Return to Planet Cambodia

Now we’re safely home from touring… a rather epic tour it ’twas! Some great gigs along the way and it was a thrill to bring CSP 2024 to WOMADelaide, and other standout shows, not least Airey’s Inlet Festival, and a special fundraiser event for See Beyond Borders at Crystal Palace, in the heart of the Khmer Community in NSW.

Now. t’s time to get back to some music and art work in the studio.

There’s a lot to do, many things to complete and set-in-motion but best of all… a whole lot of new inspiration and ideas gleaned from the road. It’s what more than 10,000kms on the road will do for you… fill you with ideas on what to do and hopefully, what not to do…

Beautiful new prints from Sticky Fingers

Thrilled to have a new set of 5 limited edition silk screen prints in the catalogue of Sticky Fingers Arts Prints Cambodia. Creating silk screen artworks is such a joyous thing! step-by-by, lots of happy accidents, colour upon colour, then voila! a hand made print is born! Never mind AI art, this is a messy, tactile, human hand-to-eye, soulful way of making art – visual storytelling.

I started making the first editions by Sticky Fingers back in 2013 as an extension of the visuals being created for The Cambodian Space Project. Heng Visal and I set-up in Siem Reap and designed and printed a series that has proved popular with collectors and pop art lovers. Some of our prints are even part of the permanent collected at Amsterdam’s Troppenmuseum and since 2013, and in other exhibitions and collections since that time.

Now we have a release of 5 new print designs. This series includes a re-print of the very popular “Mara” Cambodian Dancer print – Mara was a Cambodian dancer first sketched by a young Andrew Warhola at BAM in the early 1950’s, well before he became the God Father of Pop Art and a New York icon of the 60’s and 70’s as re-named Andy Warhol. Our new series includes new artwork featuring Kak Channthy including a reworking of her cheeky toungue-out print…an image that had tongues wagging at the Cambodian Ministry of Culture.

If you caught the CSP on our recent Australian tour you might have already scored our “Flying Turtle Tour” hand printed tour poster? We still have the “Flying Turtles” for collectors along with new prints. Each print is approx 70cm x 80cm in size and priced @ 150USD plus postage. These unique prints are handmade and individually signed in a series of 1/100. We can be ship internationally. If you would like to order, please PM or email your name and address details thecambodianspaceproject(at) Paypal accepted.

Going up! and growing up! at Fish Island Records

It was a shock arriving back home on Fish Island and finding that the early onslaught of wet season, heavy, monsoonal rain, that swooped down hard from Bokor Mountain. This a total deluge destroyed the roof of one of our cabins in an instant. As rain beat down through the near-collapsed roof, it was a cold awakening… but a wake up call, that’s for sure! a call to action and now we’re sensibly getting ahead of things to come, and working fast to fix roofs and build new facilities at Fish Island Community Arts Centre.

New things include the 2nd floor above the ‘yellow sub’ studios and this is coming together as a library, design studio, and listening room. It will house a great collection of South East Asian vinyl, a library of books, and quality sound system complete with Cambodian designed and made hi-fi speakers. We welcome visitors to come and check out our progress and soon to be able to enjoy not only a great meal at FICAC’s restaurant but also the new space to sit back and listen to the sounds of our record collection. Heck some of it is even for sale but you’ll have to haggle… there’s too much we won’t let go but you can listen too while you’re here.

Fish Island Community Arts Centre has been blessed by many talented visitors from around the world, and in many ways, each person brings something special to our community simply by the action of being there..with us onsite. We’re staffed and accomodation students and workers from the local fishing and farming community.

We also host international artists and residents and our most recent visitors have been wonderful – Ellie and Briony from the amazing two-piece band Salt & Steel, stayed on with us at the end of Garage Fest tour (a story in itself) and delivered creative music workshop Srey’s School of Rock. Meanwhile, it’s been great to have Mr. Jimi back with us and working his magic in the studio… there’s some original music featuring Ahwin on vocals coming through the pipeline. And most recently, field recordings of friends from Bou’Sra, trying out their traditional sounds on the new CSP recordings… exciting stuff and soon we’ll be able to enjoy quality listening in our own dedicated listening room.

