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(73 min, Moonjune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Paradox 7:11 2. Bach & Stravinsky 11:32 3. Future 7:17 4. Don Juan 6:13 5. Bliker-3 10:55 6. Etude Indienne 12:51 7. Miles Away 4:15 8. Transparansi 13:16 LINEUP: Agam Hamzah – guitar Adi Darmawan – bass Gusti Hendy – drums
Prolusion. “Dictionary 2” is the debut release by the Indonesian trio LIGRO.
Analysis. As you see, there are eight instrumental tracks on the album, in length ranging from 4 to 13 minutes. Upon the first spin all of them might easily come across as creations of almost the same compositionally-performance approach, quite similar between themselves in both style and structure. In reality, however, almost all of them contain something that is peculiar exclusively to them, which makes them differ between themselves, at least slightly. For instance, Future and Miles Away both can be defined as bluesy-psychedelic proto-Hard Rock, but as it is, the idiom would fully be accurate only regarding the former piece, since the latter, while indeed using the style(s) as its musical foundation, is additionally fairly rich in elements of Jazz-Fusion, to some degree sounding like a cross between the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Soft Machine Legacy’s “Live Adventures”, which is the band’s most accessible output, to my mind. (I’d also like to note that, in spite of what its title suggests, I was never reminded of Miles Davis when listened to it. Where’s the sax, after all?) Like a lot of psych and proto-hard-rock music, the musicians often get overly engrossed with a particular sound or riff here, in both cases, and play it for more than its worth, but granting that repetition and atmosphere are the hallmarks of this type of music. The only two really kindred compositions, Paradox and Don Juan, both find the trio further developing the approach that typifies the two previously described tracks, combining all the said styles with elements of heavy Jazz Rock. If a comparison has to be made, much of this might fit well somewhere between Soft Machine’s “Bundles” and ‘90s Brand X with a touch of early Allan Holdsworth. Etude Indienne is already free of proto-hard-rock and psychedelic features altogether and is classic Jazz Rock, at first alternating hard-edged and atmospheric arrangements, while later on laying emphasize on the former ones, which are often driven by heavy guitar riffs in the style of early Mahavishnu Orchestra. The 11-minute Bliker-3 begins with a moody intro only featuring piano passages. Ultimately, the music builds into an intense trio climax of pulsating drums, fuzz bass and aggressive (albeit not always heavy) guitar, the axeman often scaling the heights of Jimi Hendrix’s heaven-storming passion. The final section of the piece is done in the style of classic Jazz Rock too, but all over its core part the band is busy with eliciting sound effects from their instruments. To be more precise, a rather extended period of those, well, soundscapes begins around the 4-minute mark, eventually bursting into some of the most tense and over-the-top moments on the disc, once again hailing back to early Mahavishnu Orchestra. Transparansi begins and develops in a pretty conventional manner (as a set of improvs on a preliminarily prepared theme) before being transformed into more interesting music in the trio’s primary style. Finally, Bach & Stravinsky is a two-act suite. It begins with a bass solo interpreting one of Johannes Sebastian Bach’s preludes, while the rest of the composition is the band’s – very personal – take on ‘An Easy Piece Using Five Notes’ by Igor Stravinsky, stepping through a number of doors, alternating between jazz-tinged Space Rock and Space Fusion of the first water. It indeed contains many signature space rock/fusion features, such as themes that gradually develop and unfold to achieve climatic moments of both beauty and power. The effective use of dynamics is a real strength of this piece, and the contrast between gentle melodic sections and the intensity of the band’s crescendos make the listening particularly exhilarating. All in all, this is my favorite track on the disc, with lots of strong, mood-twiddling lead guitar solos and ever-changing, yet always cohesive and concerted music. Bandleader Agam Hamzah’s guitar work is signature throughout the album. He tends to work with a bit more distortion than, say, Soft Machine’s John Etheridge or even John Goodsall of Brand X, yet not so much as to obstruct the power behind his jazz chording, pyrotechnic delivery and lightning-speed solos.
Conclusion. There is no lack of talent here. All three of the band members are highly virtuosi musicians. The playing is excellent most of the time, with special recognition to Hamzah for his superbly intense and melodic guitar lines and solos. Of course, I wonder why such skillful players as these at times turn to the moss-grown retro stylings. Nevertheless, no less than two thirds of the album is guitar Jazz-Rock/Fusion of the highest order, played with finesse and precision. Recommended.
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