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Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Feel like you've heard it all, nothing new on the horizon, then it's time to check out Indonesian jazz fusion from Jakarta via a brilliant five piece group called Simak Dialog. Analog keyboards, guitar, bass and duo Sundanese kendang drummers make up this ensemble that sounds like jazz fusion from a small village, not a downtown bar, but is still modern and sophisticated nonetheless. Listening to this CD conjures up a plethora of possible influences including Chick Corea, Alan Holdsworth, Gabor Szabo, Soft Machine, Herbie Mann, Sun Ra, Santana, Sun City Girls and early Weather Report; these are just some of the artists that come to mind as this band effortlessly combines multiple styles into every song.

Probably the most striking element to this band, especially for being a fairly high energy fusion band at times, is the total lack of a jazz or rock trap set. Instead, you get the two percussionists playing the kendang which is constructed somewhat similar to a conga drum and has a similar sound. The lack of drum set gives this band an earthy traditional sound that really sets them apart. I also enjoy the total lack of digital instrumentation and fake physical modeling whatever. Keyboardist Riza Arshad plays a real Fender Rhodes, as well as an acoustic piano and occasional very tasteful and subtle analog synthesizer. Likewise, guitarist Tohpati keeps it real with simple electric and acoustic guitars with a minimum of sound processing.

The duo kendang drummers constantly define Simak Dialog's sound, but on top of that the others take the band into fairly aggressive 70s styled fusion, as well as tight rhythmic Indonesian minimalism, quiet spacy moments and groovy acoustic gypsy jazz. Very little post production goes into these songs, but the band keeps the sound textures interesting, especially Arshad with his Oberheim synth that adds a distinctly Asian metallic buzzing drone in economical doses. Great effort from a band that is taking jazz fusion to new and exciting places.

Report this review (#238738)
Posted Friday, September 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars simakDialog's Demi Masa, one of the best releases of 2009, rejuvenates fusion music and takes it to an entirely new level. The soloists are extraordinarily good on this combination of guitars, electric bass guitar, and keyboards with Indonesian kedang percussion, assisted by percussionist/vocalist Emy Tata, singer Mian Tiara and soundscapist Dave Lumenta?but more on this later.

The remarkable thing about the group's percussion team is how tight and well-integrated it is within simakDialog's sound. It sets up an underpinning closer to a drum kit than standard percussion. The kedang?along with toys and other items?cushion and push the other instruments rather than punctuating the sound, which is more often the case.

Although there are certain similarities to mid-'70s jazz-fusion, simakDialog's unorthodox rhythm section subverts the analogy, and the group shows a greater affinity to some of the more tasteful manifestations of jazz-rock, including Weather Report and Return to Forever. But keyboardist Riza Arshad and guitarist Tohpati Aryo Hutomo (aka Tohpati) have a more interesting pedigree, whether or not the band realizes it. There are marked similarities to bands like British Canterbury bands Hatfield and the North and National Health, especially in simakDialog's use of guitar lines that rely more on invention than flash. The keyboards, in all their analog glory, demonstrate a unique warmth and harmonic integrity. While by no means identical to the work of Hatfield/National Health's Phil Miller and Dave Stewart, there's a similar stress on development of individual voices.

Equally, the group is unafraid to incorporate dissonance. Tohpati, in particular, knows when to throw in bloodcurdling electric clusters as needed to enhance the mood, and Arshad sets up some wonderfully sensitive electric piano accompaniment, as well as being a fine soloist. Bassist Adhitya Pratama knows how to lay a foundation, but sets the band up for solos that have an orientation more aligned with progressive rock than jazz-rock. The compositions are really compositions, and not simply riff generators.

simakDialog has real energy and chops and should go very far. Demi Masa is a distinct improvement over Patahan (MoonJune, 2007), an album that nevertheless proved simakDialog to already be an exceptional group.

Track listing: Salilana Pertama (Forever, Part 1); Salilana Kedua (Forever, Part 2); Tak Jauh Pertama (Not So Far, Part 1); Tak Jauh Kedua (Not So Far, Part 2); Trah Lor - Laras (Northern People - Voices); Trah Lor -Rupa (Northern People - Faces); Trah Lor - Tapak (Northern People - Prints); Karuhun (To Elders); Disapih (Separate Away).

Personnel: Riza Arshad: Fender Rhodes electric piano, Yamaha acoustic grand piano, Oberheim OBX analog synth; Tohpati: electric and acoustic guitar; Adhithya Pratama: bass guitar; Endang Ramdan: lead Sundanese kendang percussion, tambourine, claps, toys, vocals; Erlan Suwardana: Sundanese kendang percussion, claps, toys, vocals; Emy Tata: Sundanese kendang percussion, claps and vocals (2); Mian Tiara: vocals (7); Dave Lumenta: soundscapes (8).

Report this review (#282861)
Posted Friday, May 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars As most people here know, I'm no a particular fan of Jazz/Fusion, but about a couple months ago I listened "Tohpati Ethnomission" and was really impressed with the sound of this Indonesian band and the way they combine the experimental jazz essence and the ethnic influences of their country, so when I received a package from "Moonjune Records" containing two releases by "SIMAK DIALOG" from Indonesia with "Tohpati" in the guitars, decided to play this albums before anything else, and wasn't disappointed at all, so here I am trying to review "Demi Masa"

Normally people identify the word fusion with Jazz, as if this terms were the two sides of the same coin, but that's not accurate, Fusion really means the blend of different styles and genres into a new and original final product, and if there is a band that really fuses genres, sounds, styles and even musical flavours it's SIMAK DIALOG.

