the band focus less on movement between definite points and more in extending and maximising the transition so that the swap itself becomes the focus of the music, and in fact overwhelms and drowns out any conciliatory points that might exist along the way; not that you’ll care as this music is best enjoyed on loud repeat while utterly narnered and preferably naked. To compare them to western artists is closed minded, and they draw mainly from Thai folk music filtered through the homemade ‘phin’, a kind of lute, and broadcast through a cart-based home-built soundsystem. That this band did their first series of rounds though the underground with a series of tourist-filmed grainy youtube videos, and were treated with the same reverence as an as-yet-undiscovered seventies back-bar colossus served to underline how thoroughly out of time these guys really feel. As if they stepped smoking off the time machine, amazed that their drug addled 1973 experiment had succeeded and switching on a television, and catching the latest atrocity broadcast in endless repeats with the breaking news ticker scrolling along the bottom like crime scene tape decided to do something about it by producing utterly unique absentee looney-groove, and toiled for years on just that, knowing with certainty their time would come.

My first thought after hearing this record, after I’d re-cemented my jaw and gathered up all the lumps of brain from having my mind blown was to buy a copy for my father. He positively terrified me recently by telling me he would be 70 years old in 15 years; and what the Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band ultimately accomplish is, strangely a variation on what Sunn O))) accomplish, stopping time in sizable chunks. Although the Phin Band stop age. Like the very greatest giants of the rock and roll guitar music genre, they can make you feel ageless. Buzzed, dancing round the camp fire as a single entity, old, young, all one, all under the spell of the Phin Band.

Written under duress by Steven.

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