Even in as impressive a roster of talent as can be found on MoonJune Records, some artists stand out more than others. For me, Indonesian keyboard player Dwiki Dharmawan is one of these. Increasingly improbably, every new release from Dwiki is not just more enjoyable and impressive than the last, but almost exponentially so. This may well sound a little hyperbolic, but it’s hard for me not to turn to exaggeration when I continue to be surprised when yet again Dwiki follows an impressive album with something even more impressive again. In actual fact, while there is more than a year between Hari Ketiga and the previous album, Rumah Batu, they were more or less recorded back to back over three days in May 2017. This sequel of sorts has been long awaited, because MoonJune Maestro, Leonardo Pavkovic stated early on that the music recorded in La Casa Murada (in Indonesian, Rumah Batu) on the third day (in Indonesian, Hari Ketiga), on which only Dwiki and drummer extraordinaire Asaf Sirkis remained from the previous two days, would make a fine album. Joining Dwiki and Asaf on this Third Day are renowned Touch guitarist Markus Reuter (who seems almost omnipresent in this year’s MoonJune offerings), and vocalist Boris Savoldelli.
Hari Ketiga is worth it for either of the first two (of three) suites on the first disc alone – both of which run at around half an hour long, which is longer than some albums that have been released this year. Act one, The Earth, also serves as a convenient (or perhaps lazy) way to review the album, as if you like this track you’ll like the album as a whole, and if you don’t – well, you probably won’t. Almost everything that is great and wonderful about Hari Ketiga can be found here on this first track. Great cacophonies of improvised sound, in layer upon layer of spacey sound and electronic effects, with Boris’s unconventional and otherworldly vocals floating over the top, and Dwiki’s tinkling of the ivories centring the whole composition, and seemingly providing the only Earthly sound. His playing on this track is absolutely amazing, not just for his talent, but for how impactful it is by how it appears in the mix. Throughout the album Dwiki shows a versatility that is greater than anything else I’ve heard from him so far.
Hari Ketiga sounds like an exercise in being comfortable outside comfort zones, something seemingly paradoxical and impossible. One big difference in the sound of this compared with previous Dwiki Dharmawan albums is perhaps the lack of a dedicated bass player, leaving Asaf Sirkis alone to improvise odd rhythms and strange patterns, that perfectly complement the wonderful chaos that abounds here. And for those who felt The Earth wasn’t chaotic enough, the chaos is brought up another notch (or maybe eleven), with second track The Man. If The Earth didn’t put some listeners off, The Man may well do the job. I, of course, love it. Boris sounds like a mad man, and Markus provides great washes of noise, distortion and feedback that are as ugly as they are beautiful. There is one thing you could never accuse Hari Katiga of being, and that is boring. The album demands attention with every minute of every track. And, to be honest, I’m not sure it would be possible to ignore it for much of the time.
A third of the way through The Man, it sounds as if it is winding down. No such luck if you want out. Keep your seatbelts on, until the plane has stopped moving. The following series of passages, which see The Man through to its end, show how well the quartet play with space and ambience just as fluently and eloquently as they do at full volume and intensity. Even within these quieter passages there are still plenty of moments of dissonance, discord and disquiet to delight the senses! At one point, suddenly, gloriously, Dwiki crescendos away from the ambient and electronic noise. It’s almost breathtaking. Again, as much as I love Dwiki’s playing anyway, it sounds like it’s on a whole new level here, within the context of a sound quite unlike anything I’ve heard him play before. There is a grand concept for the album, and each of the acts can be explored in further detail for those who want to follow the story. I have to admit, I’ve not reached the stage yet where I’ve investigated the story, as I am happy just listening to the strange and wonderful sounds. This album is insane, and insanely good.
The Event Horizon will possibly come as a wave of relief for some listeners, as it’s the most conventional the quartet have sounded since the album began – though, of course, it’s all relative. After a barrage of noise, and a strangely bombastic quiet, The Event Horizon offers some time for gentle reflection, though one ear is always on guard. It’s always more peaceful in the eye of the storm, after all. Sure enough, as the second disc, and fourth act, begins, it is clear that we are back to abnormal. It may still be quiet, but it’s distinctly odd. Electronic bleeps and burps float through spacey sounds for a couple of minutes before anything vaguely musical arrives. By vaguely musical I mean no criticism at all, because this vague music is seriously cool. And if I had to sum up the whole album in two words, then those would probably do. Hari Ketiga is seriously cool.
The Loneliness of the Universe just gets even more seriously odd (and seriously cool) as it goes on, reaching a gloriously bizarre climax, coming down in the final minutes in a differently, but just as wonderfully, odd manner, before culminating in a beautiful coda dominated by some sublime playing from Dwiki. I’ve barely made a dent in the second disc, but I’m well aware of how long this review is already, and also mindful that I am running out of superlatives to describe the aural action of this quite phenomenal release. While I am in no doubt that this is my favourite MoonJune album this year, I’m left pondering whether Hari Ketiga is also my favourite MoonJune album ever. But even at this early stage, with the album still relatively new to me, I feel quite confident that it is. Admittedly I haven’t listened to it nearly as much as others, and perhaps it might wear its welcome out over time. Yet, I just can’t imagine that. At all.
Leonardo Pavkovic has brought together exceptional musicians from across the globe to spontaneously improvise at La Casa Murada in this manner several times now, but in my opinion the result has never been this brilliant (and as far as I’m aware, I’ve heard all the La Casa Murada collaborations/sessions released thus far). There’s no way to listen to Hari Katiga casually or passively, which makes the fact that it is easy to listen to the full length of the album even more impressive. Not once did I experience fatigue, nor have my attention wander. Instead, I’m drawn deeper and deeper into the great depth of layers upon layers of sound and creativity. The notion of being drowned in sound has never been so enticing, nor so exhilarating. This is simply brilliant stuff. It’s an album you’ll likely either love or you’ll hate. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if fans of Dwiki’s previous albums hate this one – it is that different to what he’s done before. But I really can’t praise this album enough.
01. The Earth (28:21)
02. The Man (34:01)
03. The Event Horizon (13:49)
04. The Loneliness of the Universe (19:22)
05. You’ll Never Be Alone (6:52)
06. The Truth (11:35)
07. The Perpetual Motion (19:18)
08. The Deal (9:36)
09. The Memory Of Things (11:24)
Total Time – 144:18
Dwiki Dharmawan – Acoustic Piano, Mini Moog, Fender Rhodes, Harmonium, Occasional Vocal & Ambient Noises
Boris Salvodelli – Vocals, Vocal Effects, Live Electronics
Markus Reuter – Touch Guitars® AU8, Live Electronics
Asaf Sirkis – Drums, Cymbals, Occasional Ambient Noise
Jeremias Pah – Voice, Sasando (track 6)
Endi Pah – Voice, Tambur (track 6)
Jonas Mooy & the Inggu Ndolu Art Group – Voices, Sasando, Gong and Tambu (track 7)
Record Label: MoonJune Records
Country of Origin: Multi-national
Date of Release: 19th August 2020