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DISCUS

RIO/Avant-Prog • Indonesia


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Very tempting to describe this 8-piece unit as some sort of Indonesian MR. BUNGLE. Less frantic in terms of style, they don't have a singer as mad as Mike Patton but they do match the band in terms of virtuosity, eclecticism and heaving rocking. DISCUS' material is stunningly complex and varied, alternating between changing time signatures and calm, contemplative moments, sometimes in a matter of ten seconds. In addition to traditional rock instruments, they play violin, clarinet, bass clarinet, sax, flute and a variety of ethnic percussion instruments.

Both of their albums,"1st" and "...Tot Licht" (released in 1999 and 2003 respectively), are a veritable patchwork of jazz, fusion, Sundan traditional and Balinese music, contemporary classical and classical chamber, pop, pop jazz, prog rock, heavy metal and dissonant avant-garde. In short, the band tackles just about every imaginable genre that lies between PINK FLOYD and WEATHER REPORT. The vocals follow a similar pattern, featuring both male and female vocalizations that can be normal one minute and hysterical the next. This band truly defies all categories but given half chance, their material provides an intriguing, powerful, challenging and tremendously rewarding experience.

Highly recommended to the open-minded listener and to fans of extreme avant-garde.

: : : Lise (HIBOU), CANADA : : :

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...Tot Licht !...Tot Licht !
Import
Musea 2004
Audio CD$15.89
$67.25 (used)
1st1st
Import
Dark Matter Distribution 2006
Audio CD$59.99 (used)
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DISCUS discography


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DISCUS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.76 | 24 ratings
1st
1999
4.09 | 43 ratings
... tot licht
2003

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DISCUS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 1st by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.76 | 24 ratings

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1st
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

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

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 ... tot licht by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.09 | 43 ratings

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... tot licht
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Sleepernotes

5 stars This album is truly a masterpiece. many strange and odd sounds that make up a Simphony which I had never met in a essential masterpiece albums such as Yes, Genesis, king Crimson etc. These songs use a lot of ethnical parts Many leaps formed a very good idea. along the track, listeners will be invited to guess which ones will carry over in the accompaniment of songs.

From "manipulation system" and "anne" can make your soul of prog will wake up once again. At the end of the album with the track "Anne", I am very fascinated with the formation of harmonization that resembles other essential albums. At last, this album is an extremely influential album for me among prog albums that created during the last 20 years.

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 ... tot licht by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.09 | 43 ratings

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... tot licht
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by tmay102436

4 stars While maybe not as frantically enthusiastic as some of the previous reviewers - This is an amazing album! From RIO moves to quite delicate passages, to plain out and out hard rock, this album delivers what's expected and loved.

The virtuosity of the individual players is very impressive, and if maybe used a bit over-the-top, does not take away from the whole experience. The vocalist are very good, and the production is exquisite.

Isn't it wonderful to hear from Indonesia such a great progressive professional experience! I'm sure there's many more, and with this forum, and companies like Syn-Phonic Music, we can look forward to many more additions to the wonderful world of progressive music!

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 1st by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.76 | 24 ratings

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1st
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by fuxi
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 1st by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.76 | 24 ratings

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Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator 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.

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 ... tot licht by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.09 | 43 ratings

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... tot licht
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars First of all the art work is exceptional, very beautiful. As others have mentioned the music is all over the place.They switch gears so quickly and often that at times my head is spinning. This is a very talented group of musicians who are very much into progressive music themselves, and seem to want to cover every genre there is, so as to make everyone happy. At least it seems that way. I was reminded of SLEEPYTIME GORILLA MUSEUM as well as Neal Morse's solo work, that's how diverse this record is.They thank Rick Wakeman in the liner notes who has been an encouragement to them.

The album begins with "System Manipulation" a song that starts off with some clapping and vocal melodies before we get the complex instrumental work. Female vocals arrive after 2 minutes with male vocals to follow. They contrast heavy passages with the lighter ones (with female vocals) the rest of the way. "Breathe" opens with heavy breathing and lyrics that talk about the subject of breathing in the air. Don't be afraid to care. Sorry wrong band. He sings "We are all breathing..." and then laughs.This song is led by the drums, and then led by the guitar before a dark and eerie passage 3 1/2 minutes in. Violin, sax, bass, percussion and drums lead the rest of the way. "P.E.S.A.N." is a pleasant song with male and female vocals singing gently together in their native language.

"Verso Kartini-Door Duisternis Tot Licht !" again contrasts the heavy and light passages so well. A flute solo comes in as heaviness comes and goes. Vocal melodies before a good guitar solo 13 1/2 minutes in followed by more flute. "Music For 5 Players" is an instrumental that recalls some of the chamber rock i have heard. "Anne" is the highlight for me on this album. So many styles of music are touched upon. So many tempo and mood shifts on this one.The guitarist peels off some solos early, while we get a classical flavour 4 minutes in. This is followed by a sax solo before we get a symphonic melody with piano and vocals. Some brief RUSH-like synths before 10 1/2 minutes. Some ripping guitar 13 minutes in. The symphonic passage returns 16 minutes in. It's the symphonic passages on this song that reminds me of Neal Morse.