From the mountains to the sea

Live band touring is done and dusted for now but we’re still busy on the road. This time the mission has been to take a bunch of mics, computers, instruments on the epic bus trip from Kampot to Mondulkiri and to check in with our indigenous musicians up in the mountains. Jimi Mased, Kek Soon, Srey Pok and I all made the hike, spent almost a week working in Bou’Sra village and collaborating with the indigenous Bunong and music for The Cambodian Space Project’s “The Raft at Night” album… it’s a wild ride and something that doesn’t happen overnight but has it’s own kind of magic.

Friendships made over many years and surprising new opportunities to meet and work together means that The Cambodian Space Project is on an amazing new mission to share and present a fusion of sounds and cultures with the world… it’s a natural way to go for all of us involved in this direction and while there are challenges, it’s these challenges that make the results totally unique! amazing really…

The Cambodian Space Project began with a song called Mondulkiri, with Channthy taking inspiration from the spirits of this mountainous region near the border with Vietnam. Now we’re back in Mondulkiri and creating an entirely new chapter for the Space Project. Hopefully, we’ll be touring this collaboration in 2025.

On the Raft at Night, we took time out from touring to track the CSP rhythm section at Jim Moginie’s (Midnight Oil) Oceanic Studio in Sydney. Definitely a cool thing to do, recording through all the old vintage gear, not least the Neve console, cranking up my new/ancient Australian made Goldentone Amp… but with time constraints and a bit of good luck, I found a very useful toy, a kind of kid’s plastic toy instrument albeit one with super musical powers! this thing sounded very family, like listening to a Gorillas rekkid… a good thing… and best put to good use on the Raft sessions… later, I googled Suzuki Omnichord and found that it was exactly! the little music machine Damon Albarn (Gorillaz) had used on the hit song Clint Eastwood.

Anyway, this wondrous thing was sitting upstairs at Oceanic, atop a box of mostly percussion toys/instruments… thanks Jim! create to find this music machine at Oceanic and put it to work. Now we’re in the mountains adding the unique gongs, voices and oral language of the Bunong on some of the tracks for The Raft at Night. Process is as much of the creative adventure as the plan…but when the plan goes out the window, poetry and abstraction gets to work. The gongs of the Bunong are certainly their own kind of ancient music machine… it’s amazing the notes and melodies a skilled player such as tribal elder Sorng Brou can conjur and perform. The few days we’ve spent recording the gongs of the Bunong has been an beguiling musical adventure and somehow, these ancient rhythmic tones and beats, sit well with the Suzuki OM and the new direction taking shape for The Cambodian Space Project.

New releases soon, soon, soon…

The Golden Phoenix, The Raft at Night, and Funky Junktion are the titles of 3 full-length CSP albums in the pipeline. Personally, I’m excited about each of these albums but theres still plenty of work and recording to do before they’re good and ready to release.

Funky Junktion began in Melbourne, working over file-sharing, during lockdown. At it’s core is multi-talented Julitha Ryan, co-producing and bringing together a great set of songs and a brilliant cast of musicians with the view to make an ‘international album’ and shine a light on our evolving work to make the yellow sub studios at Fish Island a happening place! which is certainly what is happening. Then there’s The Golden Phoenix – our soundtrack to the puppet show / funk opera The Rat Catcher of Angkor Wat… I’m loving the direction of this album now complete with the synths and percussion courtesy of The Bongolian.

Our most recent work is of course, The Raft at Night, tracked lived at Oceanic Studios while touring in Australia. It’s a whole new thing for the CSP and allows us to bring in new voices plus dancers and theatre makers to create a future touring work.

The Raft at Night is dreamy and spacey that’s for sure. Heck! we’re simultaneously building our own, very real raft, made of bamboo and ready to float down the Kampot river and out into the Gulf of Thailand… just to physically feel it out… a conceptual album based on the strange voyage by raft of 1950’s modernist painter Ian Fairweather.

Yep! we’re gonna float the boat but not before adding a beguiling mix of sounds, voices and atmospheres, that complete this sonic trip… a audiophonic journey from Sydney through Indonesia to Cambodia and all the way up into the tribal heartlands on the indigenous Bunong of Mondulkiri.

There’s a Story to Tell

Calling all aspiring podcasters, spoken word artists, and those of you with a great audio book ready to go! We’re going to make time to record you at the Yellow Sub. More and more, we’re being approached by people who are interested in recording audio books and it’s not only something that interests us at FICAC but I think we have a wonderful studio and location for helping producing these ideas.

