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(55:55, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Fifty 7:24 2. Duaji & Guruji 6:56 3. Capistrano Road 5:28 4. Kalingga 6:18 5. Lamboya 9:10 6. Campuhan Hill 5:27 7. Surya Namaskar 7:42 8. Dalem Waturenggong 7:20 LINEUP: Dewa Budjana – guitars Jimmy Johnson – bass Vinnie Colaiuta – drums With: Gary Husband – synthesizers Kang Pupung – tarawangsa Michael Landau – guitars Mang Ayi – vocals Kangiya – kacapi
Prolusion. Indonesian guitarist and composer Dewa BUDJANA is a veteran musician in his home country, with a history as an active artist going back more than a quarter of a century and a two decades long tenure as the guitarist of the still ongoing rock band Gigi. In the last few years his most recent solo productions have been made available through the US label Moonjune Records. "Surya Namaskar" is the most recent among these.
Analysis. Indonesian instrumental jazz rock is a description that probably won't see neither Moonjune boss Leonardo nor Dewa himself suddenly having to fight off eager music journalists with a desire to know it all and everything, and probably isn't the kind of material that will see elongated feature articles in the pages of the Rolling Stone magazine either. The geographical location is outside of the comfort zone of many music fans and music journalists as well, and it is the case that the assumed main audience for music of this kind, people that have lived on this planet for a few years and have learned to listen and reflect, also tend to be somewhat conservative and set in their ways. Those willing to get out of their comfort zone will find this production to be one well worth spending some time with, however. Instrumental jazz rock are the keywords, the nonverbal backing vocals given the function of an instrument on a single occasion the only slight exception. This is also a guitar oriented and guitar driven affair, although with plenty of room for the most excellent skills of drummer Colaiuta and bassist Johnson to shine with brief explosive firework details and some soloing spots here and there in what I'd generally describe as a typical jazz manner. All instrumentalists are given their place in the sun, but the space isn't evenly divided, and guitarist Budjana is the star of the show. Or the sun if you like, as that somehow sounds more appropriate. The compositions are generally fairly light toned and elegant in construction and execution. Sophisticated performances with an emphasis on melody and harmony, and generally with an overall positive nature to them. The guitar adds a harder tinge to arrangements that otherwise might have been a tad too soft and smooth, although you won't come across too many distinctly rough edges here. Subtle differences and careful alterations are chosen over dramatic shifts, and on the few occasions where the compositions shy away from the melody and harmony based themes they never stray far away. Tracks like Duaji & Guruji and Capistrano Road do feature some sharper guitar soloing runs though, a subtle but distinct presence that might indicate stronger emotions explored. Opening track Fifty also finds room for some darker, menacing sections with a bit more of a twisted vibe to them, and later on Kalingga features more of a world music inspired sound initially, slowly developing into a darker toned, harder edged affair sporting a recurring guitar detail that for some reason or other reminds me of Led Zeppelin whenever they opted for a more exotic atmosphere. Campuhan Hill is another creation that merits a specific mention, a song rather different in character with its plucked guitar emphasis and an atmosphere that gave me something of a dusk or twilight feeling or an association towards a landscape covered with thick fog where occasional spots of sunlight appear. A subtly ominous mood, featuring a careful dark undercurrent beneath. The different moods and atmospheres are all fairly subtle however, sophisticated and elegant are key words throughout, and the sound has stronger similarities to western jazz rock than to exotic music in general. Arguably with a few delicate touches here and there that may or may not sound familiar to those who enjoy listening to guitarists such as Joe Satriani, although that feature is one is incidental, and due to inspirations drawn from the same original sources for Budjana and Satriani both.
Conclusion. Guitar dominated and guitar driven instrumental jazz rock is the name of the game for Budjana's 2014 solo album "Surya Namaskar", with a general tendency to explore light toned, elegant landscapes with playful tendencies and with occasional dips into territories with something of darker touch to them, albeit without any dramatic tendencies as such. With high quality backing from a tight, jazz and jazz rock oriented bass and drums combination, this is a production that is easy to recommend to fans of jazz rock due to overall style and expression just as much as a high quality performance, mix and production. A solid album through and through.
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