As in the case of TOHPATI ETHNOMISSION is clear that the band gives great importance to their ethnic inheritance, this becomes obvious when you notice they don't use traditional drums, replacing them with "Sundanese Kendang Percussion", but SIMAK DIALOG also privilege the classical Progressive Jazz approach with clear MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA influence,mainly in Tohpati's guitar and Riza Arshad's wonderful performance in the electric piano.

I won't even try to make a song by song review, not only because the richness of the blend, but also because not being a Jazz expert, would hardly make justice to what is happening here, so I feel more comfortable talking about my favourite tracks.

The first song that really caught my attention is "Salilana Kedua" (Forever Part II), in which the band places the emphasis in the ethnic/folk aspect of their music, the use of Indonesian percussion ad the dramatic choirs at the beginning of the song, blended with the exquisite guitar of "Tohapati" plus the mysterious beauty and the oriental sound gave me goosebumps. But that's not all, around the fifth minute and after a hand clapping section, the music morphs into some form of sophisticate jazz with splendid keyboards....Just impressive.

The melancholic "Tak Jauh Pertana" (Not so Far Part I) is also a high point of the album, the more traditional intro in the vein of "MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA" announces a different approach, but when we are talking about SIMAK DIALOG, it's hard to guess what is coming next, because they seem to improvise blending the different sounds and influences in their repertoire, again an amazing track.

The "Trah Lor" (Northern People ) trilogy [Laras (Voices), Rupah (Faces) and Tapak (Prints) ] is simply outstanding, but my favourite of the three is the first one "Trah Lor - Laras" where "Riza Arshad" plays an outstanding piano mixture of Jazz and Classical music with soft percussion enhancing the sound, simply delightful.

Last but not least, I must mention the 13:16 minutes epic "Disapih"(Being Away), a solid demonstration of what Progressive Jazz means, being that very few bands can make so many radical changes without being jamming, and if we add the are extremely complex keyboards - guitar interplay plus the solid rhythm section with the bassist Adhithya Pratama" in the lead, we have a breathtaking masterpiece that flows with energy and coherence from start to end.

It's hard for a member of the Symphonic Prog Team in Prog Archives like me, to rate a Jazz- Fusion album, being that it's a completely different style of music to what I listen in daily bases, but I would need to be deaf not to notice the brilliant performance and the touch of the genius in the composition, so with extreme confidence I will rate "Demi Masa" with four solid stars, being evident that we are before an extremely good album that any lover of great music should have.

Report this review (#308157)
Posted Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars ProgArchives has some really strange albums & bands in it's database. Albums that cannot be labeled in any way. This album is on this exclusive list.

Eclectic is probably the right word. Fusion too is suitable, although fusion = a mix of two styles. Demi Masa is not. Demi Masa is a mix of a lot of styles. From eclectic music to world music to avant-garde to jazz to fusion to raga prog. This album has everything.

Most of all, this album has been made by a group of musicians from Indonesia who has fused their heritage with western type jazz. The type of jazz from New York and New Orleans. Add the local Indonesian flavour and the result is Demi Masa.

The result is a multi faced album with local type percussions and Chick Corea like improvisations on piano. The album also sometimes feels like Mahavishnu Orchestra meets Indonesia. In short; this album is both jazz with local flavour and fusion with local flavour.

The quality is good to great throughout, although not everything is captivating great. Simak Dialog is undoubted great musicians with a great vision and very much needed in the scene. Their take on jazz and fusion is very refreshing and renewing in this scene. Not everything here is great, but it is still an album well worth checking out. Under considerable doubts, it is a four star album for me and one album I will spend some decades on.

4 stars

Report this review (#323616)
Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2010 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Crossover Prog Team
4 stars To be honest, I'm not as au fait with Indonesian music as maybe I should be based on the evidence of this. It is worth listing the musicians and their instruments as it may just give an idea of what they are doing. The band was formed in Jakarta in 1993 by Riza Arshad (electric piano, acoustic grand piano, synths), and he is joined by Tohpati (electric and acoustic guitar), Adhithya Pratama (bass), Endang Ramdan (lead Sundanese kendang percussion, tambourine, claps, toys, vocals) and Erlan Suwardana (Sundanese kendang percussion, claps, toys, vocals) with a few guests. I have been listening much more to jazz in recent years and the breadth and passion of this album is just breathtaking. At times it is very melodic, with either the keys or guitar being the lead, yet at others it is much more 'free'.

This could never be considered background music as it demands close attention to what is going on. Of course a major part of this music is the percussion which provides a very different flavour to that from many jazz albums. Tohpati provides some stunning guitar, but it is the way that he combines with Riza that is the highlight. Take "Tak Jauh Pertama" for example where Riza provides most of the melodic lead with fairly simple chords, but what makes the song work is the note density and sheer bravado playing of Tohpati. At times his guitarwork reminds me of John McLaughlin, and if I was to pick just one act to compare Simak Dialog with it would be when McLaughlin and Carols Santana combined together for a few albums but it would be justifiable to mention Pat Metheny or Return To Forever, yet none of these tags do this justice.

If you enjoy jazz and fusion then this is an essential purchase.

Report this review (#807042)
Posted Saturday, August 18, 2012 | Review Permalink

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