Rama IV,
Silk Mind
(Etherean, 2000)

What do you get when you mix the singing of several Thai vocalists with the talents of some of the best ethnic dance producers from the Netherlands? Rama IV's Silk Mind. We have all heard various bands mix ethnic music with techno, pop or dance -- Deep Forest being a prime example. Rama IV has not produced anything entirely new. However, Silk Mind is a great CD to showcase why people like this genre of music.

With the world growing ever smaller in this time of e-mail and satellite television, it was only a matter of time before more and more music from around the world started co-mingling. As the liner notes state, "This is not a melting pot -- rather a coexistence of opposites."

Paul Downes founded Rama IV back in 1996. He is joined by Nenad Sismic and Alain Eskinasi on instruments. Together, they create the various layers of music using keyboards, Thai flutes and percussion, bass and guitar. As good as the back beat is, I find the vocals to be the real highlight of the CD. Thai vocalists include Ning Lertlam, Siriporn Saengchote, Siriphan Kantiyaporn and Bibiana Ursula.

On the title track, "Silk Mind," some of the vocals sound a little harsh like they were recorded separately (and badly at that), but the music more than makes up for it. This tunes makes you want to dance. "Temple of the Rising Dawn" starts out with a temple horn. A light female voice sings English words with a Thai accent. What I hear in the chorus: "Come with me. It's time to go now ... to the temple of the rising dawn. Follow me, arms of darkness ... to the temple of the rising dawn." Light lyrics? Perhaps. But an enjoyable song, nonetheless. Part of me thinks the song is about death and the afterlife, but the accent is just a little too strong for me to catch enough words.

"Silkworm" is, appropriately, a light, airy instrumental. It is followed by one of the best songs on this great CD: "Meta." Two female vocalists create wonderful harmonies in Thai. The song starts out with an old, male chanting/singing voice (also presumably in Thai). He pops up throughout the song, adding to it considerably.

There are three versions of "Omniscient" on the CD. The song includes a mix of Thai and English vocals. The "Oceanic Remix" is heavy on the drum beat and slightly reminiscent of "Mortal Kombat" (the title track from a mid-'90s movie soundtrack). The "Album Version" is arguably the best version although the other two are still pretty good. The "Siam Dub Remix" tries to get a little bit of an industrial edge to it. I find it fairly different from the original.

I really like the use of Thai Gamelan bells on "Siamesque." This is another excellent tune with a very Siamese feel. "Awakening" gives the feeling of waking up in out of a deep sleep. It starts a little slow and picks up speed. The old male chanting/vocals are back. There is also the addition of a child singing. I like the outcome. "Spirit Mountain" starts out with the old man talking. He is then joined by a horn. A slow drum beat kicks in. Before long, some faster percussion starts up. This song is very drum-beat intensive.

I would simply recommend Rama IV's first album, Silk Mind, because it is a good CD that is enjoyable to listen to. I have another reason to suggest you buy this music. Rama IV is donating 10 percent of the proceeds from album sale profits towards the Nature Care Foundation, a forest conservation program. In the last 50 years, Thailand's forests have shrunk from 70 percent of their landmass to approximately 8 percent today. NCF is working to reverse this trend through various means including reforestation and educating the local population on preservation.

So, pop on over to Amazon.com, help save part of our ever shrinking planet and listen to some cool music as your reward.

[ by Wil Owen ]



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