Tuesday 22 October 2019

Jangar - Jelang Malam (2019)

Country: Indonesia
Style: Stoner Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Oct 2019
Sites: Facebook | Instagram

Last time I reviewed a psychedelic rock album from Indonesia, it ended up as my album of the month runner up for February. That was O.M. by Mooner and it featured much more delicate pop-flavoured music than this, the debut from a stoner rock band called Jangar, who hail from Denpasar on the island of Bali.

Their Facebook page is named Jangar Doom and there's certainly a lot of doom in the heavy riffs on offer. Just check out the one a couple of minutes into Proklamator, which Black Sabbath would be proud of. However, they're not the sort of doom metal band that wallows in sonic mud. They're happier, livelier and more energetic than any doom metal band I can think of, so I think they fit better into the heavy stoner rock category.

A couple of other things back that up. One is that there's a lot of blues in their sound, especially the guitar of Adi Sanjaya, who feels like he's leapt forward in time from the late sixties where he would have fit in well with a band like Blue Cheer. I'm loving these psychedelic albums lately that could easily have been recorded years ago, if only the technology in use back then could pump up the bass and bass drums the way that we can now.

The other is that the production is most notable for its apparent complete absence. What I mean by that is that I'm sure that nailing this particular sound was the result of careful configuration in the studio, but the whole album sounds urgent and in our face. It's as if this four piece band set up their instruments in a garage and jammed for an hour after someone pressed record. Jangar often sound like a garage band.

A lot of that has to do with the vocals of Gusten Keniten, which are raw in a punk way, where attitude is as important as style. There are points where I wondered if he was singing through a megaphone, like Rudy Vallée. The trio behind him do a lot to maintain that attitude too, whether they're throwing out doomladen riffs in the Sabbath style on songs like Negeri Nego and Proklamator or more Zeppelin-esque classic rock lines on others like MSG and Sangkala.

I have little to no idea what he's singing about because the song titles I'm getting through Google Translate are pretty generic. Konstan unsurprisingly means Constant and Proklamator means Proclaimer. Kami Tahu translates to We Know, Kesurupan means Trance and Sangkala is Trumpet. That's not much to go on and there's no translation given at all for Aum Cilengkrang and Haerath. I'm particularly interested in the former, because Pasek Darmawaysya keeps excellent time on the drums while seemingly going completely outside of it on the cymbals.

All I know from an interview I found at Unite Asia is that Jelang Malam is apparently about the twilight time between day and night when the worlds of life and death merge and what might have been black or white becomes simply grey. The material doesn't feel that sort of spiritual, except perhaps early in Proklamator when the music takes a back seat to a shared singalong or in Haerath, Pt. 1 when there's a deep spoken voice alongside the singing one, but I'd love to see the lyrics, if only I could trust Google Translate to give me a solid English equivalent.

Even with four prior Indonesian albums under my belt this year, I still know next to nothing about what's happening over there. I don't even know how new Jangar are. Sure, this is their debut album, but that doesn't mean that they haven't been playing together for years. They sound like they have. They've also brought in a couple of guests: Rian Pelor, who sang for Auman and sings for Detention, and Doddy Hamson, the singer for Komunal. Of course, that has little meaning for me at this point.

Right now, all I really know is that I'm enjoying what I'm hearing thus far from Indonesia. It seems that music there tends to include psychedelic and progressive angles, whatever the genre a particular band happen to play in. Jangar aren't Mooner, just as Circlet aren't Razorblades Terror. And elder statesman of the scene, Dewa Budjana doesn't sound like any of them. That's healthy. I'm interested to see if other similarities show up as I dive into more Indonesian music.

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