DWIKI DHARMAWAN — Rumah Batu (review)

DWIKI DHARMAWAN — Rumah Batu album cover Album · 2018 · World Fusion Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
kev rowland
There is no doubt that one of the most consistently exciting record labels over the last 20+ years is Moonjune Records. Part of this is because this one-man organisation is run by someone who truly loves music, and when he isn’t putting musicians together and having them record, or putting out the next release, he is actually on the road with one band or another. How he actually finds the time to do what he does is beyond me, and I always thought I was good at time management. But, against a backdrop of incredible releases, I am now listening to what is possibly the best and most important album he has ever put out.

There has been incredibly high praise, and deservedly so, for Mark Wingfield’s ‘The Stone House’, and this album was recorded in the same studio and has the same title (just in the Indonesian Bahasa language), and also includes both drummer Asaf Sirkis and bassist Yaron Stavi who were/are key members of Mark’s band. To fill out the quintet there are Nguyên Lê (electric guitar, soundscapes) and Charles Benavent (bass guitar). Yes, you read that right, there are two bassists in the band. This core group were then recorded live in the studio, bouncing ideas off each other as they run through a series of Dharmawan originals, plus some traditional numbers he rearranged, plus one group composition. All of those involved are amazing musicians, although I do think it might be interesting to hear Dwiki solo with no-one else involved, as some of his piano runs, fills and flourishes almost defy belief.

If there was no-one else involved, and the recordings coming out of La Casa Murada Studio were all there was, then I would still be stating that this is an essential album for anyone into great music, but after the three days (yes, just three days) of recording were over, more traditional Indonesian musicians and singers were added to the mix. What this has done is taken an incredibly complex yet melodic and joyous album to a whole new level. There were times when my mind was trying to understand if I was listening to traditional music with a Western influence, or the other way around, and what on earth was making that particular sound I could hear, and did it matter? In the end, the only way to really understand the music is to forget about trying to understand it, forget attempting to categorise what is going on, and just fall in love with what is an incredibly complex interaction between cultures that is just incredible.

All praise to Mark Wingfield for mixing and mastering this, to Leonardo for having the vision of bringing together musicians like this, but mostly to Dwiki Dharmawan and all those involved for what is a truly great album. This is simply essential, nothing less. 10/10
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