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2020-09-04

SENYAWA & STEPHEN O'MALLEY - Bima Sakti

While I'm still enjoying the Phurpa tape I ordered last Bandcamp Day (and guess what, today is already BC Friday again) as well as the freshly arrived Mansur EP, let's stay inside this realm of spiritually ladden experimental folk fusion a little longer!

(Spoiler alert: I will even specifically mention the spike fiddle again!)




SENYAWA & STEPHEN O'MALLEY - Bima Sakti (purple vinyl LP) (2020)


Drone my god! This collaboration really sounds as good as its promise.

Senyawa are an Indonesian duo, mixing drone with folkloristic elements, noise and whatnot. I've been introduced to them at the end of 2018, when I wrote a short review of the digital version of their phenomenal album "Sujud", which has been one of my favorite drone records ever since, especially after I found it on vinyl for a reasonable price.

"Bima Sakti" now sees them joining forces with none other than Stephen O'Malley of the mighty genre giants Sunn O))).

Distilled from a probably mostly improvised live show in January 2018 the six tracks find all participants in their expected roles: O'Malley on his gnarly yet majestic drone metal guitar, Senyawa's Rully Shabara on very flexible extreme vocals and Wukir Suryadi on flutes and several selfmade electrified string instruments. I cannot clearly specify those, but I'm sure there must be some kind of Javanese spike fiddle and maybe a deeper variation of the siter in play. And whatever else is used in Gamelan music. I really have no clue about that topic, so I'm only guessing.

The result of this mixture however is a staggering gem of profound and vivid beauty. And by this I don't mean that "Bima Sakti" is sweet or kitschy.
No, the beauty evoked here is deeply earthbound and natural, not designed to please some fleeting aesthetic principle of the day.

With the flutes and manifold weird voices representing birds, wildlife and light and the droning strings standing for its eerie ancient roots and deceitful darkness, I cannot help but see the picture of a jungle painted before my inner eye. Subtly established and without resorting to too worn-out tropes tropes (which is not an accidental word doubling, but an actual term here, haha), but it is unmistakibly there.
Some passages like "Birma Dan Ular Naga, Part II" contain meaner noises, which seem alien to this habitat and could very well be manifestations of the disturbance through human civilization.

Speaking with my personal review history: "Bima Sakti" is the foreboding thicket you enter once you take a step ouside the light-flooded glades of Tengger's ambient meditation.

Maybe I am going far too Botanist with my interpretation, but it certainly speaks for the quality of the art when it can stimulate these visions.

However whether there was an outspoken intent behind it or it's just part of Senyawa's artistic DNA; that's ultimately a question which doesn't really matter at all.
No, what's important is the way these three musicians can come together and tap into the realm of visceral and pure expression, while keeping a very distinct individual style.

Anyone who has seen this performance live should count themselves lucky, because "Bima Sakti" truly is a masterpiece of excellent ethnic drone metal fusion.




So far the album is available digitally and on purple vinyl.






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