Dewa Budjana has been putting out high quality fusion records at the rate of about one per year for quite some time now, and fortunately, each album has its own unique flavor. His latest, “Hasta Karma”, is somewhat of a return to the big orchestrated sound of 2011’s “Dewa in Paradise”, but with some differences too. Having Ben Williams on upright bass and Joe Locke on vibes gives the band more of a loose and ‘jazzy’ sound this time around, and less of the power jazz-rock sound of 2014’s “Sura Numaskar”. Joe’s vibes also provide a nice counter voice to Dewa’s guitars during solo sections, as the band is apt to break it down and play in a more sparse fashion during the vibe solos.
“Hasta Karma” opens strong with an ambitious opening track called “Saniscara”. Its big sound and driving South Asian/Latin fusion rhythms sound similar to Pat Methny’s new popular Unity band. Follow up track “Desember” is slower and darker and has one of Budjana’s best guitar solos. This burning intense noise fest of a solo may remind some of the young Robert Fripp. Follow up track, “Jayaprana” returns us to the world fusion drive and bustle of the opening cut. After hearing the unified approach of these first three songs, it would appear that Budjana is really going for a wider western audience this time around, and possibly pointing straight at Pat Methany’s recent successes, but he throws us a total curve ball on track four, “Ruang Dialisis”.
“Ruang Dialisis” is a lengthy track dedicated to Dewa’s father and features a recording of his grandmaother, Jro Ktut Sidemen, chanting Mamuit in the form of a traditional funeral song. This chant is accompanied first by mournful guitar arpeggios, followed by a free section in which Dewa and his band really cut loose and then a return to the opening section. It’s a powerful and moving track and unlike anything I’ve heard from Dewa before, and certainly well beyond any commercial considerations or ‘crossover’ appeal. The following two closing tracks are good, but not as focused as the first four. “Just Kidding” is a patchwork of decent jazzy jam sessions, and “Payogan Rain” is a mid-tempo contemporary jazz, almost pop, number with relaxed solos for everyone.
Another excellent album for Dewa Budjana, he and Joe Locke turn in good solos on almost every track, and the first four tracks in particular feature Dewa’s usual skills at arranging and composing.