New Music
30.09.2009, Words by Ruth Saxelby

Mon Khmer: "There isn’t one style that's in."

It’s no revelation but the way plugging into a computer can bend time and space never fails to make my head spin. One minute you’re in a cluttered Brixton kitchen, the next you’re wandering the plains of some faraway place. Or you are when you listen to MON KHMER, a Brooklyn new wave band who draw on a menagerie of influences from DEVO to NEU! and FELA KUTI to make hazy yet deeply evocative, melancholic music that explores feelings of place and belonging. It’s echoed in the titles of their myspace tracks – Birthplace (download it on the right), Movement, Password. “A lot of the songs are about mistakes, regret and moving on,” says singer/guitarist Hammarsing over email. “I don’t feel like I belong to any particular place but my surroundings have a huge influence on me. I like change.”

Having met at Berklee College of Music in Boston, the five friends started the band last year following a summer of session work that included Hammarsing joining Albert Hammond Jr on a world tour. “It really feels like a good time to be here,” says Hammarsing of the current Brooklyn music scene. “There isn’t one style that’s in. Music fans in New York are hard to please but they also respond well to bands that are trying to create a new sound. Dragons of Zynth, Yeasayer and Talk Normal are really amazing in my opinion, although The xx from London was the best band I’ve seen this year.”

With musical backgrounds spanning jazz, classical, Caribbean funk, alt-country and classic rock, I asked Mon Khmer which five songs mean the most to them. You can have a listen on our Spotify playlist.

The Durutti Column Missing Boy
Hammarsing (vocals/guitar): “Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes was the first song that came to mind but I think Missing Boy has had more of an impact. We used to cover this song. There’s a live version which really blew me away. Vini Reilly makes his guitar lines seem really simple and Bruce Mitchell’s drumming is always in my head. The lyrics are beautiful and his voice delivers the words in the best way.”

John Coltrane Part 2: Resolution
Elias Meister (guitar/synth): “This song delivers a kind of pure and raw energy that is very unique; and remarkable considering that they only use acoustic instruments. It comes from a place deep down in the performers, who let loose of all inhibitions or restrictions that others, themselves or common musical aesthetics may have placed on them.”

Michael Jackson Baby Be Mine
Dave Cole (drums): “It has had a huge impact on me for several reasons. The groove is sick. The hook is sick and the arrangement is sick. This is definitely my favorite song on the record (although every song is amazing) and it wasn’t even a single. It’s the most bangin’ ass shit ever.”

Antônio Carlos Jobim & Elis Regina Águas de Março
Matt Scheiner (bass/synth): “Aside from some genius harmony, it’s a song that every time I listen to it I still feel I haven’t completely wrapped my head around it. Learning Portuguese only deepened it. Each language version has its own perspective. He was writing poetry at its purest, most honest and human.

Band Up On Cripple Creek
Dave Kaye (pedal steel): “It’s all about the countryfunk drumming and wah wah clavinet.”

Keep your ears open for a debut release before the end of the year.

Mon Khmer’s myspace

Gang Gang Dance are another band that embrace a whole heap of diverse influences. Have a read of our interview here.

You might like