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5 stars How could I ever expect that when I finally got to hear an Indonesian band it would be such an overwhelming musical experience? DISCUS was formed in 1996 and their music is as progressive and innovative as progressive rock can be. They incorporate many different genres into one. Here you can find elements from such different genres as Art-Rock, Blues, Canterbury, Classical, Jazz, Jazz-fusion, Jazz-rock, Progressive Rock and-god knows what. Any comparisons to other bands would probably only confuse you, so I won't try to. - The musician's virtuosity is more than evident, and besides the traditional rock instrumentation, they're also using 21-String Harpguitar, Balinese Rindik, Flute, Soprano, Alto & Tenor Saxophones, Clarinet & Bass Clarinet and Violin. - Maybe their music is a little bit too intricate for the average listener, but what the heck; they've got enough bands to listen to, so let us have DISCUS for ourselves. I only hope that they get the chance to be heard throughout the world. I can't find superlatives enough to describe it. Highly recommended!
Report this review (#28626)
Posted Thursday, March 4, 2004 | Review Permalink
Steve Hegede
4 stars I was fortunate to catch DISCUS live in Menlo Park (California) in 2000, and, although I knew nothing about them before that night, they were an impressive band to see. This 8-piece band consists of musicians with different musical backgrounds, but they are led by a guitarist/composer who loves progressive rock. DISCUS's music tends to mix prog, jazz, Indonesian pop, Gamelan, ZAPPA, swing, fusion, and even a bit of zeuhl to form a highly original, and diverse sound. These guys, for example, are not afraid of jumping from a progressive GAMELAN section straight into something influenced by the 1940s jazz scene. The jump from style to style is fascinating, and refreshing to hear. DISCUS's debut CD serves as a great introduction to each of the musician's background (almost similar in concept to YES's "Fragile"), but it isn't entirely progressive rock. The album begins and ends with two rather long prog compositions that mix Gamelan and local influences. Another track features smoking ZAPPA-esque fusion. But most of the other tracks tend to explore other genres while introducing the various musician's skills and favorite musical style. One track, for instance, explores swing, another track explores Indonesian pop, and another track explores modern classical. There is quite alot of variety that is sure to please music fans in general, but I recommend 1st to prog fans who are searching for something unique, and not completely in the prog rock category.

Report this review (#28627)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars good, but not that good. maybe it's too complicated for any first prog fans. seems like they want to mix every kind of genres (such as prog rock, prog met, fusion). one thing that made them still have their own style is the groovy Gamelan thing. but, this album still has power. the song "Violin Metaphysics" is great!! it absolutely will take you fly to the sky. for your consideration, maybe you should take a listen to their second album "...tot licht!". it's more focus and quite interesting!
Report this review (#28628)
Posted Monday, May 10, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This album deserves five stars but .

It's very tempting for me to give this album with a full five star rating considering many tracks that really blew me away the first time I heard it. Psst . because I'm an Indonesian and proud being a Javanese by ethnic, I'd better refrain myself giving this album with a full five star because some of you might think that I'm promoting band of my country. So, you see my position .it's tough. But, bear with me . I have a strong aim being an independent reviewer which sometimes is very hard to achieve as every one has their own personal tastes, preferences and nationality. So in this review, I'm trying to give a fair deal for all of you. Luckily, Hibou's description about DISCUS and also review by Greger have given very strong signal about how good DISCUS is. I believe that Hibou and Greger are not Indonesians. I even hard to believe that some people in my country do not appreciate this album really well with statement like: "Good but not that good". Come on . give me a break man! This album deserves minimum four stars! I put my neck on it .

Now . sit back and relax.. Be open mind and spin the CD and enjoy the music subtleties produced by this album. You will hear strange male chanting "Aaaaa .aaaa. aaaa" in ambient nuance as the CD starts off with "Lamentation & Fantasia Gamelantronique" (8:14). It continues with female chanting in Sundanese / Javanese accent "eaw eow .." followed with xylophone / gamelan sound in complex music arrangement but with great composition. This opening track is truly a masterpiece as it blends elements of gamelan Bali, Sundanese music sound through flute, jazz, rock with heavy guitar riffs, inventive drum work and avant-garde saxophone. Can you imagine that this song has full stream of styles representing Return To Forever, Frank Zappa, Kansas, Colosseum, Barbara Thompson's Pharanelia, Dream Theater, and ethnic music. But, this is not a derivative at all as all elements form together uniquely as a new kind of music I have never heard before. The sound of gamelan Bali at background combined with Sundanese flute is something that we, in Indonesia, have never it before.

