Thursday 3 January 2019

Dewa Budjana - Mahindini (2018)

Country: Indonesia
Style: Progressive Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 10 Dec 2018
Sites: Facebook | Official Website

I love the fact that the world of rock music has expanded since the eighties (or its globe has shrunk). Back then, everyone was from the UK or the USA, maybe Germany, and it was a rare band from further afield who made us pay attention. Sure, some of them existed and we just didn't know about it, but it's not just the internet shrinking those miles that's making rock and metal such an international force nowadays.

Case in point, here's Dewa Budjana from Waikabubak in Indonesia, who started out as a jazz guitarist but couldn't resist rocking it up. He formed Gigi in 1994, with whom he's recorded at least twenty albums, including 1997's 2x2 (featuring Billy Sheehan), even though he's also been releasing solo albums since the late nineties.

Mahindini is, I believe, his tenth solo album and it's ostensibly progressive rock, even though it frequently diverges from that in multiple directions. The end of Crowded veers into experimental jazz territory and Queen Kanya kicks off like a rock guitar virtuoso instrumental, a road that a Vai or a Satriani might travel down, but, by halfway, we find ourselves in a cocktail lounge wondering how those legends would look in tuxes. Just as we realise how weird that thought is, Budjana starts shredding again before launching into a bizarre attempt to merge staccato Sheila Chandra style vocals to a jazz backing.

Presumably this is an Indonesian equivalent to Chandra's Indian roots and it's what makes this album particularly fascinating. Hyang Giri is more obviously Indonesian as I recognise sounds I know from singers like Detty Kurnia, courtesy of guest vocalist Soimah Pancawati. Hearing those sounds in a prog rock setting is wild and enticing and I'd love to hear a whole album of material like this. Unfortunately that isn't what we get.

For three tracks, this is a wonderful album, full of imagination in ways that we don't tend to hear very often here in the west. Unfortunately, it loses its way somewhat at that point. That's not to say that the rest of the album is bad, as it isn't, but it seems to forget what its strengths are and so quickly descends into relatively routine noodly jazz, exemplified by the 8:17 title track, that forces the album into the background. It does pick up a little at the end with Zone when vocals (courtesy of John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers) return but only for a while.

This album will certainly prompt me to seek out more Dewa Budjana and there's a lot of it to find, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the Indonesian flavour and the innovation of the first three tracks rather than the more forgettable last four.

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