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'Bising' A look into the expressive sonic vessel

  • Stanley Widianto

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Fri, August 14, 2015 | 09:47 am
'Bising' A look into the expressive sonic vessel

Courtesy of Bising

The upcoming hour-long documentary BISING: Noise and Experimental Music in Indonesia is an exploration of the noise scene nestled deep in the country'€™s musical underground '€” where anything in terms of music and performance can happen.

Though it might look like it will stay underground, the scene is propped up by its various artists and devotees who have kept it alive all this time.

Noise music '€” as named by the people trying to keep it together '€” has never been made for the radio. So it makes sense that the scene which hardly ever tries to field in as many fan-bases as possible will stay this way for a long time.

Or, as one guy puts it at some point in the film, '€œAfter the release of this film, it'€™s better for noise musicians to break-up as quickly as possible. It won'€™t be cool anymore'€.

But first, what exactly is noise music?

'€œ[Noise] music is music without definite rules, it is just emotion ['€¦] It'€™s having fun in an extreme way,'€ said noise act Kalimayat member Danif Pradana at the beginning of the film.

His definition of noise is only one of many in the film that describe it as a vessel for '€œpure, unbounded emotion'€. Technically, noise is music made with heavily distorted walls-of-sound that use pedals, guitars and even trumpets. Noise isn'€™t easy music, and it was never intended to be.

Noise is made to unsettle, because it mostly comes from an unsettled place. For instance, Ican Harem of noise act Liwoth owes the increasing number of noise artists to envoys of chaotic '€œunrest due to the disturbance it causes'€. Subject matters like religious turmoil, Sodom and Gomorrah, and cannibalism go together well with noise.

BISING is structured as a series of interviews with the featured artists such as Shoah, Senyawa, To Die, Asangata, Mati Gabah Jasus and Aneka Digital Safari and music observers.

The interviews '€” taking place in Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Tokyo '€” are followed by live performances of them kneeling on the floor, clutching microphones, tinkering with pedals and effects, making cacophonous shrieks with the harsh music serving as the background.

And it'€™s not just the music: performance theatrics are also an important part of the acts, like this one time when someone dressed in white robes recited Islamic prayers with noise playing in the background.

'€œI truly can find things [in noise shows] that I cannot find in other shows,'€ Mati Gabah Jasus trumpeter Rega Ayundya Putri said in the film. And she'€™s right: Where else in Indonesia can one find a performance that involves substantial screaming, backed by piercing feedback while the performer smashes a small keyboard with a rock?

There is no single moment of audible '€œpeace'€ in this film, even the background ambience is filled by some sort of cacophony, be it the streets, a busker, the hum of a PC, or the overall sound coming from the noise artists themselves as they perform in various venues.

Everybody lives inside a noise. The meaning behind the movie'€™s title, BISING (noisy), couldn'€™t sound more accurate.

As documentaries go, the success of BISING doesn'€™t depend on whether the scene it covers is dead or alive. There are two questions the film wants to ask: '€œCan noise be considered music?'€ and '€œIs the scene alive?'€

No definite answers are found in this film and the ambiguity makes it a lot more engaging. It does offer a few explanations about the details from this small scene '€” gender exclusivity, lack of artists, the prospects and insignificance of noise music itself '€” BISING is telling enough to be a success.

For director Adythia Utama, the film is a labor of love. The intermittently made, self-funded BISING, which has been screened in Switzerland, Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Croatia and many others, was made to shed some light on a scene that is '€œnot exposed; unlike any other genres. With this film, we hope to expose the scene'€.

It makes sense, too that the job was undertaken by Adythia who performs as a noise artist himself under the name Individual Distortion.

So, what'€™s next? Codirector Riar Rizaldi, who also performs in the duo Mati Gabah Jasus, suggested there has been some sort of mentality change when it comes to how people perceive noise music gigs, but due to the extreme nature of the music and the aesthetics, it will not emerge from the underground any time soon (or ever). Record contracts, promise of fame, etc. are surely not imminent.

Unless noise musicians stop being frustrated and curious enough to make some weird music, the Indonesian noise scene will always have its artists. By the end of the film, this way of thinking remains true. With BISING, noise is buried deep underground, but its sounds can be heard from a thousand miles away.

The Jakarta Post'€™s Dylan Amirio contributed to the story.

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Check it out

BISING will be screened in Jakarta for the first time on Aug. 16, 2015, at Rossi Musik, Fatmawati in South Jakarta.

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