World-fusion quintet simakDialog is back with Album Two, nine compositions released under the title Demi Masa, and once again by way of Moonjune Records, a label deserving of accolades for bringing this talented group and its take on east-meets-west to the international scene. An immersive aesthetic resonates throughout Demi Masa, and the music therein never stoops to mechanical facades nor ceases to exude the warmth that is part and parcel of its Western electric fusion derivations and intrinsically Indonesian distillations.
For devotees of the Fender Rhodes electric piano, the album's indulgence of the instrument borders on the pornographic — not a bad thing by any means! Keyboardist Riza Arshad's Rhodes lines soar and pirouette with a natural fire in ways uncommonly seen and heard since guys like Jan Hammer burned things up in the '70s. While the Rhodes is Arshad's specialty, he performs on a Yamaha acoustic grand on the latter half of the album, and coaxes some ethereal timbres from an Oberheim OBX in a few spots. Kudos also go to bassist Adhithya Pratama's subdued if complementary basslines and the angular guitar stylings of one Tohpati. Indeed, the guitarist gets ample room to stretch out, but flexes the most on the bookend epics "Salilana Pertama (Forever Part One)" and "Disapih (Being Away)," the latter boasting a wah-enabled improv. His exquisite acoustic guitar line on "Karuhun (To Elders)" sufficiently cuts up, too. And as on Patahan, the group's rhythmic pulses aren't laid down by a kit drummer but Sundanese percussionist Endang Ramdan, joined here by second percussionist Erlan Suwardana.
On a different note, the micro-trilogy "Trah Lor" (the term means "Northern People") is the most abstract or avant in feel, almost RIO in some aspects. The "Trah Lor" pieces are also the only ones that are short, if continuous, meaning they're under the four-minute mark. An unrelenting staccato acoustic piano vamp, synthetic tendrils that creep forth from the OBX, and guest Mian Tiara's wordless vocalizations ("Prints") elaborate nicely.
Not only does Demi Masa meet and exceed its predecessor, it works expertly enough to suggest that the five musicians that authored it are no less an asset to the hybrid genre they serve than Santana was to Latin and rock and Wendy Carlos was to electronic and classical.
1. Salilana Pertama (Forever, Part 1) 14:01
2. Salilana Kedua (Forever, Part 2) 6:46
3. Tak Jauh Pertama (Not So Far, Part 1) 7:42
4. Tak Jauh Kedua (Not So Far, Part 2) 9:11
5. Trah Lor – Laras (Northern People – Voices) 2:28
6. Trah Lor – Rupa (Northern People – Faces) 3:41
7. Trah Lor – Tapak (Northern People – Prints) 3:46
8. Karuhun (To Elders) 9:06
9. Disapih (Separate Away) 13:16
Total Time – 69:59