After the release of Pasar Klewer which was considered on my top 35 albums of 2016 at number 7 here on my blog site, Music from the Other Side of the Room, Dwiki Dharmawan is back at it again with another follow-up from the MoonJune label entitled Rumah Batu (which translates in Indonesian Basha language, The Stone House). Dwiki has come a long way. And throughout his music, he would always come up with the next idea through some brainstorming moments.
In a 2010 interview that drummer Asaf Sirkis did with Anil Prasad for Innerviews: Music Without Borders, at the time he was promoting The Monk, and appearing on Dwiki’s new release this year, he said that “The essence of music is magic and magic does not tell a story, it is timeless.” And that is what Rumah Batu is, a story. A story into these unknown worlds of both spirituality and guidance. Not only that, but some of the most amazing players that are on here.
Alongside Dwiki and Asaf, includes upright bassist Yaron Stavi, electric bassist Carles Benavent, and soundscapist/guitarist Nguyen Le. The opening track Rintak Rebana, starts off with Dwiki creating a Coltrane-sque introduction as the sounds of Sa’at Syah’s flute sets up this morning sunrise for a new day in the capital of Jakarta. It creates this crescendo-like intro between Dwiki, Carles bass improve, Asaf’s drums, and Sa’at’s flute for the first two minutes.
It changes into the swinging section for a time to dance as the percussion instruments gets the parade to start things off with a bang. Carles and Yaron follow suit for a swing bass and upright bass line down the sidewalk. It’s almost like a duel between both bassists and they work well together.
Dwiki goes through the piano as a concert near the last few minutes of the composition. Like a cross between George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Dave Brubeck, Dharmawan almost wrote this composition by reminiscing of Gershwin’s masterpiece and dedicating it to the city and his hometown of Indonesia.
With Impenan, you can open the curtains to see the sunset with this atmospheric background of the percussions and suling flute giving you the expertise before Dewi Gita’s vocalizations having this spiritual/meditation guide that is both chilling and breathtaking. The band members go through some of the scenery as if they were film composers of giving the audience of the landscape along with Gita’s vocals as if she’s giving them directions to see where she would take them.
Now we have come to the two-part suite of the title-track which on the MoonJune Bandcamp website is in 2-parts, (but on CD, which is track 5, it clocks in at 26-minutes and 25 seconds) is where everything comes together. The first part is Kaili. It begins with this swift sunrise of more of the meditation that is beyond the atmospheric touch before walking towards a creepy entrance thanks to Dwiki strumming the piano strings and opening the doors to this new world.
But then it suddenly changes as Smit’s arrangements on his vocals followed by the drums and Yaron’s upright bass as he bows through the sound while Asaf and Carles get the engines rolling for a trippy scenario. I can hear some similarities on the first section of Traffic’s The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys with a fusion-funk twist. Dwiki then comes back to the piano for another walk towards the spiral staircase for a long rest after touring of the big cities.
On the second part of the suite which is Perjalanan. Carles, Asaf, Dwiki, and Nguyen take turns while Le goes through the soundscapes by going through some of the weird vibes and it gives him a chance to shine through some of the wildly introverting styles on his guitar. He takes his instrument by going through some of the reverb and delay effects through the passages of space and time.
And then Carles takes the bass and does these aspects between Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius-sque improve before delving into the tug of King Crimson’s third and final section of The Devil’s Triangle with more crescendo’s and haywiring insanity as Dwiki channels Keith Tippett’s piano exercise. Rumah Batu is a very interesting release that Dharmawan has released this year. I’ll admit, it didn’t grab me as much, but it’s not to say it’s a bad album, but a very good release that he’s done.
I hope he'll continue to do more in the years and years to come to understand and finding out what will Dwiki Dharmawan think of next. But Rumah Batu is so far, as I’ve mentioned, an interesting release. And I hope that he explores more adventures and the journey that awaits him.