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CD REVIEW: Nath Keo - 'Sngath Sngath - Keep Quiet'
By Steve Allat - 03/23/2004 - 03:51 PM EST

Artist: Nath Keo
Album: 'Sngath Sngath - Keep Quiet'
CD Review: Label: Independent
Tracks: 9
Released: 2004
For Fans Of::
Fav Track: Keep Quiet, Tomorrow, Folk Song.

It's a great feeling when you're listening to songs that are sung in another language, and for a moment, you forget all about it. There is just the song. There are a few strong instances of that happening on Nath Keo's debut CD, and little to take away from the rest of the songs - all sung in Cambodian.

As has been happening a lot recently on the independent music scene, this work is an artist's idea brought to life by a one-man show on instruments and production. Tim O'Brien does an excellent job of complementing Nath's vocal phrasings and melodies and does his job of framing the songs well. Nath's voice and his words are definitely the focus throughout, both by their placement up front in the mix, and by their steady delivery. His voice is very calm and soothing, expressing enough emotion to allow you into the songs without knowing exactly what he is saying (sometimes I wish I did, but I'm sure the Cambodian community knows and appreciates his words). The song titles hint at songs about themes universal to all of us ('Crying Once Is Not Enough', 'Why Do You Wanna Know', and 'Just a Smile'), so it's no surprise that the songs transcend the language barrier occasionally.

The music ranges from atmospheric programming (like Delirium, Enigma) to organic electric guitar, bass & drums. I definitely preferred the songs which leaned more heavily on the programmed approach (the title track was better than anything off the recent Delirium release), as this sound blends with Nath's voice and style more readily. There's just something a bit too ordinary about standard western instrumentation to support the world-beat sound that works so well. The addition of a violin and the koto temper these songs, but I would have preferred not to hear a real guitar at all on the whole CD. You can hear in Nath's voice that he is just a simple 'Khmer Child' at heart, although one living the American dream of making the most of his obvious talent.

Overall, the CD feels good. It's an easy listen, testament to the songs and the production. And it's a nice introduction to the Cambodian language and song-style for those interested broadening their musical horizons.

Contact: Nath Keo
Website: Nath Keo, Khmer Boy

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