Krom Monster are an experimental quintet combining traditional Cambodian instruments with contemporary electronics and improvisation. The band was formed as part of Neak Ta, a cultural project led by Incidental UK-based creative organisation, in collaboration with Cambodian Living Arts. Krom Monster are: Phon Chamroeun, David Gunn, Pov Punisa, Lun Sophanit & Sour Vanna.
In May 2010, Incidental initiated a series of cultural collaborations with khmer artists and cultural organisations. During this work, David Gunn led a six week residency with young musicians from Cambodian Living Arts, exploring the ground between traditional Khmer instruments and modern electronics.
The work resulted in the formation of Krom Monster, a new experimental quintet, and the first of its kind in Cambodia - resampling traditional instruments, reworking traditional themes and blending Khmer themes with contemporary electronics, urban musics and free improvisation.
The residencies culminated with a sold-out live event at the Centre Cultural Francais Phnom Penh, and the subsequent release of Krom Monster’s debut album in 2010. All samples used on this release were recorded on location in Phnom Penh, May-July 2010.
“Beisach”. Or in english, something like “demon”, or “monster”. That’s what the music we were playing made our Roneat player, Nisa, think about. Cthonic gods from older times, isolated, wandering out in the forests and floodplains, sometimes crying, and sometimes laughing. I guess it takes all kinds of monsters.
In the years since [the opening up of Cambodia in the 1990s], massive efforts have been made to conserve and recover what was left behind. Vital work to be sure, but in the rush to conserve, contemporary forms have often been lost in the shuffle. When so much is lost so brutally, it is maybe difficult to remember that culture is always losing something, always changing - that culture is perhaps best understood as a continual process of strange forgetting.
... this project is not about “authentic” Khmer music, or authentic anything, at least for me. Authenticity is a dangerous word. And particularly in a context such as this – where music industries only seem able to hear music from some parts of the world when it is seen as something rooted in place and history, as something “authentically” local. Volk Vultures, John Fahey might have called these forces, and they don’t help anything.