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Album Review: 'The Electronic Renaissance' by Goodnight Electric

Marcel Thee
Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, March 9, 2018 | 08:29 am
Album Review: 'The Electronic Renaissance' by Goodnight Electric

‘The Electronic Renaissance’ by Goodnight Electric (Goodnight Electric/File)

With its first release in over a decade, electronic pop trio Goodnight Electric makes a welcome return.

As a collection of rare and unreleased recordings, The Electronic Renaissancealso marks the beginning of the group’s planned full resurgence later this year with original materials.

According to the band, the songs on this album were previously lying dormant on their hard drives, half-forgotten memories of a mid-2000s long past. It wasn’t until local independent label Nanaba Records decided to release them that the men of Goodnight sought to resurrect them from their digital purgatory.

The charitable tracklist boasts a total of 22 songs. Demos, B-sides, compilation-exclusives and remixes have found their place in the full catalog here, alongside the only newish Goodnight work — two collaborations with musicians Polypony and Xaqhala.

The Electronic Renaissance was official released in mid-February in a DJ set by the band and their friends, as well as a mini-exhibition of relevant visuals featuring concert posters, physical releases, old paraphernalia, and the instruments the group played during their initial run.

Those familiar with the group’s sound will find nostalgic pleasure in the songs. The ease of the melodies and beats that Goodnight Electric utilized may be simple, even elementary, in their arrangement. But that simplicity is what made it work; a straightforward collection of pop songs, sometimes jumpy and sometimes slightly melancholy, played on drum machines and synthesizers.

Tracks like “Bedroom Avenue”, “Cys”, “Ekil Oisac” and “T.E.C.H.N.O_logy” effervesce with intertwining synth lines, immediate in their pop quality, whether they are imbued with vocals or without.

Throwback ‘90s pop such as “Jumpy B” and “Teenage Love and Broken Heart” deliver their sense of fun through the same, less-is-more approach.

The demos are equally interesting, sounding more finished than one might have expected. “Glorious Day” yelps with staccato lines while “Not So Fun Final” is a ‘70s disco weekend mixed on a laptop.

Formed in 2003, Goodnight Electric’s 2004 debut album Love and Turbo Action brought the band immediate success and attention. The snappy single “Am I Robot”, driven with rollicking blips and bubbly bass lines, made an immediate impression and became an inescapable radio hit.

At the peak of the Jakarta underground boom of the early to mid-2000s, Goodnight Electric’s friendly burst of synth-driven pop served as an inviting bridge for mainstream audiences to delve into the edgier spectrum of local music.

At the time of their debut release, Goodnight Electric was still a two-person operation; Henry “Batman” Foundation (the superhero moniker came from his habit of wearing a T-shirt adorned with the caped crusader in his college days) and Rebecca Theodora, who would later front pop-punk group Bite.

It remains unclear how and exactly when the duo dissolved and morphed into a uniformed, Adidas-donning, spectacles-wearing, robot-appropriating trio, but the change did nothing but gain the group even more festival slots and increasing popularity.

Henry recalled that at their peak, older moms with teenage children wailed in dramatic ecstasy and chased them down a la boy-band fans, trying to touch these fresh-faced pop stars or at least pin them down long enough for an autograph (no selfies yet back then).

The new Goodnight Electric — Henry (real name Henry Irawan), Bondi Goodboy (Mateus Bondan Wikanti Aji) and Oomleo (Narpati Awangga) — would go on to release other versions of their debut album, each under different labels and each with a different color scheme, but pretty much with the same details.

Their sophomore record was released in 2007. Electroduce Yourself was audibly fuller and more confident than its predecessor. The band toured the record but slowly retreated into their adult lives, which mostly revolved around the arts.

For the band, this rarities collection acts as a trigger to work on new materials, reminding them of how fun it is to create music together.

“[These tracks] reminded us how, when we were really productive, we were writing lots of demos — songs that make us think ‘Why did we write it like this?’ or old ideas that we gave up on,” says Henry.

Though it sometimes felt embarrassing to listen to some of these failed experiments, the group now sees it differently.

“It now feels valuable, like looking at your high school notes. That’s why it seemed important to collect and spread [them] before they got deleted from our hard drives,” he adds.

Henry, Bondi and Oomleo understand where they stand as an older band whose influence is audible in newer acts, and they plan on making the best of it.

“I don’t know if we have a ‘legacy’ per se, but there are a lot of electronic groups right now out there like Sunmantra, Fisika Matematika and Future Collective. This genre never really died down here in Indonesia, it’s just a little less popular than groups that play rock or pop,” Henry says.

As for a completely new record, the trio has been working on new materials since 2016.

“We have enough materials for a new album, but we don’t know whether it should be a full-length or a mini album. By the middle of this year, we plan to start working on it with the aim of releasing it early next year,” promises Henry.

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