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Dwiki Dharmawan: Rumah Batu

Friedrich Kunzmann By

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On his third album for Moonjune Records, Indonesian pianist Dwiki Dharmawan delivers a highly focused work and presents a wide array of styles, bound together by a core quintet and one common musical vision. While its predecessor Pasar Klewer found Dharmawan working with two alternating guitarists over a two-disc set of compositions, on Rumah Batu he happily settles with France-based Nguyen Le, giving this record a special sense of uniformity and spontaneous dynamism. Yaron Stavi and Asaf Sirkis return on upright bass and drums, while Charles Benavent joins the band on electric bass.

The musical approaches on this album can be divided into two different stylistic currents: one is of a more organic and acoustic nature, while the other leans toward delving into fusion territory, in compositional nature as well as sound wise. The opening "Rintak Rebana" and "Paris Barantai" can be ascribed to the former and demonstrate a band that is willing to explore each member's unique vocabulary in a natural and homogeneous way. The opener mainly introduces the core quintet in a wild rhythmical exercise over inviting harmonic progressions. All the while, a catchy recurring ostinato, based on a major gipsy scale, ties the piece together. Each virtuoso gets a moment to shine, while Nguyen Le, especially, exposes his unique guitar playing, which can be defined by a strong use of delay and reverb, as well as strikingly precise microtonal bends over the fretboard.

As on his earlier albums, a number of guest musicians appear, adding flutes, vocals and other, mostly ethnic, flavors to the already colorful pallet. These ornamenting elements also accompany the "Rumah Batu Suite," which is situated at the core of the record and represents the fusion side of things. Soundscapes, vocal exercises and a variety of other percussions grow apart and back together again, when, after the four-minute mark, a pulsating jam takes over. The second part of the suite is one long improvisation and of an intense atmospheric nature. Though the soundscapes cloud the sonic image, double bass and piano are able to wrestle themselves through the haze and establish a mystic pulse, reminiscent of late 60s / early 70s Miles.

Dhamarwan's chops as a jazzman profit from the more transparent sound production on certain tracks. Slightly provocative and highly intriguing in nature, his accompanying chord-voicings add an interesting texture to the already dense interplay at hand. In the same vein as his chord stabs, the solos tend to elevate conversations to a more sophisticated level and, in interplay with Nguyen, create powerful crescendos, especially prominent on "Samarkand."

Rumah Batu is an album that comprises many different facets of what jazz and its intermingling with elements of rock, world music and other styles can be and how smoothly the borders in-between—if in fact there are any—can be crossed. While the atmospheric nature of the different soundscapes and ornamenting elements create interesting textures throughout, one cannot help but wonder where Dharmawan's music might go, when confined to an even more reduced instrumentation of one sole four-or five-headed formation. Rumah Batu gives the impression, that this might be exactly where he is headed.

Track Listing: Rintak Rebana; Paris Barantai; Impenan; Janger; Rumah Batu Suite Part 1 - Kaili; Rumah Batu Suite Part 2 - Parjelanan; Samarkand; Selamatkan Orang Utan.

Personnel: Dwiki Dharmawan: acoustic piano; Nguyên Lê: electric guitar, soundscapes; Charles Benavent: bass guitar; Yaron Stavi: upright bass; Asaf Sirkis: drums; Sa'at Syah: suling flute and vocals (1-4, 7-8); Ade Rudiana: kendang percussion (1-4, 7-8); Dewi Gita: lead vocal (3); Teuku Hariansya: Rapa’I Acehnese percussions (1); Indra Maulana Keubitbit: Rapa’I Acehnese percussions (1); Nyoman Windha's Gamelan Jass Jegog: Balinese gamelan & percussions (4); Smit: vocals and LaLove traditional Sulawesi flute (6).

Title: Rumah Batu | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: MoonJune Records

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