The second track "For This Love" (6:18) is a purely jazz music with great voice line by female vocalist Nonnie and great guitar solo interlude. It's not truly prog but this song provides an excellent break after the full blast of energetic first track. Wanna know another greatck? Try third track "Doc's Tune"! It's a wonderfully crafted instrumental song in jazz rock fusion style reminiscent of Return To Forever or Al Di Meola. I can assure you that you will agree with me on how great this track is whenever you enjoy it by yourself. It starts with great keyboard work in punctuated style followed with relatively fast tempo music in jazzy style with a great combination of keyboard, guitar and saxophone. The drum sound provides jazz beats. The duet solo of sax and guitar in fast tempo is really cool.

I'm not a great fan of chamber music but the performance of the band in Condissonance (trio for violin, bass clarinet & 21-string Harpguitar)" (5:54) gives me no sign of getting bored. I even enjoy it even though it's a bit hard for my ears. I get used to it. "Dua Cermin (Two Mirrors)"(5:41) ( is an acceptable music with jazz and pop touches featuring duet in vocals by Nonnie and Iwan Hasan - the leader of the band, an alumnae of Berkley music school. It's not that prog but this track is very enjoyable. But hold on . the interlude part is really prog. "Wujudkan!" (4:39) is another medium- fast tempo track with duet vocals by Nonnie and Iwan Hasan. I like the voice quality of Iwan Hasan.

"Violin Metaphysics (music for violin & digital delay)" (5:40) is exploratory in nature - as the title implies. It reminds me to the work of David Cross solo album and King Crimson's "Island". If you listen to this album during midnight, you will get the full nuance of the music and you might like it or hate it. "Anugerah" (4:11) is another jazzy pop song featuring Nonnie's vocal. It provides good break for the album. The interlude part which features violin solo, sax and stunning guitar work is really an excellent part of this album.

The concluding track "Contrasts (incl. the traditional theme "Gambang Suling")" (12:57) is an epic with 6 parts including traditional song which is famous in Indonesia. The music composition is good - with rocking guitar at opening followed with Sundanese flute in avant-garde style performing an improvised version of Gambang Suling. The beauty of this composition is again on the perfect marriage between Sundanese and Balinese music that form unique music. Guitar work inserts in between music, sometime in metal fashion.

Overall, this album is not just good but it's at least "excellent" addition to any prog music collection. I like the varied music elements presented here and all elements are merged wonderfully in a cohesive music. I wtached their last concert in Jakarta, May 2005 and it was AWESOME! I highly recommend you to have this CD in your collection. Keep on proggin' ..!

Progressively yours - GW

The band is now touring Europe: Switzerland, Germany during the month of October 2005. You should be there in their concert. See with your own eyes and ears how this 8-piece band will amaze you!

Report this review (#49839)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Indonesian band Discus presented here four years before releasing their surprising and exceptional .tot licht-album already a quite remarkable and very good debut with some excellent tracks. But I can't write this withing putting a "but" and let me try to explain this. Maybe I did a mistake in listening to their second before this one or the reason is that I'm not favouring light and happy-sounding bar lounge jazz and I've to say I can't listen to pop tunes at all without getting alienated and unfortunately about one third of this disk contains some tracks sounding like that. The opener, "Doc's tune" and the final one are excellent and versatile Prog pieces offering a brilliant blend of driving jazz rock, complex symphonic Prog with influences by Gamelan music and some touch of Zappa and metal at the same time. Not really groundbreaking I would say and not that adventureous yet as on the follow-up but there isn't any question about the fact that this is very interesting music we get offered here. "Condissonance" and "Violin Metaphysics" are still very good tracks as well. The former one is a kind of classical ensemble music played on acoustic guitar, bass clarinet and violin which is at times crossing slightly the line into oddity bringing names like Gentle Giant or Gryphon into one's mind. I much prefer this one to the similar "Music 4.5 Players" of their second one I've to say. "Violin Metaphysics" then are quite interesting soundscapes played on violin. Still best one of the remaining tracks is "For This Love" which is not really Prog but rather soft and relaxed jazz with lovely female vocals (not really my favourite music style). "Dua Cermin", "Wujudkan!" and "Anugerah" are more or less jazzy Asia-pop songs in my view, the kind which is usually being played in Asian restaurants as background music. Certainly there are some more interesting sections thrown in but those few ones are too much diluted into this shallow pop mix and it's quite hard to resist for pressing the skip button.