If you want to listen to something completely different, that is played incredibly well check out this amazing band. For me it's a little too all over the place.

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 ... tot licht by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.09 | 43 ratings

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... tot licht
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by fuxi
Prog Reviewer

5 stars QUITE POSSIBLY THE MOST AMAZING PROG ALBUM OF THE PAST TWENTY YEARS!

From time to time voices go up telling you that nothing new ever happens in prog, and that recent bands just regurgitate styles from the past. Well, folks, if that's what YOU believe, make way for Discus - they'll simply take your breath away. You can't imagine how I've longed to find a band like this. They are far more exciting than Anekdoten or Porcupine Tree, and far more sophisticated than the Flower Kings or the Tangent. Please don't be alarmed by the label "RIO/Avant-prog", because Discus are incredibly listenable; they're not trying to annoy you, but oh boy will they excite you!

It's true their music is dense and intricate, in the same way as the best efforts of Gentle Giant, Zappa and National Health are. To a mixture of jazz-rock, folk-rock, heavy metal and symphonic prog, they add (very lively) traditional Indonesian styles. It's an incredibly potent mix - even more so because the band includes a female vocalist who will send shivers down your spine. You thought ecstatic prog which tries to take you to a new level of being (pardon the cliche, but how shall I put this?) was OUT? Think again. Discus reach heights which even Jon A. and Peter G. in their heyday rarely reached. (Yes, we're actually talking about THAT level of excitement.) They even include a fascinating piece of contemporary classical chamber music, featuring some fabulous 21-string harpguitar. It all makes me wonder where they will go next. TOT LICHT was recorded more than five years ago - can we have a new album, please?

A few bits of criticism. The heavy-metal growling on "System Manipulation" and "Breathe" may put some listeners off (especially since the English lyrics are silly) but they're just a single strand in an astonishingly intricate musical pattern. In their liner notes, the band as a whole thank God Almighty and a long list of people, after which every single member of the band goes on to do the same. This takes up a lot of space, which might have been more usefully spent explaining what the extraordinarily beautiful "Verso Kartini" (more than twelve minutes long) is about. "Verso Kartini" is sung in Indonesian, which sounds magical, but I honestly hope its lyrics make more sense than the album's pièce de resistance, the nineteen-minute (English-language) "Anne". Come on, Discus, if you're really going to sing in English, PLEASE have a little chat with a native speaker first... "Anne" sounds a little too exuberant at times, and is obviously a celebration of Anne Frank's spirit - a spirit which remained courageous, even when Anne had to to go into hiding. So far, so good, but I'm puzzled by the song's subdivisions. After 'War Dance' and 'Death in Agony', the final section is entitled 'Revelation: the spirit speaks!' Now, Anne Frank certainly died a horrifying death in Bergen-Belsen; if her spirit could speak, surely it wouldn't sound triumphant? Wouldn't it say something like: 'Weep for me, and for the millions of innocents who were murdered just like me"?

I hope I don't sound too negative; if I offered some criticism, it's because I'm convinced that Discus deserve to be taken very seriously. I'm a prog lover of the old guard; I'm writing these words on my 47th birthday, and I grew up with the classic 1970s bands. Since I started rediscovering prog (around the year 2000) I haven't found a single band as satisfying as Discus, apart from Kenso, one of my favourite prog-fusion bands. What impresses me even more, is that Discus have named this album after the book DOOR DUISTERNIS TOT LICHT ("Through darkness to light"), originally written in Dutch by R.A. Kartini, who seems to be a national heroine in Indonesia. Neither Focus, nor Ayreon, nor any other major Dutch bands have given any of their albums a proper Dutch title. If you consider how the Dutch once exploited Indonesia, Discus' choice is a superb example of what Salman Rushdie called "The Empire writes back", and as a native speaker of Dutch (though not a Dutch national) I feel grateful. So, once more: congratulations to Discus, and do keep progging!

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 ... tot licht by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.09 | 43 ratings

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... tot licht
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kazansky

4 stars This is the first prog album that I ever heard from and Indonesian band actually, and I’m quite surprised that there’re actually such a band who capable to make something this excellent from my country! The band combines various elements in their music. But more importantly they still mix traditional Indonesian folk in it, which is good because it gives a unique addition to their sounds.

Now, let’s go through the tracks.

‘System Manipulation’: Great opening track, there’re various styles here right from the beginning. Jazz, metal, and some Indonesian traditional music sounds blend very nicely throughout the song. The keyboard work here is really great, and probably among the strongest elements of this song.

