Favored Nations / MoonJune 2016

Indonesian guitar magus creates a quiet storm in order to find a method to the madness of life.



Relentlessly pushing envelop in various directions in the last few years, Dewa Budjana has been charting an engaging trajectory, style-wise. If "Hasta Karma" suggested he was gravitating towards Western fusion, its successor bursts, in slow motion, with exotic colors from the beginning but always keeps them in check to avoid blinding the listener. This approach is a key to balancing the grandiose glimmer of tapestries such as the frustratingly short title track and the Guthrie Govan-abetted “Suniakala” – which are elevated by Czech Symphony Orchestra – with intimate sparkle of “Dear Yulman” or a spaced-out bossa nova “Uncle Jack” where Jack DeJohnette’s piano plays a prominent role, while opener “Dancing Tears” is both delicately textured and bombastic in its acoustic-to-electric six-string portent and intricate vocal spells.

All of it extremely accessible, the peak of deceptive simplicity is “Pancaroba” whose memorable melody marries echoes of dangdut to sharp attack and wild improvisation, yet some pieces boil down to more “regular” jazz-rock tropes as suggested in “Solas PM,” especially when Gary Husband’s tickling percussion is expanded with his equally gracious solo on ivories. What’s boiling is naturally hot, and Tony Levin’s bass, getting to the fore in the pastoral, if vibrant, heat of “Dedariku” and in several other spots that require a thunderstorm – including a cover of STICK MEN’s “Crack In The Sky” – is a cooling presence throughout, making the nocturnal gloss of “Manhattan Temple” – a musical definition of Dewa’s world – so comfortable.

There’s a great element of spontaneity to this record, laid down during a couple of sessions with most of the performers locked into each other’s groove, and the result of it all is a sublime vortex of wonders that will be almost impossible to surpass. But it’s Budjana, and his trajectory is unpredictable enough to find a way up even from the top of a highest mountain.


January 23, 2017

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