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Bayon - First Recordings 1971-  1973 CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.14 | 10 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars I'm not sure progressive folk is the right label for Bayon, any more than it is for Flairck but both bands have ended up being pigeonholed somewhat with that label simply because of their unique ethnic/national attributes.

In the case of Bayon, an East German/Cambodian collaboration formed by someone (Christoph Theusner) who was formally trained as an architect, those attributes make for a trademark and recognizable sound that can't really be head anywhere else. While most of the music is instrumental, one of the more interesting challenges with the vocals is trying to figure out what language(s) they are sung in. Certainly not English, at least on this collection of early material, and as near as I can tell the band swerves away from German fairly regularly as well.

These songs tend to be just a tad bit self-indulgent at times, although Theusner and Sonny Thet can be excused for considering themselves a bit clever and special given the times and their circumstances. 'Die Nacht' and 'Die Lerche' especially present interesting combinations of Eastern string arrangements and vocals along with continental flavorings, especially on guitar. Clever, but it's pretty obvious the group was still working out how to best leverage their unique situation to make music. Things would get much better and by the time the first studio album 'Bayon' was released in 1977 this was a group fully jelled and in firm control of their musical legacy.

The most obvious 'folk' song here is 'O Mangobaum' with its almost African percussive rhythm and what I assume is Thet's singing and the most prominent vocals anywhere on the album. Clearly there's a story being told here is some language, and while I can't figure out what the tale is about the combination of percussion, simple acoustic guitar fingering and Thet's easy vocals gives the song that sort of special charm that tends to land bands with the 'world music' label. In this case one could almost be excused for using that term.

The grand finale comes with the twelve-minute plus 'Bayon Suite', which at the time was a pretty ambitious effort given the band's relative inexperience and broad cultural differences. The backing chamber vocals, heavy and almost Krautrock organ and thick electric guitar demonstrate the heavy influence of seventies German rock on this song, presumably thanks more to Theusner's contributions but I suppose one can't be sure especially given the relative sparseness of supporting information with this package. There are clear tempo and thematic shifts during the various 'acts' of the suite although I'll admit I can't really follow what the band was trying to convey either lyrically or thematically given the range of languages, which at a couple points in the middle are not recognizable at all. And the fadeout ending is pretty abrupt and surprising, not something you hear very often with a rock 'suite'.

I don't know a lot about this band but have started to get into them lately so I'm sure more discoveries are forthcoming. For now I like this sampler of their early work which shows a band of excellent musicians coming together across cultures and working to figure out how to leverage their divergent skills and experiences to create something completely new. A good start here. A high three out of five stars and well recommended.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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