Iconic keyboardist Dwiki Dharmawan returns with his fantastic new 2018 album “Rumah Batu” while still riding the momentum of his critically acclaimed 2016 release, “Pasar Klewer,” which has been awarded a 5-star review by both Downbeat and All About Jazz. MoonJune Records has once again offered the keyboardist, composer and producer’s release as a high resolution stereo download from their BandCamp page, along with a CD edition. Now let’s dive into this extensive jazz influenced and culturally rich album from this Indonesian maestro.
For those who have been following recent releases from Moonjune, it is worthy to note that “Rumah Batu” means “the stone house” in Indonesian Bahasa language. Clearly a thread has been sown among the artists on the roster, and each release continues to be packed with incredibly vibrant music that I simply classify as Fusion, but goes way beyond this simplistic genre definition, almost defying categorization.
Dharmawan’s acoustic piano opens the album on the 10minute Rintak Rebana piece which evolves from a ethnic flute driven intro into a full out jazz fusion piece introducing all the heavy weights in the band. The percussion work by Ade Rudiana accented by the drum work of Asaf Sirkis continues to tie this opening track into the world music genre with an open sound that resiliently fills the space across the stereo image. Keyboards float seamlessly with a very natural sound between the left and right channels while guitar and flute parts widely spread with ambience that adds depth to the mix. The piece takes on a very fusion sound with the electric guitar lead from Nguyên Lê’s that ravishes this piece, somewhat reminiscent of Ethridge’s work with Soft Machine. The sizzle and bite of the guitars punches through while the band is balanced across the remainder of the spectrum.
Sonically “Impenan” is absolutely impressive with immense clarity that features guests Sa'at Syah playing the suling flute plus adding vocals, Ade Rudiana pattering out a beat on kendang percussion, and Dewi Gita layering in incredible lead vocals. The flute wistfully melodizes from the left channel with a distinct vividness that easily captures the overtones and subtle breath of the Syah. Spreading across the stereo image, Rudiana’s percussive beats are impressively open and wonderfully clear wherein each nuance of the hand striking the kendang is very transparent. Yet, it is Gita’s vocal work that sends this track soaring as she moves up the octaves with such ease, all while recorded with perfection by engineer Jesus Rovira Costas at La Casa Murada studio in Banyeres del Penédes, Catalunya, Spain.
Rumah Batu does not settle into one style, rather it explores the outer boundaries of many, blending elements from across the globe, all while tying its self to Dharmawan’s homeland of Indonesia. Constantly in search of new musical ground the basis for much of his music stems from the ancient gamelan tonal system, which forms the traditional music of Sunda, Bali, and Java.
Apparently, there are no boundaries for Rumah Batu as evidenced by the two-part title track that spans over 26 minutes and crosses the entire galaxy. Mixing engineer Mark Wingfield, an incredible musician himself, has splendidly blended all of the elements, creating a very natural and musical feel. Bass parts reach deeply to their lows without overshadowing the tingle of the cymbals, wherein each strike details the stick and overtones. The soundscapes forged by the guitar warmly fill the room, adding a layer of color that grounds the frenetic pace as the piece elevates its pace and dynamics. Throughout the entire album it has been Dharmawan’s masterful piano work that moves the eight songs on Rumah Batu seamlessly across the various genres, encapsulated by an eastern music flair. From the subtle touch of each key on the piano to the heaviest strike, each nuance has been fantastically reproduced on this fine 88.2kHz / 24-bit stereo high resolution recording. Producers Dwiki Dharmawan and Leonardo Pavkovic should be extremely proud of this release.
Absolutely recommended for high resolution enthusiasts, an essential album for fans of fusion and world music. Also, a must have for anyone who follows MoonJune records releases.