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(60:00, MoonJune Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Upload 7:58 2. I Feel Great 6:41 3. Riot 5:34 4. Middle East 5:14 5. Pay Attention 7:13 6. Rock Camp 4:43 7. Absurd 5:37 8. Disco Robot 4:11 9. Lost in Space 7:22 10. Bertiga 5:34 LINEUP: Tohpati – guitars, guitar synth Indro Hardjodikoro – bass Adityo Wibowo – drums
Prolusion. Tohpati is a guitarist and songwriter, a member of Simak Dialog, one of three internationally known Indonesian prog rock groups – along with Discus and his own collective which, though, doesn’t have a constant name as well as line-up so far. The recording under review, “Riot”, is by TOHPATI BERTRIGA and is a follow-up to Tohpati Ethnomission’s "Save the Planet" from two years ago.
Analysis. Now, when I’m already acquainted with his latest outing, I understand why Tohpati released it under a different moniker – it has almost nothing in common with its predecessor. His new instrumental trio specializes in the kind of complex, tightly arranged music that, although embraces several styles, has a strikingly distinguishing one, namely Hard Rock, five of the ten tracks presented ‘using’ it very actively. At its most conventional, with hints of Rock-n-Roll in places, the genre is presented on Rock Camp. On the other hand, most of the piece’s themes-sections have differently constructed riffs as their basis (evoking mid-‘70s Nazareth in this respect), which will be appreciated, at least, by anyone to whom the idiom was a stage in comprehending progressive rock music. Generally, unlike some jazz- and blues-based music as well as Hard Rock itself, the trio never falls into the trap of a simple riff with jamming on top. I Feel Great and Disco Robot both for the most part follow the approach used on Rock Camp, but are richer in softer arrangements, with many guitar solos evoking Blues Rock somewhere in the vein of early Cream. The album’s ‘frontier’ tracks, Upload and Bertiga, are the heaviest ones, both often bordering on Prog-Metal, though there are also quite a few jazz- and space-fusion arrangements, full of masterful guitar leads. Often reminiscent of the Alex Skolnick Trio (formerly of Testament, Alex has a few solo albums, all of which overall represent jazz-inflected Heavy Metal), these two are the best, most progressive tunes here, albeit the others are only slightly inferior to them. Still with rock improvisations dominating classically jazz ones, Middle East, Absurd and Lost in Space only from time to time verge to Hard Rock, while Pay Attention and the title track are never really heavy in sound. On all of the pieces the arrangements are very balanced, with lots of interesting interplay; and there is in most cases a distinct tendency toward complex, differently vectored soloing lines rather than simpler harmonies or unison leads. On a few of them, some guitar leads are as melodically glaring and memorable as those which Ritchie Blackmore first played on Child in Time from Deep Purple’s “In Rock” and which later became one of the trademarks of his playing. In places, there are also parts of mallet, marimba-evoking percussion, performed masterfully, though I don’t know who’s behind them – perhaps the drummer. The writing comes from Tohpati, and his guitar is the dominant voice on the album, although there’s still always enough space in the landscape for the other instruments to sort of sit comfortably. Bassist Indro Hardjodikoro often takes center stage, at times acting as the main soloist, particularly often on Pay Attention. Drummer Adityo Wibowo carries things along now with diverse cymbal work, now with rapid-fire drumming – in other words, what the situation calls for. Tohpati himself plays in a very natural style, avoiding the annoying cliches less skilled players fall into, keeping things interesting by using unusual tones and effects: at one point his guitar-synth even sounds like organ.
Conclusion. Tohpati appears as a fantastically skilled guitarist here, displaying a wide range of techniques and styles, embracing Prog-Metal, Hard Rock, Space Fusion, blues, jazz and psychedelic, often delivered in a ‘guitar hero’ manner. Of course, technical mastery alone is not enough to sustain my interest, but the album is excellent above all compositionally, never sounding like an excursion into a technical exercise. Highly recommended, particularly to lovers of a guitar-dominated sound: rejoice, axe-heads! :-)
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