Audio Mainline: Soma for the soul

This is what creativity and originality sounds like

Phnom Penh has a musical dynamic duo that has been flying either under, over, or off the radar for some of you out there for some time now and today we’re going to correct that oversight on your part and shame you out of your abject ignorance. Sound like fun? Good attitude.

The dashing Warren Daly is the founder, owner and operator for Invisible Agent Records. The label has been releasing a steady stream of eclectic, genre-defying electronic music since 2000 on various formats: CD, vinyl, digital, possibly player piano rolls and Shamans sent on foot to engage in oral story-telling. Invisible Agent Records has an impressive number of releases in its catalogue for an indie or DIY venture – 41 with the release of Audio Mainline’s Soma EP, according to Warren’s best estimates.


Audio Mainline. What is it? A new injectable form of music that gives an intense rush and that is destroying communities and causing an epidemic of sonic overdose deaths? No, of course not, don’t be an idiot. That’s not biologically possible. Audio Mainline – and I risk drawing down his considerable wrath upon my head by saying this – is Hal FX. He’ll tell you it’s more complicated than that. Yes, there is more to it than just Hal FX, but he’s the essence. Much in the same manner that if someone were to ask me what peanut butter was made of, I would (after taking a moment to marvel at the stupidity of their query) say, “peanuts, mashed into a creamy consistency” even though some of the more processed varieties might contain a dozen or more ingredients of myriad variety and origin, all of them essential to the finished product. If Audio Mainline was peanut butter, then Hal FX would have to be the peanuts, mashed into a creamy consistency.

Audio Mainline is a collaborative musical effort – a collective, if you will – guided and directed by Hal FX but utilising the contributions of many other musicians: a revolving line-up, who variously provide elements such as live instrumentation, ambient electronica, and other more esoteric things like location recordings or visual performance elements. Does that sound avant garde to you? Then you’re a prick, lighten up. It isn’t over your head. This isn’t pretentious abstraction or weird for the sake of it. It is quite melodious and pleasing to the ear much of the time and it has a nice driving beat backing it that takes away any sense of sleepy or dull that puts some ambient music on par with listening to a CD of whale noises: sure, it’s interesting, even beautiful at times, but it’s also a whale making fucking noises, you can’t dance to it or even hum along, and in my opinion music does need some structure, some familiar conventional elements to balance the unfamiliar and strange. Happily enough, Soma is music. Good music, and absolutely not fucking whales bellowing.

My honest assessment of Audio Mainline, Soma, and, really, Hal FX, would be: He is the real deal. He is a legit talent producing original music here as an immigrant to Cambodia. Both he and Warren have been living here for a number of years and have strong ties to the Cambodian community. In fact, Warren’s partner of many years now is the internationally recognised Khmer artist Dina Chhan. They’ve put down some roots here and you’re safe in investing some interest into their endeavors, they will be here for you to enjoy and Phnom Penh needs to give Audio Mainline, Hal FX, and Warren’s Invisible Agent label its strongest support because they deserve it. The production values, the sonic crafting that has gone into this independent release and the Sound (capital S) that Hal FX manages to coax out of the tools of his trade, while lacking any kind of budget to speak of, is absolutely superb. He is very, very, very… good.

It is a project that pushes the boundaries of modern music in some new and interesting directions given all the cross-genre elements that go into it. It isn’t hard on the ear – it is quite soothing in its own way, but it is past pop music, entering more interesting territory again. This is what creativity and originality sounds like, Cambodia. Embrace it.

Original appeared on The Advisor (Print & Digital)

View original review by The Advisor Magazine


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