Elec­tric­ity un­der the ground

The Jakarta Post - JPlus - - Between the Lines - WORDS DY­LAN AMIRIO

Brew­ing be­neath Jakarta’s main­stream per­cep­tion of elec­tronic mu­sic as merely EDM, pro­ject­ing the art in fes­ter­ing venues or hip bars, lies an elec­tronic scene that yearns to be heard and no­ticed not for its spectacles but for its mov­ing sounds. Re­leased by Pe­paya Records, Den­tum Dansa

Bawah Tanah (DDBT) is a com­pi­la­tion tape of 18 artists from Jakarta’s un­der­ground elec­tronic mu­sic scene that aims to show­case the hid­den sounds from a new wave of elec­tronic artists that em­anates un­der the night.

As In­done­sian In­die rock set­tles com­fort­ably within its stag­nat­ing rut, “in­die” elec­tronic artists are qui­etly mak­ing their head­way through the scene, mak­ing their names known within the smaller, de­voted cir­cles that are cu­ri­ous as to what In­done­sian elec­tronic pro­duc­ers can do.

The main­stream’s main per­cep­tion of elec­tronic mu­sic is still heav­ily re­volved around EDM: the DJ-based bom­bas­tic, over­whelm­ing spec­ta­cle of buzzy, catchy syn­the­sizer leads and 4X4 drum pat­terns, which is cur­rently dy­ing a slow, painful death even over­seas.

In In­done­sia, par­tic­u­larly in Jakarta, many feel that elec­tronic mu­sic can mean so much more than the DJ cul­ture.

Aldo Er­san Si­rait, the head of Pe­paya Records and the cu­ra­tor of the com­pi­la­tion, said that Jakarta still has a lack of elec­tronic mu­sic pro­duc­ers who pro­duce their own mu­sic and that even if there are many, most have yet to sur­face onto the mu­sic scene.

“What I want to see in the Jakarta mu­sic scene are pro­duc­ers who pro­duce their own mu­sic and re­lease their own al­bums. Many ‘elec­tronic artists’ in Jakarta are usu­ally lim­ited to only play­ing DJ sets, akin to the In­done­sian in­die rock’s cover band cul­ture of the 1990s,” Aldo said.

Un­der­lin­ing the im­por­tance of an aware me­dia to the elec­tronic scene’s de­vel­op­ment, he noted that In­done­sian mu­sic jour­nal­ists should write about lo­cal elec­tronic artists the same way they would write about in­die rock stars.

“Elec­tronic mu­sic is not some­thing that is for­eign to our ears. Over­seas un­der­ground pro­duc­ers such as Tor­nado Wallace [AUS] or Force of Na­ture [JPN] can draw crowds here, but we rarely see In­done­sian acts at­tract that kind of

in­ter­est,” Aldo said.

As a re­sult of this in­ter­est, cu­ri­ous crowds are slowly be­gin­ning to take no­tice of Jakarta’s un­der­ground pro­duc­ers, ev­i­denced by the suc­cess of re­cent events in venues such as Mondo By the Rooftop, FJ on 7 or Safe­house, which over the past few years have given the stage to left­field acts.

The acts of DDBT them­selves have cut their teeth play­ing at un­der­ground shows over years — some of them are al­ready no­table fig­ures in the in­die scene.

Fu­ture Col­lec­tive, a trio of fu­tur­ist-minded play­ers, project an in­cred­i­bly vintage sound that re­calls 1970s Krautrock’s bare aes­thet­ics, while pro­ducer Duck Dive, who be­fore es­tab­lished him­self as a tex­tu­ral synth wun­derkind, has now shifted into the Balearic house sound.

Oth­ers such as Mav­er­ick chan­nel the fierce in­dus­tri­al­ism of 1990s hip-hop, akin to how DJ Shadow or El-P weave their anger over old-school 808 drum beats.

The di­ver­sity ex­pands fur­ther with an act such as John Van der Mijl, who plays around with the UK Garage sound, mak­ing his con­tri­bu­tion to the com­pi­la­tion not out of place if played in a grimy Lon­don club in the mid-2000s.

The point of show­cas­ing the dif­fer­ent range of sounds on this com­pi­la­tion is sim­ply to show­case the di­ver­sity of Jakarta’s un­der­ground elec­tronic scene.

“What is no­table about most of the com­pi­la­tion’s tracks is that it is the kind of mu­sic that had noth­ing to do di­rectly with clubs or nightlife,” Aldo ex­plained.

Part of the cri­te­ria for cu­ra­tion was that the artists cho­sen were done so be­cause each of them had “rock” sen­si­bil­i­ties.

Other cri­te­ria re­volved around the fact the artists were not con­sid­ered big names and they each had their own artist col­lec­tives to rep­re­sent. The lat­ter con­di­tion was cru­cial due to hopes of help­ing ex­pose more pro­duc­ers to the fore as a re­sult of be­ing in­cluded in the DDBT com­pi­la­tion.

So far, all of DDBT’s 200 tapes have sold out, but plans to is­sue the com­pi­la­tion on CD is hap­pen­ing with the help of ma­jor la­bel De­ma­jors. It is planned for re­lease at the end of this month.

But with this rise, Aldo’s main con­cern about Jakarta’s elec­tronic scene is the threat of stag­nancy such as what is hap­pen­ing in the in­die scene, in the way that there are sim­ply too many acts or events that of­fer the same sound. “What’s pop­u­lar now in terms of elec­tronic mu­sic, I ad­mit, is House or Deep House mu­sic. What I can hope for is that it doesn’t plateau in its rise.” As far as trends come, In­done­sia seems to al­ways be at the tail end. When EDM ex­ploded in the United States in be­tween 2008 to 2010, it wasn’t un­til around a year later that the cul­ture was truly em­braced into the In­done­sian con­scious­ness. Could the pro­ducer cul­ture make its way into be­com­ing a wide­spread ac­tiv­ity? If the shy and the ig­nored start to come out and be­come no­ticed lit­tle by lit­tle, maybe there is a chance.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Den­tum Dansa Bawah Tanah/Robby Wahyudi Onggo

HID­DEN SOUNDS: Den­tum Dansa Bawah Tanah is a com­pi­la­tion tape of 18 artists from Jakarta’s un­der­ground elec­tronic mu­sic scene.

PLAY THE MU­SIC: Fea­tured com­pi­la­tion artist BALDI spins at Den­tum Dansa Bawah Tanah’s al­bum launch event on Oc­to­ber at FJ on 7 in Ke­mang, South Jakarta.

NEW WAVE: Moustapha Spliff ( left) and Mav­er­ick, both fea­tured in the com­pi­la­tion, per­form at the Den­tum Dansa Bawah Tanah al­bum launch event.

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