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(52:45, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Saniscara 8:03 2. Desember 7:36 3. Jayaprana 8:32 4. Ruang Dialisis 11:47 5. Just Kidung 10:03 6. Payogan Rain 6:44 LINEUP: Dewa Budjana – guitars; soundscapes Antonio Sanchez – drums Joe Locke – vibraphone Ben Williams – bass With: Indra Lesmana – piano, melodica Jro Ktut – vocals
Prolusion. Indonesian guitarist and composer Dewa BUDJANA is a veteran artist, who has been active as a musician for just about three decades at this point. Besides being active in different bands, he's also a fairly productive solo artist, and the last few years have seen him release a new solo album on a yearly basis. "Hasta Karma" is his eighth solo album, released in 2015 by the US label Moonjune Records.
Analysis. While the geographical source of this fine musician is one that might appear to be relatively exotic as seen through the eyes of someone living in the heartland of western civilization, the main surprising aspect of this production in that particular context is that it isn't one that can be described as exotic at all. A token exception aside, this is a recording that might as well has been created by someone originating from England, France or the United States. The music is one that is deeply steeped in western music traditions, on most levels. Instrumentalists in general and guitarists in particular may, of course, hear details here that don't fit into such a context all that easily, but at least for those, who merely listen to music, this is an album that resides safely within known parameters of the style explored, which in this case is instrumental jazz fusion with a distinct orientation towards jazz rock. Budjana's material, at least from my experience, tends to be fairly smooth, light toned and uplifting. The main impressions I have noted down from his previous albums have been that the music is generally uplifting and positive, material carefully rejoicing everything good in life. This most recent album continues with material of that nature, but expands the canvas explored quite a bit as well, allowing moods and atmospheres of a darker and more unnerving nature to find their place amidst the gentler, positive and melancholic tapestries woven. Budjana's guitar is, of course, a key feature, careful and elegant as always, and just as proficient of taking a back seat, delivering subtle, ethereal details, as he is in hitting a light toned, finely wandering guitar solo run. Delicate plucked motifs with various degrees of intensity are a specialty he masters to perfection, and from what I understand, the softer textures that smooth out his compositions are also delivered by him, the sources of these sounds presumably the ones credited as soundscapes. The vibraphone is given a lot of room for wandering solo runs and to add delicate details to the proceedings, while Williams on bass and Sanchez on drums cater for the rhythm department in an elegant and effective manner, where especially Williams is given much room to showcase the bass as an instrument in various sections. Both of them also add a distinct jazz-oriented flavor to the proceedings throughout, the jazz-rock aspect of this production one emphasized by the delivery of these two musicians. Besides the aforementioned positive aspects of Budjana's creations, this is a production that expands on those moods quite a bit. Opening tune Saniscara isn't among them though, as this is material that sounds pretty much as you would expect from this artist: careful, uplifting and joyful in a dream-laden, elegant manner, with plenty of sophisticated features of the more delicate and subtle manner. Concluding track Payogan Rain is also a creation that unfolds in a fairly expected manner, although in this case with more of an emphasis on delicate melancholic moods. The material book-ended by these two compositions does add quite a lot to the scope of this production however. The positive start and end sequence of Desember bookends a darker, unnerving middle section, which might indicate that whatever inspired this particular song is something that isn't all that joyful, and while Jayaprana is more of a positive-laden run again, there's just a touch of something unnerving on this creation as well, although that may just be emotional feature, carrying over from the previous track. But on Ruang Dialisis, a compositions that sports vocals, with delicate folk-tinged details added and with room for both twisted, dark guitar elements and sequences sporting a more chaotic, unnerving arrangement, the dream-laden, almost sleepy and tranquil passages book-ending these more ominous sequences also suggest that the inspiration here contains elements of a more dramatic nature. Even the humorously named Just Kidung contains some twisted, darker elements implying that the title of this song can be read to have multiple meanings on different levels, and that the main associations an English reading person gets when seeing the title of that song may not be totally accurate. So while one may get an initial impression that this is a CD that revolves around melodic and jazz-oriented jazz fusion, when giving these compositions a more thorough listen, there are depths and details here that reveal that a canvas rather more expansive has been used. With delicate care, and often in a subtle way, but at the end of the day, there's more to this production than what is initially revealed.
Conclusion. "Hasta Karma" comes across as a well developed production where a lot of thought and many emotions have been invested into the material, with top-notch musicianship seeing to it that the subtle nuances that appear to be a key feature of Dewa Budjana's compositions are all explored expertly. Instrumental jazz rock with an emphasis on jazz is the style of choice, smooth and easy on the ears on a superficial level, but with added depths and streaks of darkness to be revealed for the careful listener immersing themselves in the material. A polished, well made album all in all, and one easily recommended to those with an affection for instrumental jazz rock.
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