Album: Absolute C.O.U.P.
Format: Digital / Tape
Master: John Hannon
Release Date: 29 July 2020
The tourist board might try to paint Thailand as the Land of Smiles, but in reality, democracy and free expression for Thai citizens seem a far-off dream. The Southeast Asian country has undergone 13 military coups d’états following the Siamese Revolution in 1932, the most in modern history than any other country. “Since I was born I witnessed three different coups: in 1991, 2006 and 2014,” says Thai artist Pisitakun. “The question is stuck in my mind: Why do we have so many coups?”
Pisitakun explores this question on Absolute C.O.U.P. , his second release on Chinabot following 2018’s SOSLEEP. A whirl of hard techno, molam, military marching beats, Thai Pop and traditional Thai instrumentation, the seven-track record is a maximalist tour through the Thai political and psychic landscape, never sacrificing its wicked sense of fun in its pursuit of political justice.
Pisitakun is among the young Thai artists who use oblique playfulness to challenge the ruling powers in the face of censorship and prosecution. “I’m trying to collect the sounds, voices, samples or songs that relates to the coup and make songs from those sources. Each song represents the part of structure that supports the coup,” he says.
Opening track MoMoNarNarChy interpolates Pleng Sansern Phra Baramee, the Thai royal anthem. Played by Pisitikun on the phin, a lute from the marginalised Isan region of northern Thailand, he transfers the anthem through his analogue synthesizer to create a dissonant, unfamiliar version of the song, wrapped in techno beats and skittish distortions.
“This album was mix of different classes of music, from local to royal music, “ says Pisitakun of the album’s palimpsest of samples and tempo changes. “I try to put a lot of unstable parts into the song so that you never know when it will change, when it will be fun when it will be sad. It is like a coup in that you never know what will happen in the future. Only the one that makes the coup can know.”
Driven by military marching drums, ArArMyMy samples the Luk Thung (Thai country music) song Poor Soldier, a ballad about low solider wages, as well as the speech given in 2014 by the wealthy General Prayut Chan-o-cha shortly after his successful coup. Prayut, who implemented a number of anti-democracy and censorship laws, remains in power today.
As the world erupts in protest at police oppression, Pisitakun reminds us of the profound loss of human freedoms under a police state. His energetic defiance imagines an expressive, aggressive and deeply joyful world where the strata of power have been upended - a kind of coup in itself against the structures of hierarchy in Thailand.
The album includes three remixes from Gabber Modus Operandi, MSHR and ELVIN BRANDHI. It will be available to buy as a cassette or as a gold bullet-shaped USB stick—a typically subversive nod to the power and wealth of the Thai military elite. A visual artist as well as a musician, Pisitakun has made a painting for each song, which will be included as stickers with the physical release.
Pisitakun Kuntalang is a visual artist and musician living in Bangkok. He released SOSLEEP, his first album with Chinabot, in 2018 and appeared on a number of other splits and compilations.
He questions fundamental and increasingly universal values without merely decrying the fact of corruption or offering neat palliatives. His works are based on political speculation and the external and internal frustrations artists are subject to.
He has performed at CTM Festival (Berlin, Germany), Asian Meeting Festival (Tokyo, Japan), WSK NUSASONIC (Manila, Philippines), Spaziomusica Festival (Cagliari, Italy) and Cafe OTO (London, UK).
supported by 30 fans who also own “Absolute C.O.U.P.”
It was a bit too much and samey by the end for me, but if you like dark atmospheres, if you are really interested in sound design or you enjoy the challenge of music that tries to wear you down, you should definitely check this record out.
I loved the echo-drenched drums and percussion and synths and hard to describe sounds on this, but it stays with the same sonic ideas for too long for me to enjoy to try to withstand the harsh wall of sounds minisculebarber