Earlier this year I reviewed the release on MoonJune Records of Tohpati Bertiga’s Riot. At the time, I knew that MoonJune’s proprietor, Leonardo Pavkovic had great hopes for another guitarist-lead power rock trio.
In comparing the two, Leonardo wrote to me that “Tohpati is a shy guy, low key, he is not a volcano that is Agam Hamzah, I am sure.”
And now, I am too.
Ligro – Dictionary 2
MoonJune Records (MJR047 2012)
Agam Hamzah – guitar
Adi Darmawan – bass guitar
Gusti Hendi – drums, percussion
Dictionary 2 is one of the most astonishing albums I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard thousands. It is rare for me to have my attention grabbed by the opening bars of a new album as this one does. Ligro is Orgil backwards, short for orang gila, crazy people in bhs. Indonesia, and this somehow defines their music perfectly.
The first track, Paradox, has Agam Hamzah’s guitaristics underpinned by the solid backing of Adi Darmawan and busy drummer Gusti Hendi; the track shares the gutsy feeling of a Tohpati Bertiga workout.
Then the journey proper begins with the eleven minute long Stravinsky which offers something very different. It starts with a lengthy bass solo by Adi Darmawan which melodically reminds me of Bach, rather than Bachman Turner Overdrive, after which Agam takes over with an echoey Robert Frippish riff. Then, the drums kick in and we’re off on a Mahavishnu play-it-loud drive down the highway to who-knows-where.
Agam says that “John Mclaughlin Mahavishnu is the one in jazz who structured modern composition between free form ideas and rock guitar strike, with skillful improvisation.” The other influences he cites are Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, John Schofield, Terje Rypdal, Allan Holdsworth, and Scott Henderson, “especially for his melodic phrasing improvisation.”
Whilst recognisably the same group, each successive track has a different quality. Bliker 3, for example, opens with solo acoustic piano, builds towards into an expected Mahavishnu Orch climax but gets sidetracked as Agam explores the sound effects of his guitar and equipment, all the while with the rhythm section just being there carrying us along gently into the distance before they come roaring back as a heavy metal band.
They then drift seamlessly into the nearly 13 minutes long track Étude Indienne. And so it goes.
Possibly the greatest praise (and criticism) I can give this album is that I can’t write anything, including this review, when playing it. Prepare to expect the unexpected.
SimakDialog has played festivals in Sarawak, Katmandu and Bremen, Germany, and last year, Tohpati Ethnomission supported Soft Machine Legacy in Sao Paulo, Brazil. And now, thanks to Leonardo, it is surely the turn of Agam Hamzah.
He says that he realizes that the release of Dictionary 2 on Moonjune “is a big opportunity for me and Ligro to have an international career. I also hope I will be one of the Indonesian musicians [able] to contribute to jazz worldwide.”
I have no doubt that he will.