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Tohpati Ethnomission - 2010 - "Save the Planet"

(67:12, MoonJune Records)



1.  Save the Planet 9:07
2.  Sacred Dance 8:31
3.  Drama 1:47
4.  Ethno Funk 8:38
5.  Gateway of Life 2:56
6.  Rain Forest 8:42
7.  Let the Birds Sing 7:27
8.  New Inspiration 4:13
9.  Battle between Good and Beast 8:16
10. Festive People 5:10
11. Anger 2:34


Tohpati – guitars
Indro Hardjodikoro – bass
Diki Suwarjiki – ethnic flute
Endang Ramdan – ethnic percussion
Demas Narawangsa – drums, percussion
Lestari – vocals (2) 

Prolusion. TOHPATI ETHNOMISSION is a new Indonesian outfit, led by guitarist and composer Tohpati, who is also a full member of Simak Dialog. “Save the Planet” is the debut release by the project.

Analysis. It must be put forward from the outset that, while displaying various influences (to be mentioned in due time), the music of Tohpati Ethnomission doesn’t come across as being derivative at all. On most tracks, you will get a solid dose of arrangements that are based on the ensemble’s native ethnic motifs, which, moreover, are delivered in such an original way that, once you lend an ear to this album, you will never confuse it with any others. After that is said, I feel free to move further. I define the band’s primary style as progressive Jazz-Fusion, accentuating the first word of the idiom, which is due to the harmony of the compositions, the complexity of the arrangements and the virtuosity of the playing. Five of the eleven tracks present find the band at its most adventurous (which is equal to “its progressive peak”), namely Save the Planet, Battle between Good & Beast, Festive People, Ethno Funk and Drama, all of which are quite dense, multi-layered compositions, and are simply brilliant. On the first three of these there are certain hints of Gong, Edition Speciale and Allan Holdsworth at times, and some of the moves clearly evoke Mahavishnu Orchestra, while the latter two fairly often recall harder shades of King Crimson circa “Discipline”, but, as hinted above, this is overall highly original stuff. Tohpati band mates, flutist Diki Suwarjiki, bassist Indro Hardjodikoro, percussionist Endang Ramdan and drummer Demas Narawangsa, are all actively involved in the proceedings here, shining with mastery and inventiveness throughout. Anyhow, I think the main hero of any show is the one who’s behind its production, and since it’s Tohpati who has composed this material/album (in its entirety – yes, what we deal now with is not a collective creation), I’d like to dwell on his performance’s peculiarities in particular. Perhaps the only bearer of influences in the ensemble, at times evoking guitarists from each of the above-listed outfits, the man, however, doesn’t merely wear those, but modifies them – heavily, appearing generally as a forward-thinking musician. As seen on various tracks, he is a chameleon-like player, and his instrument can now growl, now wail, etc. He sometimes also deploys odd measures to give the music a quirky sound, which can even be somewhat avant-garde in places. Okay. New Inspiration and Rain Forest are similar to the first three of the previously described tracks in style, but differ from those in some other aspects. The former piece is richer in flute, bass and percussion leads than in guitar ones, while the latter, instead, comes across to a greater degree as Tohpati’s benefit performance. The remaining five tracks, Gateway of Life, Anger, Sacred Dance and Let the Birds Sing, are noticeably-to-a lot more transparent in structure, each only featuring one move with an intense sound. Gateway of Life is performed by the duo of Tohpati and Endang Ramdan (on congas), and yet it can easily be described as another retrospective breath of King Crimson air, since the axeman plays very much like Robert Fripp did on “Discipline” or his milestone solo LP “Exposure”. Good work. Only featuring Tohpati’s – highly inventive – riffing and soloing, Anger is, well, fairly impressive, too. Sacred Dance and Let the Birds Sing, however, are real contrasting tracks. The first of these (8:31) is the sole composition in the set that contains vocals, and I really regret that Lestari doesn’t sing anywhere besides its second section, as her operatic soprano is simply wonderful, adding plenty of extra colorations to what otherwise appears as a slow melodious tune, reminiscent of both ambient and world music. Let the Birds Sing (7:27) brings to mind the same idiom, although only the intro theme of this piece is performed without a rhythm section.

Conclusion. Without the last two described tracks (save the episode enriched by the female singing, of course), the album would have lasted for about 53 minutes, and would’ve been excellent throughout. Nevertheless, Tohpati (who, as a songwriter, is overshadowed by Riza Arshad in Simak Dialog) has made a recording that I like better than any of those by the said band. I’m full of emotions while listening to most of it. It borders on a masterpiece, and will likely enter my Top-20 chart of the year. Riza, beware :-), Tohpati wreaks his revenge.

VM=Vitaly Menshikov: October 10, 2010
The Rating Room

Related Links:

MoonJune Records
Tohpati Ethnomission


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