As a summary I can say that this one was for sure a very good debut of a promising and unique band with highly talented musicians but not (yet) that great as its successor. Anyway I think it's an interesting additional purchase for everyone who owns already their second one. Not really essential I would say but I'd add an extra half star if possible!

Report this review (#106949)
Posted Wednesday, January 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Stunning debut for Hasan and Discus

Like Dieter, I come to the Discus debut after hearing their second album first and the result is something akin to riding the Merry-Go-Round after coming off the Corkscrew mega roller-coaster. That's not entirely true in that the debut does have plenty of fireworks measured against the standards of most bands, but compared to "tot licht!" it is a bit tamer. But despite the partially legitimate criticisms of reviewers here and elsewhere there is still much to enjoy on "1rst." In fact I like this album nearly as well as the second one even though it took some time to get to that conclusion as "tot licht!" leaves quite an impression.

This album is bookended by two ambitious and exciting modern prog treats, "Lamentation and Fantasia Gamelantronique" and "Contrasts" which together anchor a solid third of the album in raucous smoothies of shredding guitars, woodwinds, electronics, chants, and rhythms. They are absolutely going for broke every second and it is wild fun. "Doc's Tune" belongs in this group of material as well. Another chunk of the album is given to the "light jazz and pop" tunes that many complain about. There are four tracks in this group and they feature the usual superb instrumentation and Nonnie's delightful vocals. The charges that they are throwaways are not fair in my opinion because each track still features a nice proggy interlude in the middle with charged playing and solos on various instruments. Last are the two other gems that bump this up to 4 stars for me. "Condissonance" is an absolutely beautiful piece featuring violin and clarinet (I think) over the tastiest acoustic guitar playing I've heard in some time. The piece could have been subtitled "soundtrack for the trippy fish" adorning the album's cover because it works perfectly against images of underwater traffic and aquatic navel gazing. Then you get the stunning "Violin Metaphysics" which is a swirling, turbulent violin/electronica soundscape that pushed my Djam Karet buttons. The Discus sound is unique and accomplished on every level. After getting more intense by adding metallic elements to "tot licht!" I still believe their composition has not reached its peak. I would like to hear the band relax, pull back from the frantic chaos, resist the need to be quirky, and let flow just a bit more organic feel. A little less shredding and a little more instrumental breathing. I'm not suggesting they become Camel, but rather that I think a combination of their forward-looking vision with a bit more serenity might be the key.

Iwan Hasan reads his press and is acutely aware of what reviewers and others have said about the band. Reading interviews with him reveals an engaging, humble, and likable man who is not only one hell of a musician but also willing to admit that Discus was just learning to swim at this time. In January 2002 he spoke candidly of struggling to define the band and sharing the feedback he was hearing from Discus fans with GEPR's Nenad Kobal: ".we also feel that our first album might have too many different directions in it. We didn't feel so initially, because we just wrote it and did it without worrying about what kind of a band we were. But then we get feedback from listeners and we really pay attention to them. The difficult thing is that different people have different opinions, but in general, people seem to say if you're gonna do a light jazz tune, do it for another project and market it differently, even use a different band name. Don't make us confused. That's the light jazz, not jazz in general. That's an important distinction because jazz, of course, can mean a lot of things from standards to ballads to light pop jazz to modal jazz, bebop, fusion, experimental, avant garde free jazz, etc. The other one, Anugerah, which seems to be too light for some, I enjoy as being a very uplifting thing. Those two tracks are light jazz pop and there are 2 others that happen to sound like radio-commercial pop rock but have some irregularities in the middle. I have found jazz fans like the 2 jazz tracks, some casual radio style music listeners like the other 2, and those 2 types of listeners hate all the other stuff, especially like Lamentation and Fantasia Gamelantronique, which prog fans like. Among prog fans, there seem to be divided opinions between those 4 tracks. I guess it also depends on whether the prog fan in particular came to prog from a pop rock route or from a jazz route or just from nowhere - directly to prog. But the point is various people from the different camps seem to say the same thing: make your next album more cohesive, don't make it sound like two or more different bands playing on the same album I guess our general direction now seems to be combining all the diverse elements of our backgrounds but adding a symphonic / hard rock touch while exploring more traditional Indonesian elements..So maybe we are going to mix the gamelan/contempo-classical/fusion style, which of course automatically includes some jazz in there, with a symphonic/progressive/hard-rock touch and still do some chamber music. Other experimentation, such as the violin-and-digital delay piece we had on our first, will be highly encouraged. I don't know for sure, we're still writing. More than that we're trying to find our own sound." [from GEPR interview with Iwan Hasan, January 2002]