“Breathe”: The first time I heard this song, I thought to myself: ‘What’s this, some kind of a theme song for an evil emperor?’ Really, I mean, listen to the opening part of this song. Heavy and raw vocals combined with some funky metal music plus an evil laughter, who wouldn’t get that kind of impression? Personally I find that part is actually a bit annoying, and the lyrics just make it worse. But other than that, the rest of the track itself is alright. There’re quite nice mix, mostly jazz and metal here. However, the vocal seems to be stretched out a bit (and some are quite annoying) in a few parts.

‘P.E.S.A.N’ (or MESSAGE in English) is actually a nice ballad song, with some pleasant and calming melody that provides a bit of break from the previous 2 tracks. The vocals, however doesn’t work that well with the music. I think this song is better played instrumentally, though it still enjoyable as it is.

‘Verso Kartini – Door Duisternis Tot Licht!’ is personally my favorite track from the album. The song is about R.A. Kartini, the Indonesian women hero who fought for women’s right during the old times. The opening part of this song gives the traditional atmosphere to the song, which soon goes heavier but with some nice jazzy felling on it. The styles often changes, as the song goes heavier for a while and then turn into a soft traditional-like melody. The composition of this song is excellent, as well as the music itself. Other highlights from this song are likely goes to the guitar and the flute, as they’re quite dominating in some parts. Awesome track!

‘Music for 5 Players’: This is actually a rather interesting track. The problem is on its length. Seriously, what’s the point of playing instruments in solo for over 7 minutes? Man, it’s just too long! If it’s the musician’s right to make the song then we, the listeners, have the right to criticize it! But I think I wouldn’t really mind if this track is going just for about 1-2 minutes as a transition between the other songs.

‘Anne’: This track has a nice opening melody, which then developed into a more complex song. After gone through the instrumental play, you’ll hear voices that you’ll usually hear at the traditional Balinese dance, Kecak, as a short interlude which is quite interesting. However, the Jazzy sax play that follows up after that sounds a bit abrupt though it actually won’t ruin the songs. Around the middle of the song, the music becomes softer with the piano and female singing. The violin that could be heard in some part of the song make this track a bit symphonic prog-like. This song has a great ending, with the strong female singing and some orchestrations.

Some of the tracks here are excellent and really a stand out of the album, such as ‘Verso Kartini…’ and ‘Anne’, though there’re also a few tracks that don’t work too well. The traditional Indonesian folk which mostly provided by the gamelan (traditional Javanese NOT Japanese instrument), flute, and acoustic guitar add the extra highlight of the album, as it creates such a unique sound. Apart from the tracks, criticism also goes for the lyrics. IMO the lyrics aren’t really good, especially in some parts of the tracks, yes even with the English lyrics!

Overall, this is a great album. Give it a few more listening if it (and probably it’s likely) didn’t catch you on the first chance, and let’s hope we will hear even more great Indonesian bands!

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 ... tot licht by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 2003
4.09 | 43 ratings

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... tot licht
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Finnforest
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Avant Prog-Metal/Jazz and more!

This is certainly one of the strangest discs I've ever heard and it took me a very long time to assimilate. Discus is an Indonesian band that mix heavy-metal, avant-garde, jazz, and traditional chants into something for which the word "unique" barely scratches the surface. Plan on a few dozen spins of this title before you get what's going on, after your first spin you'll be laughing and saying WTF was that?

"System Manipulation" and "breathe" mix speed/death metal with breezy jazz and other oddities to produce the craziest part of the album and things change constantly. Don't like what you hear? Wait 10 seconds and it'll change. "PESAN" shifts gears and gives us acoustic guitars, strings, woodwinds, and lovely harmonies. Definitely a needed respite after the sonic assault of the first two songs. "Verso Kartini" almost reminds me of "Sound Chaser" from Relayer and is an excellent example of Discus' instrumental prowess. But what puts "tot licht!" over the top is the epic closer "Anne" clocking in at 20 minutes and worth every second. Inspired by the diary of Anne Frank this is Discus going for broke. Very ambitious to say the least. While I can hear influences from other bands here Discus is very original and truly progressive in an era where so many new albums seem to retread past glories in one way or another.

This is a band capable of a masterpiece and this album has many flashes of brilliance. There are a few minor problems. Some of the lyrics seem a bit juvenile, some of the male vocals are beyond annoying, and it could be argued that the quirkiness factor is overplayed to the detriment of the overall vision. Still this album is one hell of a ride and highly recommended for fans of heavy metal, jazz, and avant-garde. It takes a long time to reward you but those albums tend to have more substance in the long run. I can't wait to hear their next venture!

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 1st by DISCUS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.76 | 24 ratings

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1st
Discus RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by hdfisch
Prog Reviewer

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!

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