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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dwiki Dharmawan - Rumah Batu

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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Crayola Lectern - Happy Endings

Launched in late 2000, Chris Anderson is the brainchild behind Crayola Lectern. What he wanted to was create this extension of his personality instead of artistic compositions. It involved the procurement of a piano. He released his debut album in 2013 on the Bleeding Hearts Recordings label entitled, The Fall and Rise of… with critical acclaim. Among the supporters that included Robert Wyatt and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, The music itself had this new sound that is rich and wonder.

The first album dealt with the subject issue on the loss of a loved one, but the subject is filled with humor, irreverence, or a paradox. This year, he released a follow up, this time on a new label with Onomatopoeia Records entitled, Happy Endings. The textures on the new release, details an optimistic look on the issue of death. While we feel that it is approaching, it takes on a whole new role on our lives and what will happen to us when we go into the afterlife.

When I was listening to Happy Endings, I wasn’t thinking of the terms Alternative and Psychedelic Rock, I was thinking to myself “Where is this coming from? This is something special that Anderson himself has brought to the table.” For me, it felt the same way when I was introduced into the world of William D. Drake’s The Rising of the Lights back seven years ago.

Happy Endings is filled with joy, sadness, strong structures, and saying goodbye to the people that you knew and cared about. Opener, Rescue Mission begins with a pounding piano and horn section that opens the door with a swirling farfisa organ that is climbing through the melodic horns to follow suit. The lyrics deal about a superhero who felt that while he’s given up everything, he has one last chance to go out in a blaze of glory.

I can imagine Chris wrote this song for Michael Keaton’s character for the 2014 Black Comedy-Drama classic, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). It’s a great way to start the album off as Anderson takes you through the mind of the hero’s struggle to not let go of everything he’s done to make the city safe. While there’s not going to be another mission for him, the people in the city only care about themselves.

Linger On is this cross between The Beatles White Album and Brian Wilson’s lyrical arrangements. It has these catchy dreamy lullaby lyrics with some eerie chipmunk-sque vocal arrangements followed by not just a joyful rhythm section, but some surreal compositions. Barbara’s Persecution Complex has a vaudeville/ragtime intro as the coin goes into the nickelodeon.

It is a surreal madness on the keyboards of being inside the mental institution with some rising chords, fuzz-tone guitars and horn sections. I can see William D. Drake conducting one of Chris’ pieces and giving the band members some ideas on where he wants them to go into. (Don’t) Let Go is a cross between the haunting/mournful piano chords resembling Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom-era.

The loss of Victoria shows how much that either she was struggling through her mental state/depression as she was dying on the inside or it was all just a dream. On Secrets Lectern’s vocals and the usages of the horn and church organ delve into a melodic fanfare arrangement as it sets sail to unknown worlds. There’s a bit of Gruff Rhys in Chris’ vocals and a tipping of the hat towards Super Furry Animals’ Rings Around the World-era.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in my review, Happy Endings is an emotional yet staggering release. Now, this is my 11th time listening to Crayola Lectern’s new album. And while I’m new to his music, there’s going to be some major competition on who is going to be 2018’s album of the year so far. If you love the essence between early Pink Floyd, Super Furry Animals, and Robert Wyatt with a twist of Sunshine/Baroque Pop, Happy Endings is the album you need to check out.