The Discus debut is not quite a perfect album but it is a very solid introduction to the band. I would recommend getting this before venturing into the more difficult "tot licht!" Easily recommended beyond the RIO-Avant genre fan base. Discus is a band that I believe have a true 5-star masterpiece waiting to emerge and they are one band that demands our attention in the future. For the adventurous listener Discus is not to be missed.

Report this review (#163277)
Posted Wednesday, March 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Not 'avant-garde' at all, but top drawer SYMPHONIC prog.

It took me a while to find this album, as it wasn't available through the usual channels, but to my relief it could be ordered simply and safely via the website of the company which released it in Europe (Mellow Records). It wasn't exactly cheap, but it is worth every penny!

Like several others who reviewed "1st" before me, I simply had to buy this album because I'd been so deeply impressed by Discus' second effort, TOT LICHT. There's hardly a trace here of the exhilerating epics which caused me to dub Discus one of the foremost prog bands of the new millenium, but don't worry, there's so much adventurous music I still find these players far superior to the likes of The Flower Kings or Porcupine Tree.

Right from the start Discus had a beguiling female lead vocalist in Nonnie, but on 1st she wasn't given the chance to scale the heights she would later reach on TOT LICHT. Here, she's given mainly conventional pop tunes to sing (usually sharing lead vocals with band leader Iwan Hassan), but every single one of those tunes is saved from mediocrity by superb instrumental solos (on electric guitar, keyboards, wind instruments or violin) by the various members of the band.

The album's true glories, however, lie in the (predominantly) instrumental suites which open and close it, and in 'Condissonance', a very lovely trio for violin, bass clarinet and 21 string harp guitar. The endlessly inventive suites will occasionally remind you of mid-1970s Zappa, Yes or Jethro Tull, of National Health, Return to Forever or Patrick Moraz' STORY OF I. They contain a similarly weird mixture of hard-rock riffing, lyrical sax/flute solos, sudden tempo changes, western classical influences and crazy jazz-rock, which is why there's really one label for this music, in my view: Symphonic Prog!

It is to their advantage that Discus are obviously inspired by the golden age of Prog without sounding derivative - which again distinguishes them from the likes of the Flower Kings. Their music is also considerably enriched by Indonesian influences. (Balinese percussion, gamelan-like synths, borrowed folk melodies etc.) I hope we'll be hearing much, much more from them in the future.

Report this review (#183560)
Posted Thursday, September 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Discus from Indonesia is for one reason or another listed in the RIO/Avant-Garde genre. Don't let that scare you. This album is not anywhere near that genre.

It is rare to listen to an album with so many feet in so many various genres. Within one hour, they cover jazz, rock, symphonic prog, heavy prog, canterbury, eclectic and folk. Not only dipping into these genres, but really getting a proper foothold in these genres. This makes this album a rare, really lush album. It is full of life and wonderment. It is a perfect warm summer-prog album, if such a genre has ever excisted. Yes, take this album out on your lawn and enjoy it when getting your suntan. Not only your skin will get warm. Your soul and your mood will get a healthy glow too.

In short; this album is a solid smorgasboard with everything from vegetables and fruits to chicken, fish and beef. The instruments are everything from nice female vocals via male vocals to electric guitars, tangents, bass, drums, flutes and various woodwinds. Discus feels like a big band orchestra from the 1940s where Glenn Miller was the king of swing. Discus is a return to that era.

This album is not particular subtle too. The music is pretty heavy with a lot of various instruments crammed into the sound. What comes at you comes at you in two hundred miles an hour. This is a big sound album in other words. That may cause some sensory overload for the listener... like it did to me. I did not know what to make out of this when I listened to it for the first time one year ago. Writing a review was postponed until today.

One year later, I appreciate this album a lot and I really enjoying it...... although it is raining outside. There are no killer tracks here. Neither does this album have any uninteresting or even dull moments. It is in short a true gem from a country not known for it's progressive rock or even music scene. I think this is an excellent album by all standards.

4 stars

Report this review (#444105)
Posted Sunday, May 8, 2011 | Review Permalink

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