Yudhistira Agato (The Jakarta Post)
Mon 11 April 2022
From returning veteran bands to younger artists taking risks and evolving their sound, March has no shortage of Indonesian musical talent.
From folk music laden with social satire, synth-rock inspired by verses from the Koran to Indonesian pop hits of the 90s, here are some new tracks to listen to this month.
Jason Ranti – ‘Sabda Tiang Listrik’
After a three-year absence, Jakarta singer-songwriter Jason Ranti is back with a new album, and it’s obvious he hasn’t missed a beat. “Sabda Tiang Listrik” (Order of the Electric Pole) is a classic folk tune in the vein of Iwan Fals or early Bob Dylan, with Jason accompanied only by acoustic guitar – and a harmonica solo! Full of humorous political and social satire and witty references to Indonesian pop culture, “Sabda Tiang Listrik” is a fun reminder to not be pretentious, because there is always someone better. Look no further than the opening verse, which in Indonesian says, “Hey people / don’t be cocky if you can / remember that above the sky / there’s Mr. Luhut / and above Luhut / there is his wife.” (Yes, that’s a reference to Luhur Binsar Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s current minister in charge of coordinating maritime affairs and investment).
Girl and Her Bad Mood – ‘Fallingout’
Released by Haum Entertainment, Malang’s Girl and Her Bad Mood’s new single “Fallingout” has all the elements of a good pop song: it’s sweet, full of catchy melodies and doesn’t overstay its welcome. But despite its upbeat nature, the guitar tune is unmistakably wistful, as singer Jane Maura sings about the passionate feelings young romance brings, while lamenting the moment the relationship is over. Those looking for indie rock that brings out “the feels”, check out this one.
Pamungkas – ‘Trust Me With This (Mom)’
On “Trust Me With This (Mama)”, one of the most popular Indonesian artists of recent years, Pamungkas, leaves his piano and his usual big production and opts for a more intimate acoustic guitar number, which sometimes sounds the limit of Americana, if not for the funk-blues guitar solo à la John Mayer. Surprisingly, it works well with Pamungkas’ introspective delivery as he asks for his mother’s blessing to pursue his dreams (“I’m ready for the big game now / Think it’s time for the real world now”) before to come back to her (“Trust me with that / I know I’d give you the moon”).
Different direction: Pamungkas leaves his piano and his usual big production for a more intimate acoustic guitar number that sometimes sounds borderline Americana. (Instagram/Pamungkas) (Instagram/Pamungkas)
Rekah – ‘Kereta Terakhir Dari Palmerah’
The repetitive nature of the commuter routine can feel oppressive, especially if it doesn’t leave you time for anything else. Post-hardcore/screamo band Rekah addresses this issue in “Kereta Terakhir Dari Palmerah” (The Last Train from Palmerah), while guest singer Areispine Dymussaga Miraviori laments in Indonesian the plight of office workers “There is no time to be reckless / life consumed by delays / when can I go home?”. Musically, on “Kereta Terakhir Dari Palmerah,” Rekah eschews his heavier sound for a more approachable dream pop approach, with the song featuring more clean vocals than screams.
Everyday Life: Post-hardcore/screamo band Rekah talks about the repressive nature of the routine of daily commutes. (Courtesy of Rekah) (Courtesy of Rekah/Courtesy of Rekah)
Endo — ‘Lontaire’
Half of Bandung hip-hop duo Juggermouth, Luo Endo has just released his first 90s rap-inspired solo single titled “Lontar” (Eject). Written by Herry “Ucok” Sutresna of iconic band Homicide and Bars of Death, “Lontar” is a more subdued affair compared to Juggermouth’s more direct delivery. However, that’s not to say the piece doesn’t bite, as Endo’s swaggering affair draws scathing lines about the country’s extreme religious fanaticism (“Taking a loan for many in heaven for the price of figure fanaticism / with the militancy of a full-fledged K-pop army”) and those with ignorant attitudes (“Fiery like a former dogma-drunk thug / arrogant like New Order accomplices”).
Rahara – ‘Bilamana’
A throwback to Indonesian hits of the 90s and 2000s, “Bilamana” (When) captures the greatest tropes of the era: straightforward pop music with a monstrously catchy karaoke-worthy chorus that sticks in your head. Inspired by stories of difficult long-distance relationships during the pandemic, Rahara’s “Bilamana” is a soundtrack for those who love ballads and crave a song they can sing along to their parents.
Mantra Vutura – ‘Tabir’
“Tabir” (score or separator) marks a new direction for Jakarta-based electronic duo Mantra Vutura. Previously more at home in instrumental dance numbers, in “Tabir”, Mantra Vutura offers a synth-rock number, with full vocals with pop and jazz-fusion elements. Influenced by Quran Al-Baqarah verse: 30. “Tabir” has the duet posing the question of old age to God about the nature of man and why bad things happen in the world.
Inspiration: Mantra Vutura delivers a synth rock track influenced by Quran verse Al-Baqarah 30. (Courtesy of Mantra Vutura) (Courtesy of Mantra Vutura/Courtesy of Mantra Vutura)
Bedroom – ‘tired eyes’
Mostly in their mid to late twenties, indie-pop band Bedchamber dread the thought of growing old and spending their youth working overtime night after night without actually going anywhere. As a result, on “Tired Eyes,” the indie-pop quartet sounds a bit darker, with a more prominent post-punk sound thanks to its thick, overdriven bass, dissonant, edgy guitar and a bit of synth. The jangly guitars and soaring melodies are still there, but the band wants to show they can rock too.
Evil — ‘Rosa’
Two decades after their debut, Jakarta-based cinematic pop group Sore are still not out of juice. On “Rosa,” a new single from his upcoming fourth album, Sore delivers an upbeat, groovy pop number that showcases his Latin American-inspired drumming without sacrificing melodies. An anagram of the band’s name, “Rosa” recounts the band’s struggle to put on a happy face in front of the audience despite being tired and broken.