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Tohpati Ethnomission: Mata Hati

Ian Patterson By

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Although it's been nearly seven years since Tohpati Ethnomission's Save The Planet (2010), Indonesian guitarist Tohpati has hardly been idle in that time, with several notable releases to his credit on Moonjune Records. Thanks to Leonardo Pavkovic's New York label, Riot (2012), Faces (2017)—both under the moniker Tohpati Bertiga—The Sixth Story (2013), the swansong of the brilliant, though now sadly defunct gamelan-cum-jazz fusion ensemble simakDialog, and Tribal Dance (2014), a solo project featuring Chad Wackerman and Jimmy Haslip, have helped position the Jakartan six-stringer as one of the most electrifying of modern fusioneers.

With the energized—and energizing—Mata Hati, Tohpati broadly replicates the hybrid gamelan, progressive rock, jazz-fusion brand long his hallmark, forging in the process, however, arguably his finest recording to date.

Heading the redoubtable quartet of electric bassist Indro Hardjodikoro, drummer Demas Narawangsa, Sundanese gamelan percussionist Endang Ramdan and flautist/reed player Diki Suwarjiki, Tohpati basks in rhythmically dense, driving terrain, the intensity tempered by a wellspring of melodic ideas—a combination that forges music that's intricate yet accessible, visceral and lyrical.

On the opening "Janger," the ensemble is buoyed by the strings of the Czech Symphony Orchestra as guitar and flute attack the dominant melodic motif in unison, with drums, bass and percussion weaving tightly syncopated lines. Sudden gear shifts provide platforms for Tohpati, and then Suwarjiki on flute, to unleash solos of colourful contrast -the electric guitarist's patient build up rendering bent notes, shimmering chords and gnarly little runs, the flautist's response more direct and lyrically flowing. The CZO on one track only may seem like an indulgence, but it's a successful experiment that not only adds sonic depth, but also intensifies the drama inherent in this composition of cinematic scope.

Ramdan's metallic percussion courses through the insistent rhythms of "Pelog Rock," an urgent, dark-hued rocker with Tohpati at his most exhilarating. The guitarist is equally compelling, though more measured in approach, on "Tanah Emas," the title track and "Rangak"—irresistibly sunny tunes that showcase the subtlety in both Tohpati's playing and writing. On the latter, lilting flute and delightfully fleet acoustic guitar are at the core of this uplifting number.

Riveting unison ensemble lines bookend a piquant, blues-infused guitar solo on "Berburu," while the gloriously riff-centric "Reog" harbours equal doses of pronounced melody, experimentalism, knotty guitar theatrics, keening tarompet—a double reed instrument—and ebullient percussion. "Pangkur," another riff and melody fest, features Ramdan's fiery hand percussion, while the metal-esque "Amarah" snarls and roars like some futuristic incarnation of King Crimson.

Uniformly strong compositions where symphonic ambition, folkloric vernacular and searing jazz-rock/fusion pyrotechnics go hand in hand so convincingly, and where scintillating, individual and ensemble virtuosity abound, amount to a stellar statement from Tohpati Ethnomission. The super-charged Mata Hati serves to enhance, and spectacularly so, Tohpati's growing legend.

Track Listing: Janger; Tanah Emas; Pelog Rock; Mata Hati; Berburu; Rancak; Reog; Pangkur; Amarah.

Personnel: Tohpati: guitars, guitar synthesizer; Indro Hardjodikoro: bass; Diki Suwarjiki: suling bamboo flute, tarompet; Endang Ramdan: kendang percussion; Demas Narawangsa: drums; Czech Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michaela Ruzickova (track 1).

Title: Mata Hati | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Moonjune Records

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