Wasis Tanata – Equal (album review)

Wasis Tanata opens for us, the Indokult fans, a category usually called “experimental music”. Yes, it’s indeed a minority genre, but usually bringing out some interesting pieces of aural art. “Equal”, the album we’re going to review tonight, is no different.

Opening track carries a title “Jathilanku part 2”, which suggests there is also a part 1, but that’s not present on this album. To describe the music…how to describe it, right? It’s instrumental (which is somewhat expected, I guess), with the great and ear-catching drumwork and the distorted guitar playing various melodies over the 6:28 playtime. The drums are the usual set, I guess, but I like the sound of tympans and that click-click metal rhythm. Considering the various experimental stuff I’ve been exposed in last two-three years, this can actually be described as “easy listening”. Nothing earaching, it’s more like a exhibition, or a jam session between a guitarist and drummer/percussionist.

Wasis Tanata

The second song – Pandemi 2020 aka Pageblug – is the longest one on the album, clocking in 13:31 and straight from the start there’s a considerable change compared to the opening track. The minimalist soundtrack is accompanied by various speech samples (male and female) and this almost hypnotic session fades into the a short drum’n’bass in about the 3 minutes mark. Still basically minimalistic, but slowly building up with the instruments you are accustomed to. The melody pattern is not what I’d expect, the tempo changes quite abruptly…but it’s not violent, it’s likeable. Again, after the 6 minute mark there’s another change with the nice and warming drum-tympans play – and what’s that, another guitar improvisation? Well, no problem at all, but my thumbs up goes to the drummer. I was a bad amateurish drummer once, but I can appreciate when someone can play the instrument.

Oh, and the song is not even done yet! Now that’s what I call experimental! Or maybe a little of organized chaos, and again, I feel like witnessing an guitar/drum exposition – or jamming, or whatever. By the 11 minute mark the drum’n’bass passage returns for a while, I like the sound of the drum pattern here, it’s kinda therapeutic. The track can be summed up (in my modest uninformed opinion) as a nice long jazz-based improvisation.

On the contrary to the previous song, “See You Soon” is the shortest track (3:34) from this album. Slow tempo with a hypnotic drum-beat (in the beginning of the song) and wailing guitar, this is one of those tracks you regret are not longer.

To be honest, I have no idea what “Logamkayumembran” means, but here it’s the title of the track nomor 4, the sound collage of various drum sounds and effects. 8 minutes long drum deliciousness! Imagine something like those Japanese taiko drumming bands and you’ll have some understanding what to expect. Very, very nice stuff! And that ending!!!!

The last song, “Drumsoundscape” is probably the most experimental one here. Starting with various samples of people breathing on the background of the industrial sounds, this 10:23 long journey is yet another hypnotic tool to relax to, although I am sure you’re not gonna fall asleep here. The industrial sample is slowly pushed back by the sound of the real drumset and the overwhelming cloak of the soundscapes. The length of the song provides enough space to develop the theme in various underlaying ways, one passage sounds like an announcement (in Indonesian) you can hear in the train or bus station – not that I’ve expected that!

And when past 6 minute mark we’re getting into the drumming extravaganza, you know that you’ve been served an interesting, not run-of-the-mill material you’re definitely won’t forget. If your experimental music breathes drumsound, then look no further than to “Equal”.

To sum it up…wait, I just did! Seriously, it’s an interesting album, but be prepared for it, as it demands your full attention, especially those guitar improv tracks. That being said, my favourite is without a doubt “Drumsoundscape”. That’s just one hell of an amazing track, and I guess I won’t be alone who would enjoy watching Wasis Tanata performing it live.

Check his Youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9wEDSlzcV5KRRod5gG8htA/videos

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I am the founder/owner and editor-in-chief of the Rubber Axe webzine, the underground/overground cultural publication, publishing also this website dedicated to all things Indonesian. I'm a happily married guy with 2 kids and a fantastic wife, and I'm a relentless discoverer of all things cultural and culinary. An everlasting dreamer and idealist.

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