Astronomy Class – Mekong Delta Sunrise


By Andrew

Australian hip-hop is more often than not pervaded by themes of parties, backyard BBQs and white middle class themes. Mekong Delta Sunrise, the third album from Elefant Traks’ Astronomy Class, is a huge breathe of fresh air. I was only just recently talking of such high praise for L-Fresh’s debut and even went so far as to compare him to Ozi Batla, and after listening to Mekong Delta Sunrise; I’m convinced they are two of the best MCs in Australian hip-hop. Yeah sure, Ozi Batla’s been one of the longest players in the game of Australian MCs, but he hasn’t lost a single edge against the new up and coming upstarts in the game. Mekong Delta Sunrise is by far their best release yet and it shows that when you carry a strong theme throughout an album, it elevates it to a level no one could ever have imagined.

As part of the Herd, OB carries one third of the vocal stylings alongside Urthboy and Jane Tyrrell (Rok Poshtya originally) and sometimes struggles to call out over the top of their very unique vocal chords. In his own release, Wild Colonial, it struggled to hit the mark and although a good debut release, it never made its mark. With Astronomy Class, OB has legs for days. The first two releases, Exit Strategy and Pursuit of Happiness, have this deep dub sound which I always closely associate with Ozi Batla but to be honest its as much Sir Robbo and Chasm as anyone else. But Mekong Delta Sunrise is an anomaly. A beautiful, rich, cultural anomaly. The group describes it as “a journey through Cambodian history and a tribute to the ecstatic music of golden age Phnom Penh”. And that’s what it is. But you don’t have to be a SE Asian musical historian to understand the subject matter, but a healthy understanding of the history of one of the most troubled SE Asian countries in history really helps the ear. Tackling subjects such as child sexual slavery, the cruelty of the Pol Pot Khmer Rouge and the subsequently juxtaposed beauty of the countryside and the people themselves. Mekong Delta Sunrise is a sexy warm buzz like the first time you smoked a joint and watched the sun leap from the horizon after a hot summer’s night on the beach.

Across the album are a myriad of silent and sometimes eclectic choices of collaborators. On production and cuts we have some of Australia’s best, with Danielsan from Koolism, Chasm and Sir Robbo of course and brilliant addition Srey Channthy from Cambodian Space Project. But in this very short 37 minute album, its Ozi Batla’s vocal dance with Channthy throughout Mekong Delta Sunrise which raises it to something more than just cultural tourism. It feels alien in so many ways and yet so familiar. I have to give it to the four of them, this is one of the most surprising and un-Australian hip-hop album I’ve heard in a very long time and I absolutely love it. Smattered with samples from everywhere from the Killing Fields, Henry Kissinger, and even a sly sample from Anthony Bourdain (I think, might be wrong though) on the title track.

Probably the best tracks on the release are the ones that tell haunting stories about the Khmer Rouge, child sexual slavery and the all-pervading poverty which still graces the land like such deep historical scars. Special mention goes to ‘Four Barang in a tuk-Tuk’ and ‘Woman Wants To Drink’. Kind of makes me wish I spoke Khmer because Channthy is telling such sad stories about life before and now in the often forgotten neighbour of the Land of Smiles.

If you need to step away from the over-worn thematic tropes Oz Hip-Hop travels this is probably the album you have been waiting for. For those that don’t listen to hip-hop at all, its not going to change your mind, but for everyone else in between; it’s a true revelatory release from a group most see as truly left of field.

***Mekong Delta Surprise***

9/10 Tuk-Tuk Rides {Abrasive Andy}

1 thought on “Astronomy Class – Mekong Delta Sunrise

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