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Demi Masa by Simakdialog

This, the fifth album by the Indonesian progressive jazz group Simakdialog, continues their tradition of writing thickly scored music accentuated heavily by percussion featuring a number of traditional Sudanese kendang percussion instruments. Riza Arshad, the leader of the group, has fashioned an ensemble that is totally locked into the fusion jazz-rock arena. With the addition of the heavy percussion backdrops the group has a sound and feel unique to themselves and outside of just about any other kinds of jazz music being played today.

From a melodic standpoint the compositions are open in the way individual musicians have the melody at any one time, and fully textured by the wide variety of sounds the percussionists bring to the mix. By not having a traditional drumset to accompany and propel the proceedings, the music is more open ended. There is seemingly a limitless amount of room for each of the three traditional melodic instruments (keyboards, guitar and bass) to explore during their solos. The arrangements add to this as many times a single instrument will solo against a backdrop of only percussion.

This is best illustrated in Arshad’s opening keyboard solo on the "Forever Part One." The solo is full of single one-note-at-a-time phrases that have, as a sonic backdrop, only light percussion with which to interact with. The result is not just a unique soundscape but an atmosphere where the keyboardist is totally free to move in the direction where emotion and musical philosophical thought leads. When the guitar does enter it ever-so-smoothly and gently makes its presence known via a soft rhythmic-only means - accomplished by tight pressed sounds without ring. The addition of the guitar in this manner only adds to the incredible percussive feel already established. Arshad’s keyboards work within this framework to an incredible musical end.

Then, just when you think you have this band figured out, they play a tune like "Not So Far Part One." This piece, heavily suggestive of some of Chick Corea’s more melodic early ballads, is made even more beautiful, if this is even possible, through the use of the light hand-percussion fills and rhythmic repeating ostinato patterns.

All of the compositions on this recording are of a similar nature. There is no doubt each of the musicians in this band are serious, thinking and empathic souls. To create music that is so open yet works so well within the jazz-rock vein, especially being a music that is so dependent on the interplay of each musician with each other, can only be made manifest through long associations. As this band continues to mature it will be interesting to see if they are able to crack through and gain some significant jazz press; they are certainly worthy of it. For those who love the free music of Paul Bley but have always wondered if it could be done in a world music meets fusion manner, you can do no better than to explore this concept first with this recording.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Simakdialog
  • CD Title: Demi Masa
  • Genre: Progressive
  • Year Released: 2009
  • Record Label: Moon June Records
  • Tracks: Forever Part One, Forever Part Two, Not So Far Part One, Not So Far Part Two, Northern People Voices, Northern People Faces, Northern People Prints, To Elders and Separate Away
  • Musicians: Riza Arshad (acoustic piano, Rhodes, Oberheim OBX synth), Tohpati Aryo Hutomo (acoustic and electric guitars, soundscapes), Endang Ramdan (Sundanese kendang percussion, tambourine, claps, toys, vocals), Adhitya Pratama (fretless bass), Erlan Swardana (Sundanese kendang percussion, claps, toys, vocals), Emy Tata (Sundanese kendang percussion, claps, vocals), Mian Tiara (vocals), Dave Lumenta (soundscapes)
  • Rating: Three Stars
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