In Cambodia, there are so many stories to tell, to be privy too, to accidentally overhear… it’s a remarkable place with an extraordinary history. I mean, you just never know the who? what? how? when? where? of half the stories you can hear any and every other night here in and around the bars and restaurants of the aptly named Kingdom of Wonder.

It’s true, some stuff just can’t be told, other stories are suppressed. Much of the media, the journalists, the storytellers who once called Cambodia home, are no longer with us. Once upon a time there were excellent writers and reporters in the media in Cambodia but there is no longer any room for this, some journalist have been forced to leave, but most have just given up and this is to the dismay of many.

But perhaps the end of journalism is just the end of one era and the beginning of the next, it does seem to be a global trend…PR companies and the robots have already taken over the gig. Still, there’s plenty of folks who love to listen to a good yarn and I’m one of ’em. That’s why we’re inviting in a few ‘old timers’ alongside rising chroniclers and conversationalists to sit in and record their stories and ideas for podcast.

For me, I’m always on the lookout for the great stories, especially those of adventures in music, art and sub-cultural worlds… I’m a huge fan of Phillip Adams and his long-running radio show Late Night Live – known for its “razor-sharp analysis of current events to the hottest debates in politics, science, philosophy and culture”. So, it was a real thrill for me to be invited to join Phillip on Late Night Live and tell my own yarn… the story of Dick Tamimi the gold smuggling pilot who produced one of the greatest girl groups ever Dara Puspita and countless 60’s hits, not least Koes Plus “The Guilties” – an Indonesian classic…

There’s many a yarn to be told and as I write here, I hope to bring you more stories from our world, from the little yellow studio on Fish Island and to illustrate these tales with our own home-made soundtracks. Check out the Dick Tamimi story here.

Nusantara Calling

Indonesia’s been a great place for CSP shows over the years. We’ve travelled there to play Ubud Writers & Readers Festival on a couple of occasions. It’s at this festival Channthy met with Australian luminaries such as Nick Cave and Paul Kelly with whom we’ve written and released a couple of beautiful songs. Bali also inspired Thy to write and record an acoustic album and develop her own songwriting, one of my favourites is the track “Sweetheart Bali”. Nusantara is such a diverse and rich musical land. It’s a place where I always end up collecting a stack of old vinyl from each place we visit. We’ve also been privileged to play West Java World Music Festival in Bandung and some really fun, crazy fun! gigs in Jakarta for the Ruangrupa mob, RRREC Fest. In fact, we’ll be heading back for RRREC Fest and quite possibly a Bali visit this October.

Just another hot night in Jogja! The super-creative arts city of Nusantara and it’s pumping music scene.

On my most recent visit I caught a lot of great music… a female Bon Scott! in Yogyakarta… a really interesting groovy band from West Java called Mother Bank – a girl band made up of middle-aged Indonesian housewives who have taken the Internet by storm with folk tunes about the everyday struggles of village life.

New voices

Meanwhile, look out and listen out for the music of Rani Jambak. We’re working with Rani in collaboration for the CSP’s Raft at Night. Rani’s a music maker with an extraordinary repertoire of her own songs and sounds and performs brilliantly as a soloist but we’re excited to see where the possibilities of a CSP collaboration takes us all… rocketing into the future! no doubt about it.

World Music Festival at FICAC

We’re done for live shows for the year ahead… though coordinates are set for some local Cambodian shows at Fish Island Community Arts Centre. Our own little world music festival right outside the studio door!

Fish Island World Music & Inclusive Arts Festival (FIWMIAF) will be between Xmas and New Year and if you’re planning a Cambodian holiday then this is the place to catch our fresh baked sounds and some of the very cool new things coming out of Cambodia and out of The Yellow Sub Studios at Fish Island. Once again, we’ll be aiming to bring the cosmic sounds of the indigenous Bunong musicians, down from the Mountains, to perform again.

Meanwhile, the next CSP release will be featuring our first mixed-down collaboration with our Bunong friends from Bou’Sra. It’s a CSP project recently recorded on location in Bou’Sra and, in my mind, it’s something totally new and out there! but you’ll have to wait… there’s another step in this production and next it takes us to London town… a world away from the jungle setting around Bou’Sra but just Mad enough to work!