Indonesia Week: Day 4: Senyawa – Alkisah


Artist: Senyawa

Release: Alkisah

Label: Phantom Limb/Burning Ambulance Music

Release Date: 19 February, 2021

Location: Jogjakarta, Indonesia

Digital Price: 7 GBP (10 USD)

Length: 37min, 13s

For the fourth day of Indonesia Week here at Cave Dweller, we take a look at the powerful work of Jogjakarta’s own Senyawa and their apocalyptic fusion of traditional and modern elements, Alkisah.

Senyawa are an intense, experimental two man group who released Alkisah through label Phantom Limb on vinyl, but also through Burning Ambulance Music on CD. They also had a limited run cassette tape release via Katuktu Collective complete with three exclusive remixes. The 50 cassette copies have now all been sold out, but you can still buy the album digitally via Katuktu Collective here if you want those remixes.

Senyawa is made up vocalist Rully Shabara whose work on Alkisah is fantastic, ranging from chanting, howls, and even throat-singing, to more traditional vocals. Shabara’s role on Alkisah cannot be understated because it is absolutely integral to the atmosphere of the album. The various styles Shabara brings to the table here are all expertly chosen with an intent to evoke a particular mood and feeling, and they do that quite well. Shabara’s vocals are at once unsettling and beautiful, perfectly complementing the instrumental stylings of bandmate Wukir Suryadi.

Wukir Suryadi’s work on Alkisah as the chief instrumentalist is just as important in achieving the goals of this album. Suryadi has been lauded for his performances on this album with homemade instruments, made from a variety of materials organic and artificial. This gives Alkisah a unique sound, especially when we have moments like in the song Kabau, where the modern instrumentation of subdued guitarwork is punctuated by literally unique natural instruments.

Not only does this give the album a unique sound in terms of how the instruments and notes actually sound, but the concept of the traditional and modern meeting one another are really present musically throughout Alkisah. The familiar sounds of guitar riffs and distorted electric tones are met by the unusual sounds of custom percussion, laid over a background of static and eerie electronic droning in Fasih. These elements all put the album in a place that feels like a liminal space, a recording that lies in the ‘between space’ of not only time, but culture. We feel like we know what is happening, and the music progresses in a familiar way, constantly punctuated by the unfamiliar to the extent that we never truly know where we are.

That of course all seems to line up with the apocalyptic, doomed vibe that the band themselves seem to be aiming for in the music itself. Demonic chanting, depressed guitars in Alkisah II, the arcane sounds of dying machines, waves of building distortion and doom in Istana. There is a tension to this album and a story carefully told across some brilliantly produced electronica. It is mystifying, but cohesive nevertheless, and most importantly – it is satisfying as hell to listen to. There is a brilliant depth here that surely takes a number of listens to fully digest, but the album is captivating right from the start. Alkisah is a work of art, intense doom of the finest caliber that shows the genius and artistry Indonesia has to offer the world.

I hope you enjoy Alkisah.


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